Windows Azure: The Media and Entertainment Story

LAS VEGAS — April 12, 2011 — This year marks my fifth trip to the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) Conference in Las Vegas with Microsoft, and it’s been quite a show already. I’ve spent much of my time here in talks with industry colleagues, and top of mind for everyone is trying to figure out how to deliver content profitably in today’s fragmented market, while at the same time positioning themselves to meet new business and technology challenges in the future. In short, everyone is trying to solve what I like to refer to as the digital dilemma.

So what exactly is the digital dilemma? It’s no secret that consumers now, more than ever, are choosing from a mix of connected devices to consume entertainment, video, music, news and games, and this is causing a significant disruption in the industry as traditional media companies scramble to reach consumers on multiple screens. To reach these consumers, media organizations need to invest more in IT, but the expansion of IT systems necessitates that more and more of their IT budgets be dedicated to maintenance and simply “keeping the lights on.” This decreases their ability to innovate and respond to new business opportunities. This situation, coupled with pressure to reduce overall IT spending, leaves media companies struggling to make their own digital destinies as new players and business models come quickly into the market, changing the rules and further altering consumer media habits in a perpetual cycle that defines this digital dilemma.

I am hearing in almost every meeting with our media and entertainment (M&E) partners and customers how they’re grappling with this dilemma, and many are looking to cloud computing platforms as a possible solution. Although there’s no easy answer to these challenges, the velocity of change in the market demands that the industry must embrace a new paradigm for executing their businesses.

We at Microsoft recently came together with a dozen of our media ISV partners for a cloud-themed boot camp to discuss this dilemma and how they are already beginning to think about how cloud could be used to deliver applications and services in a scalable and cost-efficient way.

After a day full of lively discussion, there was a collective agreement that the cloud represents a game changer for the M&E industry. The low cost, scalability and flexibility of a cloud content delivery platform addresses the digital dilemma and provides the possibility of capitalizing on growing consumer demands that are match paced by costs because of the utility model of cloud computing. By migrating business and content management systems to the cloud, media companies are able to reduce costs infrastructure and overhead, while enabling content creation, collaboration and workflow across teams, sites, organizations and geographies, making it possible to deliver content to multiple screens utilizing a highly scalable platform. In fact, we recently had a customer show a live sporting event through a webcast lasting several weeks, which had huge spikes in concurrent users during one particular match and then idle periods in between. By using Windows Azure, the service was able to easily scale up to handle the hundreds of thousands of concurrent users and then scale back down after the peak periods, so the customer was not paying for the unused capacity. This solution would only be possible with cloud computing.

We at Microsoft couldn’t be more excited about the opportunity cloud presents for our M&E partners and customers, with Windows Azure removing many of the challenges of IT that companies have had to address to compete in this new digital marketplace. We firmly believe that cloud is the key to keep M&E companies competitive in a global media market.

As a result of the boot camp, we’re building an ecosystem with our partners to help solve these challenges together and lead M&E companies seamlessly to the cloud. Today, at NAB, Microsoft announced this partner ecosystem, which includes partners such as Arvato Digital Services, Aspera, BuyDRM, Cognizant, David Systems, Digital Rapids, Harris Broadcast Communications, iStreamPlanet, MPS Broadband AB, Polycom Video Content Management (formerly Accordent), Signiant, Sitecore and TechPath. We will be showcasing a number of industry-specific solutions for content, processing, management and delivery based on the Windows Azure platform at our booth, which we think can be first steps toward helping companies succeed.

Why are these offerings important? Windows Azure alone represents a strong offering for M&E companies, enabling them to host, replicate, distribute and execute distributed applications with heavy content workloads. Different partners in the partner ecosystem are delivering Windows Azure-based cloud solutions that span the entire M&E value chain. Solutions for digital content management, media business management, and digital marketing and experiences are available and being developed and deployed more quickly, reliably, securely and accessibly than ever before possible.

This is really just the start of how cloud power can transform content creation, management and delivery. I’m looking forward to meeting with more partners and customers at NAB to talk about where the cloud will take them.

Jake Winett, director of Media & Entertainment Industry Solutions, Microsoft Communications Sector

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