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2018 storage strategies: Five trends to watch

Matt Starr, CTO, Spectra Logic, looks forward to some of the key trends likely to affect the media and entertainment industries in 2018

The media and entertainment (M&E) market has undergone a plethora of shifts over the years, as production and post production houses, social media powerhouses, enterprises and even consumers strive to stay relevant and ahead of their competitors.

Reflecting on 2017, the key trend for media and entertainment companies revolved around three main themes. First, the fast-paced changes and lightning-fast adoption in virtual reality, artificial intelligence and augmented reality concepts, though still in relative infancy, are prompting adjustments and change in business models – from large enterprises to small businesses. Second, frame and resolution rates continued to increase. Third, reality-based television programmes are storing increasing volumes of raw footage, typically, over 1,000 hours for one hour of final product. Due in large part to the amount of footage required to create digital content, such as simulations and graphics, these three shifts generated massive amounts of data in 2017 – all of which necessitate that metadata, hardware and data storage technologies keep pace. S3 transfer protocol adoption also grew in 2017, to alleviate some of these headaches.

Looking ahead, digital data content will continue to expand as the latest and greatest devices, films, and virtual and augmented reality programmes gain popularity and evolve to match expectations in 2018 and beyond. To meet business and budget objectives, organisations are implementing tiered storage strategies that free up costly primary storage by offloading inactive or infrequently accessed data to more economical storage solutions.

A few M&E storage trends that Spectra Logic sees on the horizon in 2018 are outlined below.

1. Media and entertainment companies will continue to evaluate –and decline—cloud-based storage options. M&E has always been a leading market in archive due to the amount of content stored for the creation of final productions. For some time, M&E organisations have evaluated and turned away from cloud in favour of more budget-friendly on-premise or hybrid cloud solution to control costs, and because footage must be retrieved quickly when needed. For example, if a network were to air a special on a current trend like Prince Harry’s engagement, that television special must air now, while the news hook is hot, so clips from historical footage captured over the years should be readily accessible and retrievable. Cloud is not a viable option for these scenarios because storing all content there is simply too expensive. In addition, data needs to be reviewed quickly, and cloud download fees and times are not just costly, but also too slow. Cloud compute will remain a solid strategy for video distribution, transcoding and content delivery; digital asset management will remain at least in part, in house and onsite, in a tiered implementation.

2. The public’s preference for streaming video will forces cable providers to react with new a la carte packages just to stay alive. Business models will shift drastically as consumers continue to “cut the cord” on traditional cable and dish offerings. The people have spoken, and the preferred delivery method of TV and films are through streaming giants like Amazon, Netflix, Hulu and others. Cable providers will react to mass client loss through new offerings – smaller packages at lower costs, and by delivering more targeted content. The average viewer is no longer willing to pay an astronomical flat rate for hundreds of unnecessary channels, and is instead migrating towards subscription-based viewing through offerings like video on-demand. Broadcasters will aggressively compete to keep their doors open to stay relevant with the increasing consumer preference towards over-the-air viewing.

3. Social media powerhouses will increase video storage to meet customer expectations. Video is arguably the most shared asset in the social networking world. In fact, some programmes are offered via Facebook only, and the vast majority of businesses in and outside of M&E have a Facebook presence. The large social media organisations will store all of the footage that is shared on social media. As the full value of the data being stored today isn’t yet fully known, it is all being stored in case a consumer or business needs to retrieve full-length videos for historical purposes, or clips to create follow-on programmes in the future.

4. Video games will emerge as a leading sub-vertical driving data growth. As frame rates and resolutions increase, the quality of video game graphics must improve in line with this to remain competitive with higher quality television and gaming console advancements. Higher quality means larger files and more data must be stored than ever before. This scenario reflects the introduction of a younger consumer audience impacting the IT planning and storage strategies of the broader M&E industry.

5. Tiered storage strategies will dominate in both small and large media and entertainment businesses. M&E companies of all sizes will implement tiered storage strategies to balance the speed of data access with the cost of storage. High-performing, disk-based primary storage for tier 1 offload will house smaller quantities of content that must be accessed frequently, with tape systems as the affordable mid-tier storage destination. The “Active Archive” concept, which is a combination of open system applications, different types of disk and tape hardware that intelligently monitor and migrate data across multiple storage devices while maintaining fast user accessibility, will continue to flourish for M&E organisations.

Overall, 2018 will be a year of continued trends such as simplified workflows, and the elimination of MAM (media asset manager) and middleware packages. M&E storage administrators will focus on achieving business continuity and economical efficiencies by leveraging new technologies that free up valuable and expensive primary storage. Finished video-based projects will reside on less expensive tiers, which will be seamless to the storage administrator and users.

In summary, to address tomorrow’s M&E storage challenges, tiered storage will be king for M&E organisations globally in 2018. What are your predictions for the M&E Storage market in 2018? Follow me to continue the discussion @StarrFiles.