SVG Sit-Down: Oracle’s Polyard on the Front Porch Transition, Managing 4K Content
Last September, technology behemoth Oracle announced that it was acquiring Front Porch Digital. With the content-storage–management–solutions provider’s long list of major sports customers like ESPN, NASCAR, and NFL Films, the deal piqued the interest of many who wondered what impact the acquisition would have in sports-video production.
Now fully under the Oracle brand, the former Front Porch Digital is looking to continue to serve its 550-plus customers worldwide while taking advantage of the tech know-how that comes with being part of Oracle. SVG recently sat down with Dave Polyard, former VP of sales at Front Porch and now director of Americas sales, Oracle Digital Medial Solutions Group, to discuss the transition, how his sports customers have reacted, and the challenges that 4K presents for content management.
It has been almost six months since Oracle announced the acquisition. How has the integration of Front Porch portfolio into the Oracle brand gone thus far?
We have a unique position within Oracle in that we’re going to essentially remain independent. The customer-facing parts of Front Porch Digital that our customers knew prior to the Oracle acquisition are going to remain intact. And so, myself, my team, the European team, and the customer engineering team are going to remain intact. The 550 customers that we have worldwide can take comfort in the fact that they’re going to continue to deal with people they know and they trust.
One of the concerns that we’ve heard from our customers is the possibility of [our] losing [our] independence, but one of the key factors to this acquisition and the integration is that we are going to remain agnostic for purposes of integrating with third-party systems. We have to because, in the customer base, we have to acknowledge that everybody’s got a slightly different mix and we’ve got to be able to interface with those different mixes throughout.
That said, one of the goals is that we’re going to leverage that world-class, best-of-breed technology at Oracle. We are going to engineer solutions that leverage all of the great technology that Oracle’s built over the years — the tape systems, disc systems, servers, infrastructure, databases — and make really well engineered systems around Oracle products. But, at the same time, we are going to continue to work with all of the vendors in the media and entertainment space in order to maintain and create good synergies for our customers.
How do you see the Oracle acquisition’s affecting your clients in the sports-production sector specifically?
One of the things that we’re looking at is Oracle’s engineered systems group. We want to create packages and bundles that result in our customers’ not having to worry about those nuances of integration and being able to buy something from us that works out of the box, as opposed to spending a lot of time with tweaking and settings. And so our ultimate goal is to create really well-engineered solutions that are essentially turnkey.
I talk to sports teams and leagues and venues all the time, and what I hear is “Our job is out there on the field, our job isn’t back there in the equipment room.” We want to let these people focus on the on-field or on-court product. It’s our job to work the magic in the backroom that allows them to put more people out front and focus on the product rather than the technology.
How much interest have you seen from customers in terms of 4K? Do you see widespread adoption of 4K in the near future, or is it still a way off, if at all?
We have a proof of concept going on at one customer’s site doing 4K, which has been real fun. I think the customer learned some lessons. We pretty much went into it with our eyes wide open. We understood what the challenges were. I think, going forward, things like enterprise drives — LTO6 as an example — are great for standard definition or for HD, but, when you get into 4K or 8K, I think that the customers are going to require more throughput from start to finish in their systems. Data-tape storage on LTO is going to pop up as a choke point.
We have done the math, and the enterprise drives — the Oracle [StorageTek T10000 tape cartridge] and others of that ilk — are going to be an absolute requirement to be able to move 4K content expeditiously. If you can build big pipes, where you can push all this content through, that’s great, but you’re going to have to identify those choke points. And I think, even though LTO has become a standard in the broadcast industry and has worked really well up to this point, 4K may be the tipping point where customers are going to have to go to enterprise drives like T10000 in order to maximize their throughput.
One of the lessons that came out of this proof of concept is that pushing 4K files to the cloud is tough. You need really, really big bandwidth to do that. So backup and disaster-recovery solutions are going to have to be really well engineered, and transporting 4K content physically may be the thing that you have to do in order to save on bandwidth in the near term, because [if] you light up a pipe and you plug in hours’ worth of 4K, it’s going to take a long time.
Speaking of proof of concepts, any other intriguing under-the-radar developments in Oracle’s content-management business?
One of the cool things that we’re doing for a customer is that we’ve become a distribution point for programs. Whether it’s traditional distribution, like broadcast or cable distribution, or online distribution, we do that as well. So the tools are there: if you park something in the right place in a DIVArchive system, it can then be automatically published to any number of Websites with DIVAPublish. That’s yet another nuance in being able to create once and then distribute to different platforms all automatically, because again, back to the point, the activity, especially in the sports world, is about what goes on on the field or the court, not about the technology. If you can give [customers] enabling technologies that make their jobs easier, then it makes a lot of sense.