Principally, the digitisation of content has led to a complete re-think on the part of technology companies and the way that they operate their businesses. Media companies are moving more and more of their operations to IT-based environments (such as tapeless and asset management work-flows) coinciding with the advent and up-take of multi-formatted consumer devices (such as tablets, interactive-TV, smart phones and PCs). This digitisation process has led the industry as a whole to re-assess storage and archive facilities for their content.
In the past, content was kept on-site in tape stores where there was an ongoing concern and risk of quality degradation, as well as issues around space and environmental control. Content was shipped via hard copy (using couriers) between key locations and distributed the same way or via linear tape playout. Today, data centres are increasingly used by media companies not just because of the controlled storage environment they offer, but also because of the additional community benefits that are available. They are now not just secure repositories of digital content, but gateways, presenting contribution and distribution hubs for parties involved in the production, collection and dissemination of content.
Both national as well as international broadcasters and platform operators use these hubs to interconnect with the communities that support their operations. They also connect with content distribution network (CDN) providers and internet service providers (ISPs). With many data centres being carrier-neutral, they are providing a refreshing alternative to a reliance on monopolistic network operators as well as paving the way to a more balanced and open market place.
However, digitisation is not an overnight process, despite the sentiment of acceleration in the sector. The process relies on the full integration of IT systems with other business processes, often across multiple organisations, in order to support efficient, high quality, controlled and repeatable workflows. Typical patterns tend to start with the migration of content for storage purposes and, as the benefits are rapidly experienced, data centres are recognised for the risk minimisation functions they can perform; antidotes to single points of failure. This removal of over-reliance on a single site provides the additional security and protection for content.
We are also seeing a trend whereby the distance between key sites and data centres is becoming less of an issue. When using dedicated fibre, the quality of connectivity between sites and data centres is such that low latency is guaranteed, through the absence of multiple users and equipment. Media organisations are connecting to the major metropolitan hubs around Europe, but they are also choosing to relocate content to deliberately remote data centres as advances in fibre infrastructure are now such that distances of hundreds of kilometres can be achieved in less than two milliseconds (ms). Critical to the industry is that their assets are safely and securely stored in an environment that is both easy to access yet remotely located.
Common across all subsectors of the industry is the need for business continuity via the highest security and greatest diversity of routes and the protection of content and workflows is paramount. Therefore, a secure fibre optic network can certainly offer a technological advantage. For example, Geo’s national network runs along-side Britain’s gas mains and within London via the Thames Water sewer infrastructure. This totally separates the network from other fibre providers, providing customers and their content, protection from road-works, copper thieves (who often vandalise optic fibre ducts thinking they contain copper) and other compromising elements.
Ultimately underpinning the transformation to digital is the requirement for scalability and reliability of the core network and storage component. Our customers are recognising this need, and are looking for solutions that offer duplication and redundancy in both the network and storage. ITV for example, has recently chosen to use Geo’s dedicated fibre between its two key data centres for a scalable and diverse route. One of their main strategic priorities is to drive new revenue streams via the exploitation of their content across multiple platforms, both free and pay. Connectivity to its carrier neutral data centres is a vital link in the chain and the efficiency and reliability of that connectivity and enables them to fulfill their growth plans (and grow beyond them) for online and pay traffic because no-one else shares their fibre and it is diversely routed.
In terms of our outlook, it is evident that demands for both bandwidth and storage are only going to increase with the move to higher definition and uncompressed, native quality, end-to-end production. The removing of encoding and decoding in the network maximises the quality and therefore the end user experience, emphasising the need for a high performance network and storage solution. Such specialist requirements are a perfect fit for the services offered in carrier-neutral data centres, in conjunction with dedicated fibre connectivity, to manage this level of performance in a way that traditional bundled telecoms services cannot.
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