How the Cloud Can Help With Content Streaming
Modern consumers want their data the way they want their pizza: good, hot and fast.
This was challenging enough when digital services consisted of bursty, small-packet data flows. However, now that content streaming is all the rage, organizations of all types and sizes are under pressure to ensure users get what they want, when they want it, from any location and on any device.
So, What Do Consumers Want?
According to online consumer research firm GutCheck, the overall value proposition of streaming services, particularly entertainment-grade audio and video, can be summed up in one word: freedom.
Consumers want freedom from commercials, freedom from schedules, freedom from limited programming choices, freedom to choose their own access devices and freedom to consume content where and how they please. All these features are commonplace on leading streaming services such as Netflix and Hulu. To upcoming generations, life before streaming — the days when there were only 200 channels to choose from — seems as antiquated as oil lamps and steam engines.
Enter the Cloud
In this world, content is still king, so those who control content have the ability to shed expensive distribution infrastructure, such as broadcast transmitters and miles of cable, in favor of a more streamlined, Web-based approach. Fortunately, the cloud has come along just in time to help with the scalability challenges.
Charlie Good, co-founder of streaming service Wowza Media Systems, explained to TVTechnology that the cloud offers the quickest way to mount a video workflow infrastructure, mainly because companies can outsource deployment and maintenance. Good notes that a standard infrastructure-as-a-service platform can provide the managed virtual servers needed to run transcoding and streaming software, while a separate content delivery network (CDN) will provide configurable auto-scale streaming. Alternatively, there are streaming platform-as-a-service offerings that can provide end-to-end support, leaving the content owner with little to do but ensure steady availability and count up the money that comes in.
Streaming for the Enterprise
However, streaming content is not just an entertainment play. Large and small organizations can both benefit from live video feeds, webcasts, distance learning and other applications that boost collaborative workflows, sales and marketing processes, customer outreach and overall productivity.
Organizations should be aware that by itself, the cloud cannot overcome the major flaw in delivering video and other streaming content over the Internet: synchronicity. The Internet was designed for blocky, chunky data streams, not smooth, consistent ones.
Simon Jones, Conviva’s vice president of marketing, explained on VideoInk that while Netflix recently shuttered the last of its data centers and ported its library and back-office support operations, its CDN is homegrown and relies on local Internet service providers and data exchange centers to push functionality as close to the consumer as possible. Net neutrality laws make this the only feasible way to ensure rich media files can be delivered quickly and consistently over public infrastructure.
Overcoming Content Delivery Challenges
Streaming media can be both a productivity enhancer and a revenue generator for modern enterprises. The infrastructure is largely in place for both wired and wireless delivery so that consumers receive a satisfying experience with little to no setup or configuration complexity. Still, few organizations have the know-how or resources to mount a streaming network on their own, even one of moderate scale. The cloud provides a ready solution for most streaming applications, but even the largest providers are not invincible when it comes to actual content delivery.
Ultimately, the odds are high that streaming infrastructure will rest on the same hybrid cloud architectures that are shoring up the rest of the enterprise data ecosystem, ensuring content management and content delivery function in a cohesive and scalable manner.