This blog is the result of preparation I’m doing for a Streaming Media hosted webinar that I’ll be presenting with one of our ecosystem partners, Bitmovin on the topic of Cloud vs On Prem. This is a question that we get asked a lot and is often driven by people within the industry or (potential) customers who have a clear preference one way or the other. As with most questions of this nature, such as “Swiss mechanical watch vs smartwatch” or “air-cooled engine vs water-cooled engine” the answer is usually “it depends” and boils down to multiple factors and personal preferences. For example, would James Bond use a smartwatch as a makeshift knuckle duster? Probably not… But if he wants to track how far he has run away from Blofeld and how many calories he has used fighting off multiple, nefarious (not to mention stereotypical) bad guys then it would probably help!
Historically, from an Edgeware perspective, we would have always pushed for on prem as the founding of the company and our many successes were predicated on hardware accelerated video delivery platforms offering best-in-class, fully deterministic performance that we designed and developed in house. As we see customers begin to move away from services solely on their own managed networks we start to see how these services can be offered in different ways and the different requirements that are mandated by this. However, we should be clear that for Edgeware, on prem no longer mandates the use of our appliances and so we need to be equally clear with our customers – just because they might want to use generic hardware doesn’t mean they want (or need) a cloud deployment.
Moving forwards into this brave new world of over the top services and new target customers, such as content providers and broadcasters the model of just on prem deployments no longer makes sense. So, what makes sense to be put into the cloud? Functions that lend themselves to being centralized are a good starting point, from our side that would be things like request routing, analytics, centralized ingest (but not necessarily repackaging) and other management functions. Moving to more distributed functions, these can also be put into the cloud – depending on where the cloud is…
A cloud, or “the cloud” is ultimately a datacenter, or rather multiple datacenters, somewhere with, in a simplistic view, a large amount of racks with generic IT hardware in them. Therefore, in order to deploy software functions into the cloud, it needs to be installed in these datacenters. Deploying in the cloud doesn’t necessarily mean that software needs to be deployed on virtual machines although it is more commonly assumed that it will be. Deploying on virtual machines enables, through use of orchestrators, dynamic scaling to support the peaks and troughs of an OTT service.
Given that the cloud is a datacenter, or combined sets of datacenters, then as content moves closer to the edge of the network and closer to the actual consumer it is less likely that a datacenter will be available to deploy servers into. Therefore, functions that lend themselves to being highly distributed make more sense to be on prem, or at least, within the network that the consumer uses. Functions such as high popularity content edge caching, individual stream personalization, repackaging and bitstream watermarking are all functions that can benefit from being closer to the end consumer and therefore are not necessarily suited to be being deployed “in the cloud”.
Ultimately, as we can see, there are benefits to both cloud and on prem deployment models. I predict that we will end up with some kind of hybrid deployment. This will utilize the strengths of the cloud for centralized functions and elastic bursting to support short-lived peaks for live events such as the Olympics or World Cup Finals and a series of on prem caches (either using our TV Server or SW Streamer or both) that offer a known level of capacity to offload the core network and support highly personalized services closer to the consumer. In short, there is no right or wrong answer – just an opportunity to educate our customers/partners and an opportunity to design solutions that will meet their requirements in the most efficient and optimal manner. In other words, it depends on…
James Kirby: Senior Director Solutions Architecture, Edgeware
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