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NAB Perspectives: Signiant’s Craig on Taking a Hybrid Approach to the Cloud

April 15th, 2015 Posted in Headlines By Karen Hogan

Talk of the cloud filtered through the Las Vegas Convention Center this week, and although the concept may still seem a bit ambiguous to some, companies like Signiant are leveraging the cloud’s capabilities in very real ways. Signiant has embraced cloud-formed software development with its software-as-a-service (SaaS) file-transfer solutions like the hybrid Media Shuttle. Recently, Signiant announced significant adoption of Signiant Flight, another hybrid SaaS solution that accelerates the movement of large data sets into and out of the cloud.

SVG sat down with Signiant CEO Margaret Craig to talk about – what else? – the cloud: how Signiant has evolved its approach, how it works to dispel common myths surrounding the cloud, and how the cloud helps customers work more efficiently.

As people pass Signiant in the South Lower hall, what are you hoping they’ll notice about this year’s booth?
The big thing we’re focused on is our SaaS solutions. Our big differentiator is that we’re the only provider of this kind of technology that has built SaaS solutions so that we deliver a portion of that software from the cloud. We’re very well positioned now. We’ve always served the leagues — the NFL, NHL, and so forth — but this gives us a lighter-weight solution that we can go directly to the teams. A lot of the teams across the professional sports area have adopted Media Shuttle, which lets people very easily send and share large files.

Signiant CEO Margaret Craig

Signiant CEO Margaret Craig

We’ve always been baked into the kind of heavy lifting automated workflows between the venues, and [although] that continues to be a really important business for us, this lighter weight [software for things like] scouting videos has really taken off. And we’ve introduced a number of new features for that at the show – things like a capability to do unattended delivery so the other person doesn’t have to have their browser open. Metadata capture is also important to the sports people, so that before you send this asset, you’ve put in some data saying here’s exactly what is covered and so forth. Media Shuttle is something that sports people are really adopting on an accelerated basis, with more and more of those going into the teams.

The other thing that is big for us is another SaaS offering called Flight, and what that does is upload big payloads into public cloud storage. [It’s] still early days, as you know, for sports in terms of using the public cloud but we’re sure having a lot of conversations about that and I think that everybody realizes that they have to give it a look. They have to keep their ears to the ground about what’s going on in cloud, where the price points are, and how can we use it in sports.

You touched on a big trend that we’re hearing at this year’s show, which is the cloud. Signiant has been in that space for quite some time. How have you evolved in the cloud and what are some myths that you’ve had to dispel about the cloud?
I think people are getting more and more comfortable with it. One of the big events of last year was, as we all know, there were some big security breaches in the Hollywood studio area and, as all of that became clear what was going on, it wasn’t because those assets were in the cloud — they were on premises. I think a piece of what’s making people comfortable with the cloud is saying, on premises isn’t necessarily secure either and realizing that the big companies who are driving the public cloud are investing a huge amount in security. These are big companies with very talented engineering teams and they’re focused on security. So I think one of the things going on is people are getting more comfortable with the security elements of the cloud.

Then, specific to our business, when we first started with SaaS offerings, it was just very new to the media business so people weren’t necessarily comfortable with subscription-based offering — they’re used to buying capital expenditures and, now saying this is an operational cost, it just kind of made them nervous… But we’ve seen over the last couple years since we’ve had this offering out there that people need to experience the real benefits of it.

One of the big benefits of SaaS, for example, is that instead of having to go into their facilities and upgrade all the software — so shut down for awhile to upgrade the software — we push those updates automatically from the cloud. And they get new features every few weeks. They see that power. You can’t just tell somebody [to] buy this SaaS, they [need to] get into it and go, wow, that is very cool.

Another element of it is that we have instrumented the offering so that we actually know what features people are using. It turns out that when you interview people about what they want in a product, the features they say they want aren’t actually the features they use every day. Because it’s instrumented, we see what’s going on there and [see how] everybody’s using this [and] how we can enhance that. We’re able to respond very quickly and in a really agile fashion to what our users really are doing out there.

What is it that people saying they’re looking for, and what are they using?
It’s very granular; it’s in terms of very specific elements of the features. We aren’t moving around the big functionality, but it’s when it gets way down into things like how much control do you want over what person has access. People always say they want a lot of control over who has access to what stuff, but in our media business, everything is always ‘hair on fire,’ trying to get stuff done. In the abstract, they want all of this configurability and controllability, but in real life, they don’t do it because they’re trying to stay on air.

What are some other trends that you’re seeing in the industry?
I think the big things are — no surprise — cloud and multiplatform delivery. It’s interesting as you talk to some people in the industry, people are still talking about asset management systems and file based workflows, but I think those things are, frankly, pretty mature. Yes we need them but it’s pretty mature — everybody has an asset management system. You tweak the workflows [and] you continually rethink and rebuild, but I think the real debates and the real focus [in the industry] is on cloud and multiplatform.

One advantage we have is that we’re a pure software company and our software intrinsically works on IP networks, so a lot of these companies are learning about software and learning about IP. Well, that’s where we come from. We weren’t doing anything before we were doing IP so, in a sense, it’s easier because that’s what we do.