Rendering In the Cloud
By Patrick Sumby on November 6, 2014
An important thing to keep in mind when looking at “the Cloud” is that underneath all the marketing jargon and media hype, the technology behind it is still the same as that within the data center in your building today. As discussed in our previous blog post, some of the biggest challenges to face when deploying cloud services are the limitations in throughput, security and cost.
Sohonet has been creating “FastLanes” to some version of the “cloud” for years. These have taken various forms, some of them helping create private clouds for customers to move machines away from their main sites; some have been connections between customers in order to facilitate a marketplace to sell excess compute. The most recent FastLanes that we’ve built have been linking customers directly into public cloud providers such as Google, Amazon, SoftLayer and other cloud platforms.
For purposes of this blog post discussion, let’s focus on the latter of these use cases, as this is where most M&E companies will be experimenting and testing over the next 18 months.
Sohonet currently has the ability to create Virtual Private Clouds (VPCs) for Amazon, Google and others directly to customer sites or into the global Sohonet network (a private M&E network cloud). The result for our customers is not only a reduction in the networking headaches of VPN configurations, but there are also other benefits in terms of sustained/guaranteed throughput, security and cost reductions. The cost savings come in the form of egress charge discounts when data leaves the public cloud provider over these direct FastLanes (synonymous with the AWS “Direct Connect” terminology, but “burstable” and sized appropriately). Currently FastLanes into Amazon are available to connect multiple regions in Europe, North America and APAC. We are also building FastLanes into the other public cloud providers in their regional POPs based on the typical global M&E footprint.
There is a wide range of use cases for the combination of FastLane connectivity and cloud services in the M&E industry. The two common and valuable use cases are Burstable Cloud Rendering and Permanent Application Hosting. While these aren’t the only use cases by any means they represent a good cross section of what is possible with the technology and should help spark innovation in the industry as we progress our way through them in practical application together.
Burstable cloud rendering is a model of consumption of compute resource that the M&E industry has been trying to move towards for many years. What makes this possible now is the decrease in price of the cloud compute resources and the availability of high bandwidth (i.e. FastLane) network connectivity. VFX and post production houses can choose to consume additional compute resource for as little as a few hours or as long as they need. This can be used as a method to get past a bottleneck in a project or as a way to increase capacity for the lifetime of a project. Since you only pay for what you use, the costs can easily be modelled and built into pricing models for downstream clients which allows both small and large facilities to bid on the same business. Careful selection of render job types based on security compliance or data I/O criteria means that the cloud egress charges can be minimized and security compliance can be maintained.
The second use case that a number of players in the M&E space are using cloud platforms for is scalable application platform hosting. This generally comprises of some sort of application front end that allows the company to offer views into certain material or data (e.g. a MAM system). These front end systems can connect into scalable cloud storage either in the public cloud or on Sohonet’s private FileStore ecosystem. This can be expanded or contracted as required depending on the utilization rate of your projects / customers. This allows you to closely align your “OPEX” costs for infrastructure with the incoming revenue from clients and means you don’t have to build for expected peak capacity, but rather just build for the minimum trough that you have and “burst” into the cloud when required.
At Sohonet, we’re seeing a large number of customers already using cloud services for real world project work and the number grows every week. As these technologies advance, more ways to use cloud services emerge. Just in the last week, Amazon have added the ability to provision on demand workstations that can be utilised using Teradici PCoIP technology. Whether you work in Film, TV or Advertising, there are new ways to use the cloud that will save your business money. Just remember to turn your instances off when you’ve finished with them to avoid unnecessary pesky bills as the end of the month–or rely on your trusted service partner to manage that for you.
Partick Sumby, Director of Global Engineering at Sohonet