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Technology Trends: Storage/MAM


Namdev Lisman, Executive Vice President, Primestream


Storage is the task of holding on to stuff until you need it again, and while that may seem like an un-changing and static environment, in truth it is the opposite. The industry keeps innovating and content creators keep advancing their workflows. The result is that storage and what you want from it is a moving target. We have seen a cycle of improved density for on-premise storage options along with improved reliability speed and accessibility. As the technology has continued to advance we have seen the industry go through a few phases initially starting with digitizing, and then of transferring assets onto new media and systems as technology has moved forward. We are now seeing data moving to the cloud where the physical layer is abstracted from the customer, along with all of the issues around maintaining it and upgrading it. The industry has moved from a box of tapes or film that were under a producer’s desk to Object Storage that lives in a place none of us can point to.

While the cloud-based solutions are physically farther away, new workflows are tying this content into workflows that expect 100% availability, immediate access, search, and retrieval, and the ability to work in new ways to create new revenue streams. This is where the media being stored isn’t enough by itself. The metadata around the media needs to be accessible, and that metadata can be anything from search terms, usage, transcripts AI generated ancillary data and access to proxies that can be used immediately while high resolution media is moved into the production environment.

All of this requires a Media Asset Management (MAM) solution that is not only aware of what you are doing in the moment, but what you have done in the past.  In fact, the MAM needs to play an integral role in capturing, producing, managing and delivering media. The MAM has had to evolve from a tool that could just hold on to information to one that needs to understand the context behind that information.

Today, for a MAM to work seamlessly, it needs to understand the capabilities inherent in the underlying storage. The answer to where the media resides needs to be factored against what the users want to do with it to deliver workflows that deliver new levels of productivity. The MAM needs to resolve conflicts and problems throughout the customer’s regular workflow while also retaining the flexibility to work in new ways in the future, or when the requirements change suddenly. A simple search for a piece of media can deliver the metadata, a thumbnail and other information to tell you whether it is the media you want or not. What happens next needs to leverage what you want to do, where you are and more.

If you want to use the media and the media is co-located in a production environment, then all the MAM has to do is point you to the media and off you go. However; if you are at one location and the media is archived in the cloud, or at a second location, then the MAM needs to follow a set of business rules that support what you need to happen. Do you want to move the media locally? Do you want a proxy version? Do you want all of the high-resolution media or just a selection of it? The answers to these and other questions define what the MAM solution does for you behind the scenes. Primestream has a built-in rules engine to make setup of the system configurable and detailed — other vendors solve this problem in different ways.

The interaction between the MAM system and the storage solution needs to consider the speed, location, path and capabilities of the storage itself, but the relationship between what is in storage and where it resides is also a consideration that the MAM system needs to manage. It is important that the system understand the usage and status of media across the enterprise, so that storage space can be managed. No matter how cheap or accessible storage gets there is a need to manage media in such a way that duplicates are avoided and media is moved where and when the process dictates, as opposed to having the chaos that would come as the result of every user or department deciding how to manage the process.

While MAM and Storage remain two separate technologies, they are tied together so closely that users no longer consider them to be that separate. Object Storage is the ultimate abstraction of knowing exactly where your media is, and it is far from the file folder workflows that many people started with. People still look for information in two ways: they either know where it is and they want to go directly there to get what they need, or they look for it using metadata that they feel will yield the correct results.

The first method led people to build folder structures that needed to be followed strictly to maintain order, the second was how MAM solutions extended our capabilities. We now see MAM systems with virtual folders allowing users to collect content and put it where they want it to be, but these “places” do not actually move the media. With a pool of storage and abstracted structure, many of the barriers that were the result of the constraints of the physical layers that were built upon have been removed. As technology continues to provide more options, we will continue to build more flexibility into the solutions that leverage it. We continue to see that customers keep finding new challenges, workflows, and benefits that we can help them try to achieve.