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BroadcastAsia 2024: Revisiting continuous payments for Cloud-based processes vis-a-vis on-prem AI solutions

By Shirish Nadkarni

BroadcastAsia 2024 is done and dusted; but, unlike in earlier years, it has left the broadcast industry with knotted eyebrows over its viability and future.

Having migrated in 2022 from the more central venues of Suntec City and Marina Bay Sands to the sprawling Expo, within hailing distance of Changi airport, the annual broadcast industry exhibition and convention of the Asia Pacific region had been hoping to recover from the lingering after-effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, and attract greater numbers by way of exhibitors and visitors.

There were indeed a larger number of exhibitors than in either of the previous two years, but virtually all of the 630 exhibitors this time went in for smaller booths, in view of the steeply enhanced costs of stall space. This meant that they all could be crammed into just two (three, if you took the crossover booths of CommunicAsia) of the 10 halls available for the show at the Expo. 

Most of the exhibitors admitted to recording a lower number of visitors than in earlier years, though they were almost unanimous that the visitors were serious industry delegates of uniformly good quality, and that there were few who came to the exhibition with frivolity on their minds.

There were quite a few exhibitors who would have liked BroadcastAsia to last for four days, as like NAB in Las Vegas and IBC in Amsterdam, provided the stall rents are not hiked proportionately to the length of the exhibition! 

Indeed, costs appear to be foremost in the minds of the broadcast industry stake-holders as they do a critical cost-benefit analysis to determine their future participation in the event. Costs, and the timing of the show, so soon after NAB and CabSat in the Middle East, and actually coinciding with KOBA in Seoul. But delaying BroadcastAsia into mid-June appears to be far from the organisers’ minds, as they have already announced the dates for the 2025 edition as May 27 to 29.

While ‘Redefining tech for a better future’ was the central theme of this year’s show, what appeared to be uppermost on exhibitors’ minds was the unstoppable advance of Artificial Intelligence, and the effect that the Cloud is having on the broadcast industry in the matter of safe storage of data. 

Broadcasters are faced with the issue of whether to go unreservedly into the Cloud, or to retain their precious data on the premises, or to opt for a hybrid model.

The far higher costs of parking data in the Cloud is proving to be quite a deterrent.

“AI is currently used for video analysis, and will also get to the technical monitoring, and predict alerts – that is where generative AI is going,” says Sima Levy, President and CEO of Actus Digital, a company that provides an intelligent broadcast media platform for broadcast recording, monitoring and compliance.

“The toughest question for broadcasters to sort out is whether to remain on-prem or go the whole hog into the Cloud. As far as we are concerned, we support both, and don’t bother too much whether pricing is the issue. I can see that more and more customers are concerned about the cost of Cloud-based solutions.”

Levy has noted that most of Actus Digital’s customers want an on-prem AI solution where they buy one strong GPU machine that costs them money, but they consider it a one-time expense, and don’t have to worry about continuous ongoing payments for Cloud-based processes. 

“My gut feeling is that the industry will ask for more and more on-prem until the Cloud pricing will go down to reasonable levels,” adds Levy. “They start with a foray into the Cloud, then realise that it is very expensive, and go back to on-prem. For us, it does not matter, because we cater to both needs. But at some point, it will switch in the direction of the Cloud, for sure.”

Wasabi Hot Cloud Storage, a firm that claims to offer “infinitely affordable and predictably priced hot cloud storage”, has kept the price factor firmly in mind while tackling the issue of on-prem vs Cloud.

“We offer secure, reliable and low-cost solutions,” says Gary Ng, Wasabi’s Media & Entertainment Sales Director – APAC. “Pricing is always a consideration when you want to put your content in the Cloud.

“So we remove every complexity, and offer the customer just a single tier, so he pays for the capacity that he requires. No fees for egress or API calls; and it is scalable to an unlimited extent. Wasabi costs up to 80% less than the hyperscalers. 

“We believe in security. Physical security is ensured through globally distributed SOC 2 and ISO 27001 certified data centres, while data security comes from server-side encryption (SSE-C) automatically applied on top of the original ingest object state.

“We have unique identity and access management (IAM) policies, and enterprise-level single sign-on (SSO) options, plus multi-factor authentication (MFA) and multi-user authentication for storage account security.”

Harmonic, an American technology outfit that develops and markets video routing, server and storage products for companies that produce, process and distribute video content for television and the Internet, banks on its “deployment model” as its unique selling proposition vis-à-vis the competition.

“We are naturally hybrid, meaning the technology that we are developing for the entire workflow, from ingest to graphics, encoding, playout and delivery, can be deployed on-prem and also in the Cloud,” says Tony Berthaud, Vice-President of Sales & Service, APAC and EMEA. “This is helping a lot of our customers to optimise their workflow and their operation, and to optimise their cost, as well.

“Most of the time, our customers will select on-prem appliance deployment when they have permanent services, and the Cloud when they have something that is more valuable and more dynamic.

“We can naturally do that in a hybrid way. 

“We are using AI to support our customers who want to introduce more types of services, more interactivity, greater interaction with the audience, and global optimisation of the quality of the experience.”

EditShare, a company that claims to make things easier for creative storytellers by making media management and workflow processes smarter, feels that the cost of Cloud services is prohibitive for some broadcasters.

“In addition, they often can’t predict their egress charges,” says Paul Hayes, EditShare’s Regional Manager – Asia. “It is a given that, eventually, everything will go to the Cloud; but at the moment, a lot of broadcasters have adopted hybrid approaches where they store archives in the Cloud, and also the types of businesses that they don’t need to touch for a couple of months at a time.

“At the same time, they retain on-prem access to more regularly accessed material and solutions. They also go in for a private cloud, where they have clients remotely connected to your own facility, and where they offer asset management and other services.”

Ellen Shen, Vice-President for Sales, APAC, at Telestream, whose products range from desktop components and cross-platform applications to fully-automated, enterprise-class digital media transcoding and workflow systems, says that her company specialises in products that make it possible to get video content to any audience regardless of how it is created, distributed or viewed.

“Throughout the entire digital media lifecycle, from capture to viewing, for consumers through high-end professionals, we enable users in a broad range of business environments to leverage the value of their video content,” says Shen. “At the moment, I have to say that most of our customers are choosing on-prem. This is not so much due to the cost aspect as to the kind of demand they have from their own customers.”

The inescapable conclusion is that there is no hard and fast rule in deciding on the rival benefits of on-prem, Cloud and a hybrid model. The market is packed with vendors that offer solutions based on broadcasters’ needs, balanced with the cost factor. It is up to each individual broadcaster to determine the best fit.

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