15 years later: the NAB conference

Over the past few months I’ve been reacquainting myself* with the industry and ecosystem of media production and distribution in preparation for the NAB (Natn’l Assoc. of Broadcasters) event in Las Vegas this week. A lot has changed since I was working in video and television technologies.  Here are a few relevant observations on whaScreen Shot 2017-04-26 at 10.47.44 AMt I’ve seen during this (big) show.

  • Media companies have huge archives of assets. One company I was speaking with has a namespace of media files that exceeds 38 MILLION objects. Media constitutes a staggering amount of data and that amount is growing very rapidly, particularly as media companies build out content in an ever-widening set of formats.
  • Video has become really big. 4K and 8K codecs are making individual files very large and very cumbersome to work with. These large data sets stress out every part of the production environment. Data has “gravity”, making it hard to move, hard to store, hard to recover in the event of a failure. A giant 4K feature-length movie file doesn’t make that any easier!
  • Production environments aren’t really virtualized, but that doesn’t mean they’re in the stone age. Basically, the demands of media/video production are such that purpose-built hardware (think GPUs) and software (think AVID) are the norm. To an enterprise data center guy (like me), a non-virtualized server environment seems bizarre at first, but once you realize the stresses and demands on these systems the non-virtual approach does make sense. Still, I believe there is room for virtualizing a lot of the systems in a production workflow and some significant benefits to be realized in doing so.
  • Media is more like HPC than an enterprise data center. If you had to name a use case with hundreds of small files that are managed through distributed systems and storage in communal namespaces on physical systems, you’d probably say HPC and you’d be right. HPC is about distributed processing, massively parallel work, and fundamentally approaches infrastructure differently than most enterprises. Media is the same way and has many of the same problems. My observation is that there are a lot of parallels to work in things like genomics, EDA, and some big data applications.  Cool stuff.

There are still a few days of NAB left here in Vegas so if you’re around, come by and visit the Pure Storage stand and say hi. If you want to read more about why Pure is at NAB, check out these media and entertainment use cases for Pure Storage:

http://www.purestorage.com/solutions/industries/media.html

 

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* Full disclosure:  I used to manage a team of video, RF, and cable television TMEs at Cisco. I’m a lapsed member of SMPTE and SCTE. It’s been a pretty long while, though.

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