Cloud technology offers many benefits over traditional options and media and entertainment companies are increasingly embracing it. For this, the second article in an ongoing series of articles about the cloud, I interviewed Chris Chen, chief technology officer for Prime Focus Technologies to get his thoughts about the benefits and concerns involved with cloud technology.
Digital Cinema Report: Please introduce yourself.
Chris Chen: I’m the chief technology officer at Prime Focus Technologies. I have more than 19 years of experience in streaming media, content management and delivery systems, digital publishing, content & Web security, e-commerce, and IT infrastructures. I’m responsible for the overall product and technology strategies, and have led several high profile engagements for Microsoft including Gap Brands, eBay, and DVD Express. I have also worked with past Presidents and CIOs of Sony, Fox, Netflix, and DirecTV in producing consumer products for the Media and Entertainment space. For Grammy and Oscar-winning artists, I designed and built digital post-production platforms customized to maximize the creative process. I hold a Master's degree in Computer Science from UCLA.
DCR: What is your role at Prime Focus Technologies?
CC: Spearheading the product roadmap and innovative solutions to effectively manage the digital content supply chain within the media and entertainment (M&E) industry
DCR: What is your personal involvement with cloud technology?
CC: Building Internet and cloud solutions for over 15 years starting with online video delivery to large web infrastructures to global ecommerce and now cloud solutions for the media companies.
DCR: How is cloud technology used at your company?
CC: Prime Focus Technologies (PFT) offers Cloud-based Media ERP Suite for the M&E companies. Our flagship product is called Clear. It has five modules – Cloud MAM, Operations Cloud, Broadcast Cloud, Production Cloud and Distribution Cloud catering to different verticals like Broadcasters, Studios, Brands, Sports and Digital companies across the content value chain. Clear created the hybrid cloud concept for the M&E industry, allowing management of assets and content operations in the cloud, regardless of where the content was located. DAX, part of the Production Cloud module, offers Digital Dailies, transforming the industry from shipping rushes on DVD overnight to the instantly available streaming video service with digital collaboration tools. Clear runs entirely in the cloud with interfaces to manage on premise content and infrastructure.
DCR: Has cloud technology streamlined your operations or solved particular problems?
CC: Yes. Without cloud technology, we would not be able to deliver the transformative solutions the industry needs to become more agile, to collaborate and improve creativity, to reduce costs of delivering content around the world to many customers, and to enable the monetization opportunities that would otherwise be prohibitively complex or expensive.
DCR: Who owns the servers that host your cloud-based work?
CC: PFT owns the servers that host the private cloud that runs the services. We are in partnership with public cloud services to also run our applications.
DCR: What advice have you given your company (or customers) regarding using cloud technology?
CC: Cloud companies inherently understand the complexities in deploying high volume, highly reliable infrastructures. They also spend a disproportionate amount of resources for security, enabling the end customers to enjoy performance, reliability, scalability, and security with very little expense, knowledge, or time. Specifically for the media and entertainment industry, to alleviate the concerns around sunk capital expense from infrastructure build-outs, company security policies regarding content, and inherent performance limitations of off-premise network lines, PFT pioneered the Hybrid Cloud concept for M&E in 2009. Our hybrid cloud allowed customers to not only leverage the cloud services provided by PFT but also allowed them to continue leveraging existing infrastructure, adhering to security policies regarding physical content containment, and using online editors across the LAN.
DCR: Understanding that no technology is absolutely secure, and that to-date, cloud technology has a very strong track record as far as security is concerned, how does your company handle backing up and saving media and/or data?
CC: Because PFT handles pre-release content for almost every major studio and television network on a regular basis, we take security very seriously. We have a separate security office that handles all of the security functions for our company. We voluntarily audit our infrastructure and applications regularly using third-party services approved by the industry. We also voluntarily subject ourselves to MPAA, SSAE 16, ISO 27000 and SOC 2 audits annually. Media ingested into our systems is encrypted via 256-bit AES cipher and all DR copies are copied over secure AES-encrypted links. Tape storage for archiving and vaulting is held in a SSAE 16 Type II/MPAA-certified datacenter. No data ever leaves the datacenter unless the applications are used and even then, the applications only allow protected viewing for most users without the ability to save the content to local disk.
DCR: How reliable is cloud technology for archival purposes? Put another way, do you consider the cloud to be a safe archival technology? Will your media/data be readily available to you in five years? Ten years? Fifty years?
CC: Cloud technology is very reliable for archival purposes when the provider enables provisions for bit rot. Archival tapes should be rotated out every few years or when bit rot is discovered through regular validation of tapes. Backup copies are then restored to a new tape and the questionable one is degaussed and destroyed. As new tape technology is introduced, data will be slowly migrated to the new technology by this process as well. By leveraging this concept of regular replacement of archive tapes, it is expected that the archive will last as long as it is needed.
DCR: Are you saying you archive both on tape and in the cloud or simply on tape?
CC: We have a hierarchical storage management system. The files are staged to the cloud and archival assets are moved to tape when necessary by rules. So they exist in both locations.