Technology Record - Issue 31: Winter 2023

MEDIA & COMMUNICATIONS Media companies are on the brink of an industrywide transformation as the impact of cloud platforms and the artificial intelligence solutions that depend on them becomes clear. Content creation and delivery is evolving quickly as new uses are found for the technology, making it a crucial element of the industry’s future. According to PWC’s August 2023 Pulse Survey, 67 per cent of technology, media and telecommunications leaders say that the capabilities of generative AI could make their current business model irrelevant – a prospect that presents both a challenge and an opportunity. Yet some media organisations are wary about transitioning fully to the cloud, citing concerns around data privacy, security and latency as potential barriers for entry. Organisations working in remote locations may also be unable to take full advantage of cloud capabilities, given their distance from the necessary infrastructure. However, these businesses are willing to explore the possibilities the cloud offers, says Scott Davis, broadcast media architect at Microsoft. “We understand why, for certain organisations, there are reasons that moving things into the cloud is problematic,” he says. “However, these partners are saying to us: ‘I can’t move my content to the cloud, but I want to act like I’m in the cloud and get the cloud experience.’ The question is, how do we help them do that?” To answer this question, Microsoft is looking to an alternative solution that exists in the space between the on-premises and cloud worlds: the edge. Instead of processing all data on the cloud itself, edge computing involves devices in remote locations processing data at the edge of a network, either through the device itself or a local server. Only the most important data is transmitted to a central data centre, minimising latency and keeping the vast majority of data local and offline. “It’s a hybrid approach,” says Davis. “Media organisations don’t necessarily want to commit entirely to the cloud by putting all their operations into one basket. They want to have certain things remain at the edge of the network. Our goal is to install generalised edge devices that act like the cloud but can move to where the content already is in a simplified, costeffective way.” Microsoft offers a range of edge computing services which can be used by media organisations for various solutions. For example, Azure IoT Edge allows internet of things solutions to be managed from the edge, while Azure SQL Edge enables data to be streamed for real-time analytics. In addition, Azure Stack HCI is a hyperconverged infrastructure (HCI) solution that hosts Windows and Linux virtual machines or containerised workloads and their storage. This connects an on-premises system to Azure for cloud-based services, monitoring and management. 123 Microsoft’s Rick Lievano explains how telecommunications operators can help deliver the future of edge computing Communicating on the edge Telecommunications companies have a crucial role to play in enabling the implementation of edge computing solutions for all industries, including media, by providing the basic underlying infrastructure it relies upon. “Telecommunication companies have the physical locations in central offices, base stations and metro data centres that would enable the distribution of applications as close to the end users as possible,” says Rick Lievano, worldwide chief technology officer for the telecommunications industry at Microsoft. “All industries are looking at mobile operators to provide that infrastructure, along with the connectivity offered by a 5G low-latency connection and the compute to enable the many different use cases.” To help telecommunications companies successfully enable edge computing solutions, Microsoft has developed a suite of technologies to harness the capabilities they already possess. Azure Private MEC allows carriers to deploy private networks leveraging 5G or 4G long-term evolution for their customers and provide connectivity for edge devices. Meanwhile, Azure Public MEC allows the full capabilities of Azure to be deployed closer to the end user at an operator’s edge location, supporting key workloads with ultra-low latency capabilities. “If a studio is editing a large, multigigabyte file, shuttling those files up to the public cloud each time you make a change can affect performance,” says Lievano. “But if its cloud-native video editing applications were deployed at an edge location with AT&T, for example, they would be much closer to where the studio is working, resulting in much better performance.” Photo: Unsplash/dmitriy-suponnikov