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34 TVBEurope Cloud for Broadcast Cloud basics for broadcasters

In the first of a two-part feature, Ian Fletcher, CTO of automation & playout at Miranda, takes the mystery out of cloud computing with some basics for broadcasters

CLOUD computing really does offer enormous potential benefits to broadcasters, but there’s huge scope for confusion too. The cloud is a difficult thing to define, to grasp and to pin down. Before you can profit from it as a broadcaster, you need to be sure you understand what it is, and what it isn’t. Fundamentally, ‘cloud computing’ is a term meaning a form of distributed computing involving a large number of computers linked through a realtime network. But there are many different forms, some more useful to the broadcaster than others. There are many different models of cloud computing, including private clouds, public clouds, community clouds, hybrid clouds, distributed clouds…

One thing that’s easy to understand about cloud computing is the promise that a high-CAPEX model can be replaced with one that is more based on OPEX and the ability to scale expenditure more directly to revenue. In an effort to locate some hard edges in the cloud, let’s start with a few important acronyms: IaaS, PaaS, and SaaS.

Cloud computing, of course,

does require computers. They reside not in your broadcast facility, but in a data centre run by a specialist provider, and instead of buying the computing resource, you rent space on it. This is called IaaS – Infrastructure as a Service. PaaS (Platform as a Service) is a little more complicated, and it’s a key area where confusion is

generated by people using terminology loosely when claiming to offer cloud solutions.

Virtualisation and the cloud As computer technology has become more powerful, it has become possible to change the one-to-one relationship between a computer and its OS. A high-specification computer can now run many different ‘virtual machines’ to serve a number of clients. Each user experiences this as being logged onto a server in a way that seems like a one-to-one user- computer relationship, but in fact the user is only exploiting a portion of the resources of that piece of hardware. This is virtualisation. Virtualisation enables IT departments to become more

Fletcher: “In our industry we tend to think that the technical demands of broadcasting are exceptional, and skepticism about the limitations of computers is common”

efficient with their hardware: they can dynamically allocate resources if there’s a problem with a machine or if more performance is needed, and this can take place locally within an organisation. With the cloud, this kind of virtualisation can be implemented on a larger scale: the data centre can spin up any number of virtual machines to order and to the customer’s specification. But that’s virtualisation — not true cloud computing. And it doesn’t February 2014

deliver the full, revolutionary potential of cloud computing for broadcasters. To do that, the software for a cloud computing solution has to be developed

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