CPS 2018: Cloud Workflows Can Boost Creativity, Security, Azure’s Sloss Says

Moving content workflows to the cloud can yield enhanced creativity options, along with improved security, according to Joel Sloss, senior program manager for Microsoft Azure.

When it comes to content development in the cloud, the questions typically involved aren’t just “can you actually do it [and] are the tools there, but is it secure?,” he said Dec. 5, during a morning Watermarking & Cloud breakout session called “Limitless Creativity (Secure and on Schedule) in the Cloud” at the annual Content Protection Summit, presented by the Content Delivery & Security Association (CDSA).

The session served as an update on the exploration of secure content workflows in the cloud. Using solutions such as Azure partner Avid’s Media Composer video editing software, artists, editors and IT employees can take advantage of the near limitless scale and creative process control of the cloud, according to Sloss.

And when you factor in Microsoft devices including Surface Studio and Surface Book 2, creativity and security can only be enhanced further, he said. Meanwhile, analytics and artificial intelligence (AI) services for image/face and audio recognition from Microsoft will let media organizations get the most out of their production schedules, according to Sloss.

“So many production companies and studios are used to functioning in an air-gapped environment, that they never really had to worry about what happens when you plug it into the Internet,” he told attendees. “But as the requirements for generating content outstrip the capabilities of most on-premises data centers, they are being forced into looking at how can they scale, how can they take advantage of greater capabilities than what they would ever be able to deploy on their own,” he said.

However, “that also means there are security challenges,” he noted, adding: “The concerns are around: What’s going to happen when I plug that in? Do I have the right access controls? Are people going to be able to get the content that I have?”

When thinking about the pipeline in the cloud, “it really does go end to end because you start at the device” — such as Surface Studio, where you may start creating content, he said. “Then you start using the services that are native to the cloud, including video analytics, which “allows you to ingest content into a storage account and create a bunch of metadata around it as it scans and then goes through artificial intelligence and machine learning services to extract information” such as speech to text, facial recognition and sentiment analysis – “whatever it happens to be that’s going through that content… And then ultimately, this stuff is going to go to an end device,” he said.

In the process, a media organization has been able to go from creation to distribution within the cloud, he noted. But he said: “It’s going to be hybrid [because] most organizations – most media companies or production partners – are not ready to just drop all their stuff into the cloud. There’s a lot of investment in on-premises hardware and software and other kinds of infrastructure. You still want to be able to amortize and get use out of” them.

But, “a few years down the road,” organizations using a hybrid storage approach now can make a decision if it makes sense to keep upgrading the old legacy system they have or “really transform into a cloud-based business,” he said.

Despite the growing number of media organizations moving at least some of their data to the cloud, he told the Summit: “I think it’s safe to say that 99, maybe even 100 percent of organizations in the studio community now [have everything] on tape. And, if it’s not on tape, then it’s on stacks and stacks of hard drives in somebody’s closet. That’s not a very useful place to keep data. It’s not very secure and you have no way, in most cases, of knowing even what’s on those tapes.”

But Sloss conceded that moving workflows and “processes that have been very static for a very long time” is “not trivial.” He told attendees: “Even though I’m from Microsoft, I’m not going to stand here and say that this is a super easy thing…. You are dealing with a hundred years of legacy – of how film and television production has been performed for decades. Then there’s a lot of legacy infrastructure – a lot of investment.”

He predicted “that’s why there’s going to be a hybrid environment for a number of years still.” So, with hybrid solutions now, organizations are going to keep their current systems and “start moving chunks of information into a cloud environment,” such as just archiving their dailies, he said.

“Some of the work that we’ve been doing, in particular, over the last year is around defining what these workflows look like,” he noted.

But he said: “Security is not a one-stop shop unfortunately. You can’t really say that just because I’m putting something into a cloud and you inherently trust that a data center is physically secure. In the end, it doesn’t really matter because the security comes down to how are you configuring your environment? What protections are you putting into place? And part of this is understanding what the individual workflows are because the requirements [for] security are going to be different if you’re doing rendering versus you’re doing editorial, asset management, even basic identity management. If you’re not defining your security processes and policies according to what you’re doing, then that generic approach is not going to catch all of the possible ways the data is moving, the possible ways that data is being accessed.”

So, what is needed is to create “end-to-end workflows that are customized for the type of work being done,” he said.

New Microsoft pro devices this year, including the Hub 2 interactive smart board, are “a lot less expensive now” than they were and an added benefit of using it and other Microsoft devices as part of the end-to-end workflow is that they’re designed for the enterprise space and provide enhanced security, he said.

The 2018 CDSA Content Protection Summit was presented by SafeStream, and sponsored by Edgescan, Microsoft Azure, LiveTiles, Aspera, Amazon Web Services, Convergent Risks, Dolby, Illumio, NAGRA, EIDR, the Trusted Partner Network (TPN), Videocites, Human-i-t, Telesoft and Bob Gold and Associates and is produced by the Media & Entertainment Services Alliance (MESA) in association with CDSA, the Hollywood IT Society (HITS), Smart Content Council and Women in Technology Hollywood (WiTH).

To download the Microsoft Azure presentation deck and audio click here and here.