The dazzling IBM Forum next to the River Thames (and the London Television Centre) was the venue for the UK section meeting “How to be creative in Clouds”. Three speakers addressed what are cloud/ cloud based services, how a cloud can be used, and Cloud computing and the Media –where next?

Just over 30 people enjoyed a pre-Christmas “Mix and mingle” over refreshments of Mince pies and Drinks before the event – with people drawn from London and a wide surrounding area – and one member flew in from The Netherlands to attend this last meeting of 2012.


                                                       Members arriving and enjoying Christmas Cheer
Sam Garforth a Software consultant with IBM gave an over view of what clouds do – at the simplest – makes IT provisioning as simple as down loading an App on your IPhone.   For instance traditionally to add storage would take time and this process makes IT a barrier to your business (which is not IT).  He drew up the difference  between what the business wanted – a pay per use, dynamic ,scalable  with no hardware , and what the IT perspective  – with Intensive hardware configured to provide virtualised resources as a service.  This clarified one confusion with clouds – are you a user- free and dynamic; or the provider - surrounded by lots of "heavy lifting" servers.

A key concept of Clouds are that the business/ user is buying a service - which the IT supplier may be offering – From Infrastructure like raw storage or Processor which other IT specialists build into their services though Platforms – for instance an editing systems, and Software as a service - like most of Cloud services including and pay roll. – or even to Business as a service – which is near total outsourcing  in the cloud – for say HR services.

Most industries are now using the Cloud business model – those who are very large can afford to create their own private clouds  which is a rearrangement  of the traditional Company datacentre to provide IT in a user friendly on demand pay as you go way.   But many use publically accessible clouds from suppliers like Amazon or IBM to provide their own part of a virtual datacentre which can be infinitely expandable.  In reality there are lots of “Club clouds” where a group of users access a Cloud type cluster of datacentres –or where a Private Cloud actually has some of its storgae or processing in a public cloud.

Sam Garforth then illustrated some of the feature of cloud services with a view of the Scoring and information systems that IBM provides to the Wimbledon Tennis tournament.  

IBM have been providing the service since 1990 but in recent years then growth in the amount of data required by the medias as well as serving the information and video on the public website. 

He pointed out that using Cloud techniques enabled IBM to offer similar service for the US open Golf and the French Open tennis- and the scalability of the Cloud means that it could serve all the internal and public users even when the events overran into themselves as happened  in 2011.

Having cloud resources also means that application development could be done a lot quicker – and tested whenever needed– unlike with a custom hardware based system where it could only be done once a year on the physical system. It was now possible to design an Application in March and deliver it fully tested and working to the Tournament in June.

In summing up Sam pointed out that the cloud has the power to optimise and innovate what we do – but it was a disruptive force – and cause changes in how many businesses were operating – well outside the media world.


                           Sam Garforth, Chris Wright (host from IBM)  Ben Roeder and Rick Van der Plas who flew in from the Netherlands

 Ben Roeder CTO of Sohonet looked at how the Cloud services have fitted alongside the direct connectivity, ISP and digital workflow parts of his business – now 17 year old.  

He focussed on the two main services that his media customers around the world were look at for – High performance computing - both for the more obvious rendering but also for editing remotely.

And storage where he saw that the cloud offered a number of different services –

  • Archive – a means of storing cornet securely and being able to pull selected parts of it for reuse fairly quickly.
  • Backup – a means of having your Working in Progress data in more than two places – making it less likely to be lost.
  • Project parking - if there is a stop on the production process – you need to off load all that clients content from your servers to allow other work to be taken on.
  • Digital negative/ Rushes store – as a means of holding materials for use in the editing Process

As Sohonet customers using these services have 1G and 10G connectivity, material can be shifted fairly rapidly – but he noted that some people seem to think that they can move on Terabyte of data as quickly as a 1 megabyte Document can be sent to a USB drive.


He just pointed out the Cloud was here – and was being used by his clients and others – every day.

 Chris Wright – who had a career in the music industry before joining IBM where is now a Consultant in the Software group started by recounting his first “away from base” job when he joined IBM 8 years ago.

 The job which was notionally just installing some software – took him a week to build the hardware – and to configure the right Build versions and then about the same time to get the applications software loaded and optimised.

To do that now using cloud technology  wood take perhaps 5 minutes to request and get the hardware and then perhaps 10 minute to select and load the software – and he could do  it from his PC anywhere in the world.

But Cloud computing is a disruptive solution – and it could be likened to the effect that electricity had on the manufacturing industry using Steam as its prime mover.  
For the broadcasting and film industry which had been in the IT business since embracing digital technology –Cloud Computing now means that the traditional Clunklyness of IT was no more – Cloud computing made IT  like app on IPhone.

Cloud computing was different from other things … It has a low cost of admission – and pay as you go makes it more Accessible - your costs are more operating expenditure than a capital investment with its associated hassle.    In any case the economies of scale, with virtualisation standardisation and automation from gigantic firms like IBM. Amazon Google, enable the smaller firms to have access to applications that were previously open only to the large firms – a democratisation.

In simple terms buying as a service means you do not need to own the kit – or patch it or upgrade it

 Chris Wright pointed out that Cloud computing met the needs that an  ever increasingly industrialised media production processes -  and perhaps most importantly  for the Business data and metadata  (and the low res Proxies of the production) the ability to organise, store and share all the “paperwork” using  the same software with multiple users and paying when you use the service.

 To round off the presentation Chris moved from Programme production to home delivery -   a new entertainment services on Philips Smart (connected) TV using the cloud. IBM have partnered  with Philips to provide a range of entertainment  services – the B2B  business model is that IBM is paid per TV sets serviced – allowing Philips to add as much  or as little  content  without incurring extra (infrastructure) cost.  Part of the service is a dynamic analysis of consumer behaviours which can lead to targeted advertising and other activity where Philips and Content suppliers can maximise their revenue.   He illustrated this by an example of work with France TV on the Roland Garros tennis – where IBM provided information triggered in the Broadcast streams which the text overlay was giving more information - this may be now on the second screen.   This was using cloud capacity at an IBM data centre in Atlanta Georgia in the USA, despite most of the viewers and the event itself being in Europe. 

He pointed out that Connected TV applications were  going to be very popular in the UK (and in Europe) as most  new TV sets/ HD STB have an internet connection – and BBC I Player is very popular so the audience will expect content–text and video - on their TV over the internet.  

Before closing Chris mentioned some of the challenges  – of which security was always seen as being the most important – but  as it was the most important no provider can afford not to make it top priority and get it right every time. He felt that because of this emphasis on security, cloud computing techniques are more secure than current traditional IT solutions.   The cloud being geographically independent could give rise to some interesting mediation of teritorial rights.

Connectivity was also a major consideration – particularly for the media industries whose assets are very large files - or delivering very large number of streams coded in the cloud to the audience
  But the pace was already there and we may see Cloud Services Providers being as ubiquitous as Telcos.   



                                                  Dicussion continuing -

The lively discussion started on connectivity to storage - It was pointed out that a Motorcyclist with a pannier full of LTO tapes (Or a Jumbo jet full of Drives) was system which could move a lot of data quickly – perhaps faster than a 10 G IP Link.   Ben Roeder pointed out that you had to look at the end to end workflow- how long does it take to write to an LTO drive – it does not transfer data that quickly – and if you are wanting to get the physical drive to say New Zealand – there is only one flight every day – whilst a IP/telecom connection is there and can be used from the moment you need to start the transfer. He emphasized the need to look at an end to end workflow – and to remember that you need time to recover the data from the cloud as well as sending to it.

A number of members contributed to answer" How is the UK placed to use cloud services?" Although many like IBM offer a fixed price for cloud service anywhere in the  world – often the cost of good connectivity  can make the difference- and thus getting your fibre close to the physical data centre whether that ne Amazons in North Virginal USA or in Dublin Ireland.    The UK had the connectivity particularly across the Atlantic and thus could easily access American and European data centres equally well.

The discussion moved to the need for there to be a change in Software costing models –as it Cloud Computing is much more amenable to the” buy by the hour or day “rather than “buy it outright…” Many vendors will need to change their business models before the creative world can take full advantage of the Cloud.  The fact that specialist Cores like GPUS were becoming more available  -including firms making “their” render farms available to hire on an ado “Club Cloud” basis code only help this.

In closing the meeting Chris Johns (chair UK section) thanked the three speakers and the audience for their constributions and the discussion split out into the lobby where it continued over more Christmas Cheer.

SMPTE UK Section thanks IBM for the provision of  The IBM Forum venue and for the Christmas Cheer refreshments.

The meeting was produced and reported by Peter Weitzel , photography by  Tim Harris