Share

Leostream Remote Access and Connection Management Platform

 

Leostream Awarded Engineering, Science & Technology Emmy for its Remote Access and Connection Management Platform

Recently, Leostream, a leading provider of enterprise-grade remote access solutions, was honored by the Television Academy at the 74th Engineering, Science & Technology Emmy® Awards for its remote access and desktop connection management software that enables news and entertainment organizations to create security-conscious remote production environments.

Myself, having been in the entertainment space for the past four decades and observing the evolving technology gaps from server virtualization and remote access, to the public and hybrid cloud to hosted desktop environments – see LeostreamTM as an enabling platform that allows broadcast and entertainment organizations to become more cost efficient and productive. The following is a deeper dive into their technology, its validation and a glimpse into Leostream’s future, according to Karen Gondoly, Leostream CEO.

LEOSTREAM PLATFORM

Leostream’s platform provides a connection broker platform for hosted desktop deployments, – i.e. Virtual Desktop Infrastructures, or VDI. Whereas other vendors in the VDI space provide the entire stack of technologies required to deploy VDI, Leostream focuses on providing a connection management platform, and then allows its customers to build the remainder of their stack using whatever technologies that best suit their needs. With their customer-centric focus, the company continuously integrates with the latest hosting platforms and display protocols that their customers want to use. As an example, during the past few years, media & entertainment enterprises have been shifting workloads out of on-premises data centers and into public clouds. Leostream in turn, added a suite of tools for managing capacity in cloud environments, like Amazon Web Services EC2 and Microsoft Azure. As a result, their customers can build, connect to, and delete desktops in the cloud as their needs dictate.

Central to Leostream’s platform unique architecture are five differentiators: 1) Vendor Neutrality – ability to choose and migrate between the best of breed solutions; flexibility to change technologies as they evolve; 2) Self Hosted – customers have full control over their data and resources; 3) Centralized Management Layer – single pane of glass to manage clients’ hybrid IT assets; 4) Granular Access Control – automate capacity and secure user access based on security groups, location, and/or time of day; and 5) Audit-Level Logging – complete visibility into who, when, and where resources are used.

The following Figures (1,2) depict the Leostream Platform, with Fig 2 highlighting its use in a wide range of VDI, DaaS and hosted workstation use.

Leostream Platform Fig 1

Leostream Platform Fig 2

LEOSTREAM PLATFORM KEY FEATURES AND BENEFITS

SECURE REMOTE ACCESS
Connect to anything – anywhere, any time, and from any device, quickly and securely. In prior years, organizations provided every specialist with a personal copy of the software they needed, installed on their private workstation. But, licenses for advanced media and entertainment applications like Media Composer are expensive, and maintaining software installed on users’ machines is cumbersome, even with on-prem networks. By self-hosting software applications, users can maintain control, security, configuration and share the license, lowering costs and encouraging collaboration. Moreover, it affords IT granular access control for managing and authenticating end-user connections, and the administrator always has access to the application when patches or updates are required. In addition, Leostream’s audit level logging provides comprehensive tracking of access and usage, ensuring that users can connect to their application from wherever they roam with their connection broker to authorize and connect users to their hosted resources.

HYBRID-CLOUD MANAGEMENT
Manage the entire on-prem, edge, and cloud desktop environment, all from a single web-based administrator portal. The Cloud has arrived, and more and more organizations are realizing it’s the perfect place to host applications. Leostream allows users to leverage the public cloud(s) of their choice, like Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud Platform. Leostream’s management console helps manage cloud costs by automatically controlling compute capacity and power state based on demand. Its management console also allows the users to craft a multi-cloud strategy, leveraging the datacenter and the cloud (hybrid-cloud, multi-cloud) to their best potential, all administered from a single interface.

HIGH-PERFORMANCE DISPLAY PROTOCOL SUPPORT
Connect to graphics-rich or compute-intensive applications using any high-performance display protocol. Leostream supports a wide range of display protocols, for both Microsoft Windows and Linux remote desktops. Users can use the best protocol for the job, from HP RGS, NICE DCV, NoMachine, Scyld Cloud Workstation to Mechdyne TGX, to Teradici PCoIP, RDP, VNC, SSH and more.

PROVIDE CLIENTLESS ACCESS WITH INTUITIVE USER INTERFACE​
The Leostream platform offers a seamless experience from any device, including thin clients, zero clients, Chromebooks, and mobile devices by connecting to remote desktops using Leostream’s in-browser HTML5 client viewer. A modern web-based UI gives users a centralized hub for all their remote resources.

WORK OUTSIDE THE VDI STACK
Build out a hosted environment using best-in-breed technology without locking yourself into a single legacy VDI stack. The stack is completely scriptable via a RESTful API.

CONNECT END-USERS WITH MIXED OS ENVIRONMENTS
Management wants Windows, designers want macOS, and developers want Linux – Leostream supports multi-OS environments with ease. The platform manages Linux, Windows and macOS desktops so users have access to everything they need from a single portal. Connect end users to their desktops or applications via nearly any display protocol.

SEAMLESS CLOUD DESKTOP PROVISIONING
Burst into the cloud in a snap to meet demand fluctuations or performance needs. Leostream’s management console helps manage cloud costs by automatically controlling compute capacity and power state based on demand.

SIMPLIFY IT MANAGEMENT
From a single-pane-of-glass admin console, Leostream simplifies the management of users, VDI, cloud desktops, and other types of hosted IT assets as well as physical machines. The platform is vendor neutral, offering support for multiple hosting, and cloud desktop platforms. The platform affords real-time dashboard to view usage and environment details. Last, it installs on Linux and Microsoft Windows operating system, licenses are not required.

DEEPER DIVE WITH LEOSTREAM CEO KAREN GONDOLY

Leostream Corporation was founded in 2002, recognizing an opportunity to develop software to address the gaps in the evolving server virtualization and remote access market. The company pioneered technologies such as a patented physical-to-virtual machine converter and a virtual machine controller, which evolved into the enterprise Connection Broker that lies at the heart of the Leostream Platform.

Now, with the industry continuing to evolve as organizations deploy multi-cloud, hybrid-cloud strategies to better optimize their resources, Leostream CEO Karen Gondoly gives her perspective on how her company’s remote access and management platform will continue to enable enterprises to reduce costs while increasing productivity.

(Q) – Question  (A) – Karen Gondoly Answer

(Q) For the past two decades, Leostream has recognized, adapted and was able to monetize the evolving technology gaps from server virtualization/remote access, to the public and hybrid cloud to hosted desktop environments. Where do you now see market opportunities within the next half decade for the media & entertainment space, and how will Leostream’s platform address those opportunities?

(A) Generally, the market is always going to go in a direction that allows an organization either to save money or to make their users more productive, which indirectly saves money. More specifically, I can only speak to the market opportunities as they relate to remote access technologies. For that use case, Leostream tries to keep its eyes on features and functionality that enable the two general concepts.

You mentioned our embrace of the public cloud, which is support we added into the Leostream Platform at a time when the industry was still kicking the tires on cloud adoption. Going forward, we see a huge value in continuing to enhance our support for public cloud environments, particularly in a way that makes it easy for organizations to transition between clouds or create hybrid/multi-cloud environments. Tools that can help organizations understand and minimize their cloud costs continue to be important, as well.

Beyond the cloud, there are opportunities for adopting alternate technologies for hosting media & entertainment applications on-premises. Leostream was an early proponent for OpenStack, and I still envision that platform becoming more and more prevalent, particularly for managed service providers who are building solutions for media and entertainment workflows.

Longer term, we’re keeping an eye on the adoption of containers for application workloads. Using containers as a delivery method for end-user applications is still in that ‘kicking the tires’ phase, but it’s an interesting solution that could offer cost savings both in the cloud or on-premises.

(Q) Where, if any, are their technology gaps within the current media and entertainment ecosystem that Leostream’s platform can address? And how will you integrate your platform to address these opportunity gaps?

(A) A number of media and entertainment workflows, as they relate to resource access, tend to be schedule-based. As examples, editors book edit bays for a project, or solution providers rent out hosted workstations or applications for the length of a program. No remote access management platform, Leostream included, currently provides a good way of modeling those workflows.

Leostream is already working on bridging that gap. Early in 2022, we previewed a very alpha version of our scheduling feature at the HPA Tech Retreat’s Innovation Zone. The feature really is in its infancy, but we envision a time when editors can request access to hosted resources via a calendar and Leostream will appropriately connect, monitor, and restrict access based on that calendar. The idea is to allow organizations to optimize the usage of resources and ensure users have access to the tools that they need to get their jobs done.

(Q) What technology challenges do you foresee and are to be integrated into your platform to address the future evolving media and entertainment market?

(A) The biggest technology challenge is that technologies change. A vendor may discontinue a feature you rely on. An acquisition could throw the market into a tizzy. A new technology may come to bear that you really want to integrate into your environment.

One of Leostream’s core tenants is to allow our customers to future-proof their remote access environments. We want to be a constant so that, as other technologies in the remote access stack vary, organizations can continue to leverage Leostream to manage them. This ultimately helps IT organize and track cross platform resource usage, and anything that can simplify IT in the face of that ever-changing technology landscape is a win for any organization.

Also, remember that Leostream is the end-user facing portal. Whatever is happening behind the scenes is a concern for IT. End users, on the other hand, simply want to log in and have access to the tools they need. To support that, Leostream will continue our path of remaining vendor neutral to the rest of the environment, so IT can build a remote access solution that works best for their users’ needs now, and into the future, while keeping the end-user experience constant.

(Q) Who is using your platform and how are they using it?

(A) Leostream is used in both broadcast and cable – across news, sports, film, episodic TV, but currently mostly in the production/post phase. At a high level, Leostream manages the connections of creatives, editors, and engineers to remote machines, so that these users can perform complex tasks on large data sets.

Media and entertainment organizations appreciate the breadth of options they have for authenticating users into their Leostream environment to ensure security. They also require the granularity of Leostream pools, plans, and policies, which allow them to define very specific access control rules that define who has access to what, from where, and for how long. We also constantly hear how crucial customers find their Leostream logs for monitoring resource usage in their editing environment.

You can find a case study for Remote Picture Labs on our website, which describes how they built a remote editing service that leverages Leostream for authentication and access control. We also covered the RPL team about their Leostream deployments during one of our “Leostream in the Wild” webinars. They name-drop a couple of shows that used their solution and, therefore Leostream, in post-production.

Additionally, Leostream was just awarded an Engineering, Science, and Technology Emmy, though, so clearly, we’re used by enough networks to warrant that award.

(Q) Aside from AWS, who else does the Leostream platform support?..i.e., MS Azure, Google Cloud, IBM Cloud, Alibaba Cloud, Rackspace Cloud, Oracle Cloud, etc. Specifically for the media and entertainment space – for the providers that you do not support – explain why?

(A) Leostream supports literally any platform to a certain extent. If you install our Leostream Agent on any machine, hosted anywhere, as long as that agent can communicate with your Leostream Connection Broker, you can provide remote access to that machine via Leostream.

When we say we “support” a particular platform, that means the Leostream Connection Broker leverages that platform’s API to enable provisioning (meaning, creating, and deleting virtual machines) and enhance power control. That type of integration is particularly important in public clouds where you pay based on usage. With that in mind, let’s talk about ‘integrations.’

The platforms Leostream decides to integrate with are based on a mixture of the technology trends we talked about earlier and customer demand. Leostream integrates with the big three cloud vendors, AWS, Azure, and Google Cloud Platform, as well as with OpenStack. The OpenStack angle is interesting because, with our general support for that platform, we can control any service provider’s cloud that is based on OpenStack and exposes the standard OpenStack APIs.

As for other cloud vendors, we haven’t heard the demand in the market where we live, which is really end user computing. Leostream supports the media and entertainment market vertical, but ultimately, we provide remote access for end users.

For media and entertainment organizations, as for many of the verticals Leostream is in, those end users are power users with demanding requirements. Therefore, if a particular cloud doesn’t support Windows Operating Systems or doesn’t have GPU-enabled instances, it’s not a cloud we’re going to consider off-the-bat.

For completeness, I’ll mention that Leostream also integrates with VMware and Red Hat virtualization platforms, as well as with a few hyperconverged infrastructure platforms, such as Nutanix. The last we’ve definitely seen used in certain media and entertainment use cases.

(Q) Please expand on your business and sales model?…i.e., subscription or ala carte, direct/channel distribution model, partnerships, etc.

(A) We license the platform on a yearly subscription, which includes access to our stellar support team. One of the clearest trends I hear from customers is how much they enjoy working with our client-facing technical team, both pre and post sales.

We count licenses differently than other remote access platforms on the market, in that we don’t count concurrent connections. Instead, we license based on either named users or named workstations, where that workstation can be physical or virtual. That difference can be tricky for some organizations to understand, at first, but our sales team helps them choose the model that works best based on the particular customer’s needs.

We tried the ala carte licensing model for a split second, then realized that one benefit of using Leostream is the predictability organizations have on the cost associated with the flexibility of our full feature set. While our license key can turn on and off features, so customers don’t see functionality that they don’t plan to use, everyone has access to every feature when they purchase a Leostream license.

Customers can purchase Leostream licenses directly from Leostream, or through a number of resellers, partners, and distribution channels. The customer gets to choose, based on their needs.

LEOSTREAM REMOTE ACCESS AND CONNECTION MANAGEMENT PLATFORM OPENS THE TALENT POOL UP TO A GLOBAL LEVEL

As noted by the Television Academy at the 74th Engineering, Science & Technology Emmy® Awards, the Leostream Platform provides a robust, secure, flexible and future-proof desktop connection management and remote access feature set, allowing today’s enterprises to choose the best-of-breed components to satisfy their comprehensive needs, while working with them as they evolve into tomorrow.

As a final example, ENVY, a UK based award winning ‘one stop shop’​ for full-service post-production, offering everything from capture to rushes ingest, storage, offline suites, grade, online, audio, VFX, QC, and deliverables for countless broadcasters around the world, validates Leostream’s scalable technology, affording the ability for organizations to expand its talent pool on a global level.

Recently, the organization integrated Leostream into its ENVY Remote platform for enabling hybrid work. Influenced by the modern demand for flexible work options, ENVY designed a platform that gives clients and creatives the ability to log into high-powered editing stations from anywhere while also offering an entire suite of production and communication tools to assist in the creative process.

According to Jai Cave, Technical Operations Director of ENVY, pivoting to a hybrid model allowed the company to not only enhancing operational efficiency, but is also allowing its clients to attract the best talent. Cave noted that one of the unique benefits of rolling out the solution is the hiring reach that it offers their clients, adding, “projects are sourcing talent like never before and hiring based on capability — clients are no longer limited to where people live and users are connecting to workstations across all corners of the UK and the world. Now people are grabbing editors from Scotland and Bristol. We have people logging in from Turkey, Netherlands, Spain, lots of different places all over the world — and choosing people based on talent, and not where they live.”

With over 70% of ENVY’s clients expressing interest in hybrid options, the company began building a robust platform to align the demand for flexibility and creative workflows during the pandemic. A key component has been creating a consistent experience for users accessing the fully equipped editing suites — regardless of location.

“Ease of use is really important as we have people logging in from all over — both in the office and from home,” reported Cave. “Once authenticated and connected with Leostream, users have access to exactly the same machine that they were using in-house or a dedicated remote machine if they don’t need a hybrid option. This provides a consistent user-experience across the board, which is especially beneficial as creatives transition from working in the office to at home throughout the week.”

The Leostream Gateway delivers remote access to users outside of the corporate network, allowing ENVY to isolate workstations from the public internet. The gateway is designed to funnel logins through a secure environment to be authenticated without the use of virtual private networks (VPNs). For Cave, minimizing the need for VPNs made implementing the Leostream Gateway a logical choice. “No one wants to battle with setting up VPN connections on laptops that are owned by studios or whoever else. It’s no fun. For us, ease of use is really important, whilst being completely secure.”

Supporting hybrid workers at a post-production house requires tight management and specialized technology to deliver the level of quality needed to run 3D graphics and editing software remotely. ENVY taps into robust reporting features provided by Leostream to monitor user activity and to optimize the desktop environment. In addition, by capitalizing on integration capabilities between Leostream and high-performance remote display protocols, ENVY is able to achieve a top-notch experience for creatives inclusive of collaboration and screen-sharing functionality.

SCALING THE PLATFORM WITH API & FLEXIBLE INTEGRATIONS

With 10-20 projects starting each week, ENVY has built an orchestration system that manages the whole life cycle of projects. This system brings together a variety of systems, software and processes, including Leostream to automate all of the initial provisioning and day to day management. Using the Leostream API, ENVY is able to leverage the power of Leostream alongside other tools within the ecosystem.

By automating the brokering aspect of how users connect to workstations, Leostream reduces the amount of manual intervention needed to kick start projects and on-board users. “Clients don’t want to wait, they want it to be automatic. They want to log in at 8am and get going,” described Cave. This level of convenience is exactly what ENVY is able to deliver at scale and across numerous projects simultaneously.

Given the breadth of technology in place to run the ecosystem and empower hybrid workers, a key initiative for the company was selecting providers that could integrate with others. As a vendor neutral platform, Leostream perfectly met this requirement for its unique ability to support a wide array of display protocols, authentication providers, client devices, operating systems, and hosting platforms.

The company plans to continue expanding its platform with support from key vendors like Leostream. “Clients have been very clear to us that this is how they want to work going forward,” summarized Cave. The company will be adding new services to the ecosystem and promoting flexible work.

 

 

 

 

Curtis Chan
Broadcast Beat - Production Industry Resource