Protecting digital assets: The data centres at the heart of content delivery

Saturday, March 30, 2013

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Secure data centres are essential
For a broadcaster or a post-production house looking to outsource the storage of digital media assets or online play out infrastructure, ISO certification is a great way to assess the security of a data centre

Jonathan Wood, Director Marketing & Business Development – Digital Media, Interxion, discusses why specialist data centre providers can be the answer to the question of how broadcasters keep their digital assets safe.

Premium content owners and distributors are progressively moving their valuable digital media assets off-site, out of the archetypal Soho basement and outsourcing to specialist providers.

Due to a shift towards all-digital workflows and ever increasing storage and processing demands, many broadcasters, broadcast service providers and the wider post production community are struggling to keep up with demand for on-premise space and  the requisite power to support high density hardware arrays, compounded by spiralling energy costs.

Keeping digital pirates at bay

The security of premium digital media assets and online play out infrastructure is a critical consideration for any broadcaster, post production house or broadcast service provider. Today commercially operated data centres are designed to meet the most stringent of security requirements.  Indeed, the minimum standards for physical security and resilience in many commercial data centres far exceed those stipulated by, say, the MPAA (Motion Picture Association of America) guidelines. Typical security measures in the modern data centre include perimeter security at the entrance, mantraps to gain entry to the data centre and access control systems to all levels and data halls, down to the individual cabinet level. CCTV should be a standard feature and biometric access, utilising the latest in fingerprint or iris access scanning, is increasingly a common sight in data centres. Such stringent policies and processes ensure that only customer authorised personnel and representatives can gain access to the data centre, data halls, private cages and customer racks.

Certifying peace of mind

For a broadcaster or a post-production house looking to outsource the storage of digital media assets or online play out infrastructure, ISO certification is a great way to assess the security of a data centre. ISO27001 (Information Security Management System) is one of the most rigorous international standards for system and physical security processes. The ISO 27001 audit and certification process focuses on every aspect of the operation, including physical infrastructure, site security and access management, personnel capabilities, communications and operations, legal compliance criteria, and back-up and disaster recovery systems.

The rise of the cloud

The increase in number of cloud-based service providers offering cloud applications and services in the digital media space is a significant incentive for content owners and broadcasters to consider moving elements of their digital infrastructure and Digital Asset Management systems into third-party data centres. Escalating costs associated with traditional Digital Asset Management, storage and content distribution have encouraged many media service providers to look to the cloud model as a means of reducing capital costs by cutting the  cost of integrating, installing, maintaining, supporting, upgrading, and expanding proprietary hardware and software.

Furthermore, due to the unpredictable and often ‘peaky’ nature of certain real time digital media services, such as the live streaming of sporting events or cloud based services such as ‘encoding-as-a-service’, there can be real synergies and cost savings to be derived from outsourcing elements of  online playout infrastructure to a third party data centre. Content performance can be optimised  by locating premium content in close proximity to the major eyeball networks and CDNs. Cost savings can also be derived from an in-house ‘market place’ for upstream connectivity, with all key providers just a cross-connect away.

Behind the scenes of content delivery

The pressure is on for content owners to meet the growing consumer demand and expectation for the delivery of premium content to any device wherever and whenever they want. From an online content distribution perspective this means that platform availability and content delivery performance are critical.  Close proximity of the content platform to the access ISPs that serve them and their audience is essential in order to deliver a superior digital media experience, which is demonstrated by the trend of certain providers to deploy online play out infrastructure actually within densely connected data centres.

While consumers will probably never be aware of its existence within the online content delivery value chain, it is actually the data centre which lies at the heart of high speed, reliable and efficient content delivery and, ultimately, an excellent viewer experience. Allied to proximity is the level of connectivity which a data centre provides. Content owners and distributors  should look for a  densely connected data centre which offers the right ‘blend’ of  carriers,  ISPs and CDNs to deliver the content to a geographically dispersed audience over an increasing variety of connected devices. Colocation data centres, in which customers can be interconnected to a range of telecommunication and network providers, can help match the consumer demand for real-time digital content. The benefits of having a wide range of carrier, ISP and CDN partners to choose from mean savings in distribution costs, optimised content delivery performance, combined with network resilience and redundancy. Some data centre providers have developed specific ‘content communities’ within their data centres,  offering ultra-secure and connected facilities  with high density power, allowing digital media customers to aggregate, manage, exchange, publish and distribute premium content and to interconnect  with a growing in-house digital media community. In turn this will allow them to optimise distribution while also managing costs and leveraging network redundancy and resiliency via an extensive choice of content delivery partners. It provides an ecosystem that can form part of the content provider’s value chain, and deliver improved margins.

Game, set, match in real time

One broadcast services provider has even gone so far as to migrate critical infrastructure to a secure data centre. iStreamPlanet, a leader in live Internet broadcast services, has taken the unprecedented step to house its European Broadcast Operations Centre inside Interxion’s Brick Lane data centre. This enables iStreamPlanet to deliver the highest quality of live streaming of premium sporting events, including major tennis events and upcoming summer games, to a global audience on behalf of major rights holder and broadcasters.

As an integral part of the project, iStreamPlanet installed satellite downlink facilities on the roof of the Interxion data centre in central London, enabling the acquisition of live, broadcast quality video feeds via both satellite and in-house fibre based contribution network providers. iStreamPlanet has a 24/7 manned Broadcast Operations Centre within the Interxion data centre facility, which is linked, via a dedicated fibre connection to iStreamPlanet's US operation based in Las Vegas.

By housing its Broadcast Operations Centre with Interxion, iStreamPlanet can leverage a wide array of Tier 1 ISPs, local access providers, CDNs and international carriers, as well as its growing community of digital media service providers – all of which allows iStream to scale its business while delivering the highest quality of live, premium content streaming and an outstanding end user experience. 

The rapid rise in digital services have created additional pressure on broadcast service providers to deliver the best possible experience over an ever increasing array of connected devices, necessitating robust and scalable infrastructure. As this explosion in demand for digital media content continues apace, densely connected data centres will be at the heart of this evolving value chain, ensuring total security and the highest levels of distribution performance.

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