ENCODING in the Cloud by ProQuest


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                      in the Cloud
             Is it time to put cloud encoding on your radar?

                                                                                                                by Jan Ozer
            s streaming media enters its second decade, it’s                Who should consider cloud encoding? Well, I’ll detail

     A      not all that often that we get to explore a totally new
            topic. But now we do, as I recently took my first
     look at cloud encoding. What is cloud encoding? At a
                                                                         that later in the article. For now, if you’re considering
                                                                         buying a workstation-class computer solely for encoding
                                                                         (or you just did), cloud encoding should be on your
     high level, it’s an internet-based service that encodes             radar. You should also read on if you’re even casually
     your uploaded source video files and delivers them back             interested in cloud computing in general, as the
     to you or your distribution partners.                               infrastructure used by most of the cloud encoding
        Why cloud encoding, and why today? We like to talk               companies is pretty fascinating stuff.
     about delivering to three screens—computer, TV, and
     mobile—but if you take a moment to do the math, it can              What Is Cloud Encoding?
     easily jump to 20 or 30 screens. For delivery to computers,            Cloud encoding services are internet-based
     you’ve got services such as Hulu, YouTube, Yahoo! Video,            companies to which you upload your source video files
     blip.tv, Veeple, Vimeo, Brightcove, Ooyala, and VMIX. In            and then choose encoding and delivery parameters.
     the living room, you’ve got different cable providers and           They encode and deliver your files to the designated
     different devices, and for mobile, it’s challenging to even         locations and/or third-party services.
     estimate the total number of available devices and                     Pretty straightforward stuff, eh? What’s not so transparent
     services. Understanding and economically delivering                 is the proper acronym. Candidates are Software as a
     compatible video files and metadata to these screens is             Service (SaaS), Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), and
     an increasingly technical and logistical challenge.                 Platform as a Service (PaaS), and the ideal cloud encoding
        Then there’s the cost of building and maintaining                service should provide components of all three.
     rendering farms. An eight-core Nehalem-based rendering
     station costs about $10,000, plus software and staffing             How Does Cloud Encoding Work?
     costs. Unless you’re in the business of providing encoding             There are two aspects to this question. Operationally,
     services for third parties, these costs are all ancillary to your   to get your files encoded, you upload your source video
     core business (e.g., overhead) and must be minimized.               files to the cloud encoding service, typically through

28   STREAMING MEDIA June/July 2009
                                  some type of XML or REST-based API. (REST, which                                                    upload time, some services recommend encoding your
encoding in the cloud

                                  stands for REpresentational State Transfer, is a protocol                                           source files into a mezzanine format, say 720p H.264 at
                                  popular for web-based services.) Some services also                                                 25Mbps, which is smaller than your source file but
                                  enable a more casual interface for less-automated                                                   visually identical in terms of quality.
                                  activities, such as creating FTP-based watch folders or
                                  even direct file upload similar to YouTube. Once                                                    Who Needs Cloud Encoding?
                                  uploaded, you create and designate encoding templates                                                   There are several types of organizations that are ideal
                                  and delivery destinations, just like you would with a                                               candidates for cloud encoding, particularly user-
                                  desktop program, and then start the encoding job.                                                   generated content (UGC) sites, where upload times are
                                     Again, pretty straig
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