Sports Content Management Forum: On-Prem vs. Cloud — Is It a Competition?

Tech leaders offer insight into making the right decision for your business

Sports leagues, broadcasters, and content producers of all sizes are challenged with The Big Archive Question: Where do I store my stuff? We explore cloud providers who offer multiple archive tiers, various retrieval models, and aggressive pricing models, comparing them with on-premises tape and disc solutions that scale. Although data tape continues to be a cost-efficient medium to store and preserve your data at rest, is it right for your business?

On-Prem vs. Cloud: Is It a Competition? panel (from left): the NHL’s Grant Nodine, A+E Networks’ Dave Klee, Masstech’s Mike Palmer, University of Notre Dame’s Scott Rinehart, Nutanix’s Roger Singh, and WWE’s Bryan Staffaroni.

At last month’s SVG Sports Content Management Forum in New York, NHL SVP, Technology, Grant Nodine moderated a panel featuring technology leaders from A+E Networks, University of Notre Dame, WWE, Masstech, and Nutanix who addressed finding a happy medium between on-premises and the cloud. Here are a few highlights from the session:

Nodine on the current adoption rate for cloud-based infrastructure:
“I think we’ve all collectively arrived at the conclusion that the right model is a hybrid one. But I think we just haven’t gotten to [determining] which hybrid model it is.”

Nodine on the promise of cloud-based services, such as AI and machine learning:
“I can get a lot of value from the services that I can attach around my media in the cloud, and I also get a lot of value from being able to distribute it more effectively. So maybe [it makes sense for] my source media to go directly to the cloud and then [be pulled] back into my on-prem systems so that I’m creating that backup [copy].”

Nutanix Chief Technologist, M&E, Roger Singh on how customers are still struggling to pinpoint the hybrid model that works best for them:
“Most of the customers that we’ve been interacting with definitely want to embrace the cloud for more processing and leveraging the cloud as an extension of the data center. [That is true] whether they’re trying to accommodate short-term projects … or are moving the workload from on-prem to leverage the cloud more … and trying to find that true hybrid model.”

Singh on the importance of deploying a single interface to manage both cloud and on-premises workflows:
“I think that true hybrid model means you don’t have to have multiple interfaces to deal with; you can leverage a true extension of my data center through a single interface. I think that’s where a lot of cloud consumers think of Nutanix, where you can have a Nutanix deployment in the cloud leveraging that single interface that can move the workflows between [cloud and on-premises]. We’ve seen customers [focusing] less on the content in the cloud and more on processing and leveraging the cloud as an extension of the data center.”

Masstech CTO Mike Palmer on whether the hybrid cloud/on-premises model works for everyone:
“I’m not sure that hybrid is the solution for everybody. I think hybrid’s going to end up being the most popular solution for the most customers, but it really depends on what the customer wants to accomplish. You need to know what you’re going to do. If you’re looking at a smaller production house that’s doing programs that they’re going to deliver to somebody else, absolutely go immediately to cloud. All-in for that makes perfect sense. But that won’t work for everyone.”

Palmer on the importance of “failing small” when exploring cloud-based workflows:
“I think it’s really important for people that are using the cloud to not get too caught up in the buzz and to dig down into what they’re trying to do and what costs are going to be involved, where they’re going to go. It’s very important to fail small: try a small project first and get your feet wet, understand the model, and then grow from there.”

University of Notre Dame Director, Broadcast Technology, Scott Rinehart on the danger of skyrocketing costs with cloud deployment:
“A big part of the problem [with the cloud] is, what’s the cost? If I have my LTO [storage] on-prem, I can predict those costs out for five years with the vendors, and I know that. My concern with doing all this stuff up in the cloud is that [people will think,] ‘Oh, yeah, this is easy. I just throw it up [in the cloud].’ But then, at the end of the month, here comes this huge bill, and they didn’t budget for it. Then they do it again the next month. To me, it’s like you’re writing a blank check to the cloud provider to charge me whatever they want.”

Rinehart on the industry’s inevitable move to the cloud:
“But, yes, ultimately, [our content is] going [to the cloud] for disaster recovery because trying to keep track of the tapes and who’s ejecting them and moving them is just [too difficult]. And then you have all those costs [associated with] ship it somewhere and you’re still going to store it. It’s just easier to put it in [the cloud] and have a workflow that says, ‘There’s that asset. Send it up here.’ And it’s gone.”

A+E Networks VP, Media Infrastructure, Dave Klee on the challenge of bringing in high-quality talent to manage the transition to the cloud:
“It’s tough to get the right tech talent to help you in the cloud, to get things up and running in a way that’s going to make sense, and to make things a little more transparent. Since costs are so tightly tied to strategy and they play off each other so directly because you’ve got the bill each month, you have to go into it and educate yourself. Get to a level of understanding so that you’re comfortable with making those decisions and you’re comfortable with knowing what the bill is going to be. Because there are big problems if you don’t.”

Klee on the operational advantages that come about once you move systems into the cloud:
“Yes, it’s tough to get the tech talent engaged and moving in the right direction, but the organizational side of things gets a little easier. When you move into the cloud, a lot more tools are open to you, a lot more avenues, a lot more technology choices are open to you. And so you have the ability to start designing targeted workflows, targeted tools, and very self-contained projects … for a particular group of people. Personally, I found that, rather than approaching it as that big lift-and-shift, which was sort of the mode of five or 10 years ago, look at it as a long series of very targeted tools with targeted interfaces solving specific problems. The cloud lets you do that and lets you do it pretty well, which I think helps with the operational side and the organizational change-management side.”

WWE VP, Media Asset Management, Bryan Staffaroni on the cost of using tape vs. cloud for your archive storage:
“We’ve done the math … on cloud vs. LTO and what the costs would be. And I feel like you have to go really far out [into the future] for the cost to look like you’re saving money now [by using cloud]. We didn’t get as granular as electricity costs yet, but we could. And I think that’s where you would start to say [cloud] might be the wisest investment. Plus, what you could leverage with that stuff in the cloud — using AI and [having] pockets of cloud projects — is pretty amazing.”

Staffaroni on how the rise of 4K/8K will impact his cloud vs. on-premises decision and how he’s looking to futureproof his operation:
“The cost is a big thing right now, especially when we’re on the horizon of a 4K or 8K future. If you just went cloud and then everything got to go 4K, suddenly, the cloud, which seemed to be closer, just got further away. You’re talking about a migration — it’s either a tape migration or a cloud migration. If you’re dumping everything off of your LTOs, there’s no way that’s going to be a quick process. It’s a long process, and our company is facing a physical move in a couple of years. We have two LTO-7 tape robots. They’re big and they’re dense and they’re full, but they’ve got to move somehow. Or do they? Or is now the time when we go to [a cloud-based] solution?”