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February 2014

There are many different models of cloud computing, including private clouds, public clouds, community clouds, hybrid clouds, distributed clouds…

from the ground up to take advantage of a distributed architecture. And to run this kind of software, you need to run it on a PaaS.

PaaS and SaaS PaaS bears superficial similarities to virtualisation but is subtly different — and the difference is the key to unlocking the real power of cloud computing. PaaS will allow you to create virtual machines and software nodes, but it also provides other infrastructure and capabilities which include big data. Using PaaS enables the software developer to design software in a different way, building in dynamic scaling to meet the demand of large numbers of users running the application. Virtualisation is fine up to a point. You can operate a TV channel using an automation product running on a virtual machine deployed in a cloud, provided there is enough network bandwidth and sufficiently well-designed communication mechanisms. But if you then want to run another channel or group

of channels you would need another VM or group of VMs. A true cloud computing multi- tenancy architecture takes a different approach. It provides SaaS (Software as a Service — the applications you use) that takes full advantage of the host PaaS in order to service the demands of very large numbers of customers without a linear relationship

TVBEurope 35 Cloud for Broadcast

against the grain for most of us. The response of many when they see the advantages of cloud computing is to ask: why don’t we keep control by building our own data centre and operating a cloud from there? You only have to look at data

centres run by the major providers. The scale is vast: in Microsoft’s Chicago data centre

this hardware that dynamically farms out traffic between the web servers to meet demand, and makes it possible for high-traffic sites like Facebook and Amazon to cope serenely with the load from hundreds of thousands of concurrent users. These facilities go way beyond what would be practical for a broadcaster to build locally.

“The idea of entrusting critical functionality to a facility outside the walls of a dedicated broadcast centre goes against the grain for most of us”

between the number of VMs and customers. The software dynamically uses the available resources, spinning up more hardware whenever necessary.

Data centres: a very different animal Broadcasters can be a cautious lot — and for good reason. The idea of entrusting critical functionality to a facility outside the walls of a dedicated broadcast centre goes

blocks of up to 3000 servers are housed in shipping containers within the building and there can be up to 150 of these containers. But the sheer numbers of servers in a data centre doesn’t tell the whole story: around them there is a massive envelope of specialist network hardware that handles traffic and hardware load balancing — infrastructure that goes far beyond what could be implemented in a local facility. It’s

In our industry we tend to think

that the technical demands of broadcasting are exceptional, and skepticism about the limitations of computers is common. If you are still thinking of your office email system or your home computer as the measure of what computers are capable of today, you have to realise that data centre computing is a very different animal. The massive power and redundancy transforms everything

— and data centres are perfectly capable of handling critical tasks within the kind of speed and performance parameters broadcasters demand.

True cloud computing? But let’s sound a note of caution here. When looking at potential broadcast uses for the cloud, it’s vital to understand what the cloud is capable of in a broadcast context, what you need from it as a broadcaster, and how to accurately interpret the pitch of vendors who claim to have cloud solutions of various types. Are they really talking about virtualisation, or are they offering a true cloud computing solution? To design software that

takes full advantage of the cloud a vendor has to start again from scratch, and in terms of automation that means re-thinking what automation is, how you go about it, which parts of the operation should run in the cloud, and which parts should be kept on your broadcast site… I’ll start from that point in

Part Two, in TVBEurope’s March issue.

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