To make storage an intelligent part of the file-based workflow lies in the effective interfacing and integration of third-party systems with those storage systems. Simon Eldridge, looks at creating an efficient unified content management system
File-based workflows have been adopted by broadcast and media organisations in much the same way these companies earlier employed tape-based workflows. Mirroring the long-established tape-based workflow, many of today’s file-based workflows use storage primarily to enable insertion of content into the workflow at the point of ingest or to support playout of content at the tail end of the transmission chain.
Content management in the file-based environment has been addressed by MAM, DAM, and CM systems, to name a few. These solutions can enable specific functions, such as the browsing of content using low-resolution proxy versions, or they can supply high-level capabilities that allow users to view, search, describe, organise, repurpose, and move content enterprise-wide. Until recently, however, the storage component was not a tightly integrated part of these and other processes occurring along the transmission chain. The key to making storage an intelligent part of the file-based workflow - and a more valuable and active contributor to the operator’s efficiency in managing content - lies in the effective interfacing and integration of third-party systems with those storage systems through Web services application programming interfaces (APIs).
Simplifying Storage Integration
An integrated Web services API can enable more efficient, best-of-breed file-based workflows by ensuring that partners and users can interface directly to all components of the storage system. In doing so, the API provides unified content management capabilities across server and storage systems with a common view into content stored across multiple file systems. This model also allows partner applications to manage complex workflows more easily through a single programming interface. As an an XML-based Web services API, it can operate independently of platform and programming language.
In facilitating interoperability among different systems and applications, a robust Web services API can eliminate the need for multiple APIs and network protocols while supporting dramatic improvements in content management and overall workflow efficiency. The API does so by offering a series of core services designed specifically for complex deployments incorporating a variety of best-of-breed media management, workflow management, and automation systems.
Integrated Web Services API
The introduction of media server systems to the broadcast industry leveraged IT-based principles to give broadcasters the means to transition to tapeless operations. Now widely deployed worldwide, such systems support reliable, scalable ingest and playout operations. The more recent introduction of centralised storage systems, capable of interfacing with third-party applications, allows implementation of those ingest and playout servers as key elements within a streamlined end-to-end server and storage solution.
Within this model, the ingest server feeds content from a variety of sources to the centralised storage system, which makes content available throughout the broadcast or production workflow while interfacing to third-party applications for processing, production, and archive management, from ingest to playout and through to distribution and long-term storage. The solution’s functionality and performance benefit the entire workflow, building on the strengths and the capabilities of both the server and storage systems, as well as partner applications, to deliver exponential improvements in workflow efficiency. An integrated Web services API supplies a valuable control layer with the software infrastructure required to manage complex systems.
The Web services API calls on an integrated system database that supports the tracking of content and the storing of rules, metadata, and relationships between content while a messaging bus eases integration. Tiered access, with profiles tailored to each user and job role, serve to make access simpler and more secure across the entire platform. Throughout the workflow, audit logging supports review and analysis of activity by user and task. If equipped with these capabilities, the API can support foundation services, application services, and the media asset management, workflow management, and automation systems preferred by the operator, thus bringing greater fluidity and flexibility to content management.
Added Functionality With Foundation Services
The functionality within the file-based broadcast workflow can be enhanced through a combination of foundation and in-house application services. When multiple physical systems are involved in the transmission or production workflow, these core services offer content management systems powerful tools for handling media, without the need to focus on and manage the server and storage environment. Integrated applications can take advantage of any of these services selectively, as demanded by their workflow needs.
Examples of key foundation services are search, transfer, organisation, metadata, media, and rules services. As its name implies, a search service allows users to look for content across storage systems. A search typically may be performed according to simple requests or through advanced requests based on criteria such as format, standard, and wrapper type. A transfer service enables operators to move content between systems using the most appropriate transport mechanism, taking into consideration native protocols, bandwidth requirements, and the urgency of the transfer. In fast-paced environments, the application of active transfer technology gives editors and other staff rapid access to content as it is being moved.
An organisation service enables application providers to organise the content in the system both physically and virtually. In addition to making location and viewing of content easier, this capability allows for convenient grouping of media content for specific users, applications, or projects. Further supporting efficient storage and management of content, the metadata service maintains technical and structural metadata from both the media essence and wrapper. While flexible use of metadata makes it easy to access content based on specific properties, the media service enables manipulation of that physical media. With this service, users can mark new in and out points, create shot lists, insert and manipulate ancillary data such as closed caption and subtitle data, and manage audio tracks.
Using a rules service, broadcasters can schedule and automate specific tasks and, in turn, minimise repetitive tasks and the need for manual intervention. By notifying users or other applications of key milestones, such as the arrival of a file, or taking action upon completion of an earlier task, a rules service helps to move the workflow forward smoothly and with efficiency. The service also can be used to establish and store rules for how content should be moved between systems. As a result, third-party applications can create complex yet intelligent rules for transfer or mirroring of content across systems.
Within the Omneon media storage and processing platform, several in-house application services complement these foundation services, bringing greater speed and a higher degree of automation to key workflow processes. For example, Omneon ProBrowse brings browse creation and management capabilities to the platform, not only allowing integrated applications to create proxies, but also ensuring the reliability of links to the high-resolution content and availability for viewing or manipulation. Omneon ProXchange enables applications to configure rules of automatic transcoding and/or rewrapping of content as it moves through the workflow. Finally, Omneon content distribution and WAN optimisation technology, ProCast, also operates under the Web services API umbrella to support transport of media to remote operations centers or disaster recovery centers. With processing provided by ProXchange, this platform enables media to be delivered most efficiently to the right place, at the right time, in the right format.
In the optimal file-based workflow, a robust offering of built-in foundation and application services, with tight integration and interaction with third-party systems, all are maintained and controlled through a single Web service API. In establishing the storage component as an active part of content management within the overall workflow, the framework allows broadcasters and other media organisations to realise the true potential of today’s IT-based technologies.
Simon Eldridge is product manager for Omneon Inc.