The exponential growth of digital media content in broadcast and film has turned archiving and storage into one of the largest issues facing the media industry. The sheer number of hours being filmed is vast, transforming the problem into more than a simple archiving and storage issue. According to CEO David Peto of Aframe, a cloud video specialist that works with the BBC, MTV, Panasonic, Press Association and Red Bull TV, “Storage, accessibility and making something findable will make digital content the focal point of any business in the media industry, with data centers playing a major role in the creation of a central media hub for broadcasters and film and program-makers.”
Today, many perceive storage as simply a place to archive information for later retrieval, but global demands mean there is a need to create a central media hub or a “living entity” where users can access content as needed and from any location around the world. Data center managers need to think beyond merely providing space, racks and power as the media industry looks to operators that can provide instant on-demand access to their content for use by producers, journalists, news crews or other third parties (e.g., game or mobile-device developers). Along with scaling to support the data throughput demanded by users, the systems must make the whole process easy to use and economical—the cloud will be incredibly important.
The sheer volume of data that is now being created by the TV and film industry is breathtaking. To put this situation in context, take a standard TV broadcast. Assuming the footage is filmed at 50 megabits per second (broadcast quality, according Aframe), filming one minute of video will generate 375 megabytes of data. An hour of film generates 22.5 gigabytes of data. There are 17 News channels in the U.K. alone that broadcast 24 hours a day. All of this TV must be recorded and stored. This means TV news alone generates 9,180 gigabytes of data per day. As news is a 365-days-a-year activity, this volume equates to 3,350,700 gigabytes of data per year. A reasonable estimate of the amount of footage recorded for an hour of TV is a 70:1 ratio. A staggering 10,000 hours of TV transmits through BT Tower each week.
Using these numbers, we can calculate that 15,750,000 gigabytes of data is generated and stored each week. That’s 819,000,000 gigabytes per year, (or 799,804 terabytes). Assuming all this information has to be stored for the next 50 years, (as much of it will), there is likely to be 40,950,000,000 gigabytes (39,990,234 terabytes) of data that must be stored somewhere! And all these numbers assume that just one camera is used—the truth is that in most cases more than one camera will be used, so the number is much larger.
If you think about media as not just television, but you include film, radio and even video created for YouTube, the numbers are astronomical. Intel suggests that in just one minute, 30 hours of video will be uploaded to YouTube and 1.3 million videos will be viewed via the site. The future is even more staggering. According to Intel, by 2015 it would take five years to view all the video crossing IP networks in just one second!
Datacentres 2013—to be held in Nice, Côte d'Azur, France on May 29–30—will be hosting a special session to discuss the issue. Philip Low, md BroadGroup Consulting, says, “Media represents a key vertical for the data center industry. Storage security, content distribution, cloud agility and cost performance are all important requirements for this sector. Data centers will need to stay competitive in the increasingly digital industry sector and all of these topics will be discussed and reviewed at the Datacentres 2013 conference.”
Putting things in perspective, Cisco’s Visual Networking Index recently suggested that by 2016, the amount of data transferred across the Internet will breach the zettabyte threshold and that 55% of this data will be video. How big is a zettabyte? It’s almost one trillion gigabytes! If one accepts that one gigabyte can store around 950 minutes of music, a zettabyte would be capable of storing two billion years of music! That’s quite a lot of data.
TV and film will generate huge quantities of data that need to be stored. The days of storing (or losing) hundreds of rolls of film have long gone and have been replaced by data. This data must be stored somewhere and it must be available at any time the producers, editors and directors want it. The answer, of course, is that it must be stored in suitable data centers. But not every data center will be geared for this kind of storage, so the media companies must be selective. The data is growing at such an exponential rate that room for growth is an absolute imperative. Also critical is the ability to deploy more storage quickly—no media company will want, or be able to afford, to deploy storage that isn’t used immediately. The data center must be ready to use straight away with no waiting for fit-out to be completed. Communications links will be equally important. Media companies will not accept that a data center is able to offer Internet links with just one supplier they will require multiple carriers. The ability of a data center to provide multiple high-bandwidth links will be key in their decision on which provider to choose.
For media companies, the decision on which providers to use will not be based on location or on size of the organization; it will be entirely based on agility, on flexibility, readiness, speed of deployment and availability of carriers that can provide fast, big pipes that enable transfer of these huge files quickly and easily around the globe. Data centers that can offer these attributes, along with exceptional levels of customer service (the media sector, quite rightly, expects to be treated well) will be the winners, and those that are restricted by rigid offerings that are inflexible and unable to respond to the needs will undoubtedly be the losers.
The advent of 4K and 8K technology will exacerbate the problem, but data center operators with the right business model have an opportunity to make a major impact in this fast-moving market. Is it time for our finest data center operators to dust off their tuxedos as they may make it onto the shortlist for next year’s BAFTAs (British Academy of Film and Television Arts awards)?
Leading article image courtesy of My Alternative Photos
About the Author
Alex Rabbetts is founder and CEO of MigSolv. The company is a long-established data center consultancy and, more recently, collocation operator. Alex has over 25 years of experience in the data center industry, having designed data centers for many organizations across Europe and beyond. He has also been responsible for managing the build of over 1,500,000 square feet of data center space in a number of European countries.
Alex has a wealth of experience in the relocation of data centers, hence the original name of the company, Migration Solutions. Relocating a data center is an extremely complex (and often high-risk) activity, and planning and executing this kind of move can be daunting. Process and procedure around data center operation is another area of expertise, and much of the operational best practice used in the industry was written by MigSolv. This operational experience led MigSolv to consider opening its own colocation data center to demonstrate why customers should expect, and receive, exceptional levels of service in a well-run facility.