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Cloud Expo: Article

The Future of Video from a Cloud Perspective

Organizations and solution providers need to understand and try getting answers for key questions

Undoubtedly one of the key reasons for so many innovations happening in the information technology space is consumerization. While some feel that consumerization has reached the tipping point, consumers (and businesses as well) are still looking for newer avenues to do things more intuitively and effectively. Video is emerging as the new commodity to enhance the overall experience of how information and knowledge is shared and also how consumers and businesses collaborate. Voice is becoming passé and video has the potential to replace it.

Building solutions that are centered on video has its own challenges and some of these can be well addressed by cloud computing. Before finalizing on the roadmap for any future video-based solutions, it's important to understand and develop the right perspective on the role of cloud computing for video.

Organizations and solution providers need to understand and try getting answers for key questions like - Why cloud for video solutions? How can the cloud be leveraged for video solutions? How can it speed up go-to-market? What options do managed service providers and telecom service providers have to embrace the future video market? How can software vendors build video solutions without investing too much time and effort in it?

While consumerization of overall IT is already moving at its own good pace, a number of user devices and the explosive adoption of devices like smartphones and tablets have created a huge user base that is ready and waiting for more visually consumable information to be had at their fingertips (and that's something more than voice or text for sure). This creates a mass appeal that in turn creates a scalability problem which at times could become unpredictable.  It also means that potential consumers of video are spread across and are not necessarily in the same geography. With an overall information-avalanche, the volume of video data is ever increasing. This isn't a concern for video delivery alone but also for storage and backup. Flexibility and cost of ownership are other aspects that play crucial role in this highly competitive market. Most of these concerns map well with the core cloud tenets which means part of the problem can be resolved without investing too much time and effort.

Moving to the cloud can help address many business use cases and organizations need to know how to combine video solution architectures with cloud strategies for competitive benefits. Media is a great example where the cloud can be leveraged for broadcasting content, video feeds and online magazines as well as for conducting business interactions with the media. Vertical industries like education and training, entertainment and healthcare can employ the cloud to offer nimbler solutions. Other use cases include unified communication using cloud services, content management in the cloud for doing search, publishing and storage. The cloud can be used to deliver solutions such as video-as-a-service targeted to a specific market. Some cloud providers offer services that provide efficient and cost effective content delivery to the end user. While TV-everywhere solutions may not explore the cloud as yet; monitoring solutions like surveillance, motion detection, medical or speciality care are good cloud use cases for streaming, video delivery and disaster management. Archiving and video data policy compliance are other viable cloud use cases for organizations.

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While organizations can build their own video solutions atop public or private cloud platforms, most companies can benefit from existing video cloud services. For the use cases like video hosting and publishing - upload, encode, transcode, delivery and CMS - one can always look at services like Video Cloud from Brightcove which also offers live streaming. It supports new technologies like HTML5 and SDKs for mobile devices to integrate and enable more enterprise applications for video.

There are video services already built on top of public Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) platforms like Amazon Web Services cloud. An example of this is Encoding.com, a platform that is being used by thousands of organizations for its Video Encoding-as-a-Service. They help transcode video into many formats easily and cost effectively. Organizations needing to have video sites or web development platforms can utilize such services. With this approach, performance based SLAs for high volume video are also a possibility.

Sorenson Media Cloud is another cloud video publishing platform developed on top of the Amazon cloud platform. They use a cloud content delivery service like CloudFront to manage video delivery to end users. Besides doing online content creation, compression, transcoding and management, this service helps provide real-time analytics.

Some of these video cloud players have used existing public cloud platforms in very simple ways to build their solutions. By leveraging hundreds of compute services and by using cloud storage they could deploy their entire video stack in a scalable manner. Although it looks simple, the key success criteria lies in their having combined video solution architectures with long term cloud strategies well.

Managed service providers (MSPs) can create new offerings by building a video platform on top of their existing infrastructure. Their cloud architecture needs to be able to connect millions of videos across different networks, integrate with enterprise software, video delivery frameworks and with monitoring and management stacks. Alternately, MSPs can evaluate and use solutions like OpenVideo, which is the cloud architecture for video services built by Glowpoint.

Telecom service providers (TSP) are also betting a lot on video services for consumers and building managed solutions for enterprises. They have an advantage because of the existing network and service delivery platforms they have created over time. They can leverage the same investment further to offer cloud delivered video collaboration platform and video-as-a-service solutions. Additionally, they will have to create hooks to be able to integrate with enterprise systems and platforms like communication and collaboration organisations have deployed in-house. Polycom is one of the players powering such providers to build video services like the ones mentioned above. Their RealPresence Cloud platform is used by the likes of China Unicom to deliver video-as-a-service to thousands of businesses and government organizations. Airtel, a leading provider in India, also has used RealPresence Cloud platform to address its SMBs video needs . To create a broader story for enterprises and consumers, Polycom complements its cloud solution with RealPresence Mobile and Social platforms.

ISVs are spending considerable time and energy to build or integrate their foundation services before delivering video services. This is not productive and can derail the investment cycles setting them apart from their product roadmap. There is a real need to have video-platform-as-a-service (VPaaS) that can offer foundational services like development environment, streaming, transcoding, video content management, web APIs to support multiple endpoints, infrastructure services, monitoring, scaling, etc. Such platform needs to support multiple streaming formats like smooth streaming, HTTP live streaming, Flash media streaming, etc. Another expectation would be to support a variety of end user technologies like HTML5, Flash, Silverlight as well as Apple, Google's Android and Windows Mobile ecosystems. With Windows Azure's upcoming PaaS for media services, there is a hope that ISVs will be able to save money and enhance the productivity for video solution engineering enabling them to deliver solutions quickly to market than ever before.

In short, while video has a bright future in the years to come; apart from many emerging business use cases and overall consumerization, cloud computing will provide the biomass to keep nourishing it. And this may go to the extent that the cloud becomes inseparable from the future of video. Do you agree? If yes, how long do you think this will take?

More Stories By Jiten Patil

Jiten Patil is Principal Technology Consultant & Cloud Expert, CTO Office, at Persistent Systems Limited, a global leader in software product development and services. He has 15 years of industry experience and has spent the past 6 years working with cloud service providers, ISVs and enterprises in the field of SaaS, IaaS, PaaS and hybrid cloud computing solutions. His key expertise is in guiding organizations for cloud strategy and roadmap, solution architecting for public & private application services, platform services, multi-tenancy methodologies, application enablement and migration, devising new cloud solutions, tools and IP products, and doing competitive assessment across cloud technologies. He can be reached at [email protected] / Twitter @jiten_patil

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