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Hot Cloud for Creative Media Storage

Last week I had the privilege of making the opening keynote address at the Creative Storage conference in Los Angeles.  The audience was largely from the media and entertainment industries.

I’ll make a couple of observations.  Storage is a bigger issue today than it was in the past for a number of reasons.  First, the amount of data being generated is growing by leaps and bounds.  As video has progressed from HD to 4K, and now 8K or 10K, the amount of storage needed for the same amount of content has increased 16x or more.  Secondly, the value of the digital assets has skyrocketed along with film budgets.  I was shocked to learn that a $300-million budget for a feature film is no longer considered extreme.  $100M is ho-hum.   Imagine what would happen if somebody accidently deleted the master copies, or if some critical film was corrupted.   Also, the number of cameras used for a particular shoot has increased to as many as a dozen, where years ago there would have been just one.  I guess it is so expensive to set up a shoot and pay top-name actors that producers can’t risk not having the right camera angle, and now that you don’t have to pay for film, and the editing is so fast and cheap, why not have a dozen cameras rolling just in case?

Then there is the issue of the value of all these saved assets.  The only reason to save old footage is the prospect of someday being able to sell it again.  In the old days, the only way you could see a movie was to show it in a movie theater.  Obviously, that is a very expensive means of distribution and only films with large potential audiences could ever be shown that way.  Nowadays, however, there are hundreds of video-on-demand services that can actually make money with extremely small audiences.  This has turned the economics of film storage upside down.   Instead of having a small number of blockbusters seen by millions of viewers, today you can make money by offering a very wide range of content to very small audiences.  YouTube is proof of this:  somebody somewhere is willing to pay to watch almost anything.  So suddenly all those films and TV shows that have been consigned to the salt mines (literally, it turns out), have new potential value.  Industry IT people are starting to look at not only how to save money on storage, but also how to use hot storage to bring new life to old content.

Storage in the entertainment industry is still very much an in-house proposition.  The studios and their subcontractors frequently have large IT infrastructures that include both hot and cold storage—LTO tape is where most of this stuff ends up.  Moving to the cloud will take a while, though, because doing so potentially threatens a number of jobs, and also, as in any business, there are people who just love their hardware and like to look at all the blinking lights.

It’s surprising to still see people using on-prem storage servers like EMC Isilon servers when you can store data in Wasabi for less than the annual maintenance on a comparable amount of on-prem storage.  Sooner or later, all that on-prem equipment will age out, warranties will expire, and companies will be forced to decide whether they want to write another big check to EMC or whoever or start to move their storage to the cloud.  Even now, Wasabi’s biggest customers are all in the media space, and one by one the media and entertainment companies will come to the conclusion that it doesn’t make any more sense to be running their own storage than it would for them to be running their own electric power plants.

 

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