“As professional sports teams return and adapt to playing in empty stadiums, their respective in-house production and editorial teams are adapting as well. Content creators — many of whom work on high-performance workstations with direct access to shared storage — are now having to retool their operations and formulate new work-from-home scenarios.
Some organizations have been equipped to handle this shift while others have had to improvise with cumbersome ‘sneaker-net’ workflows, shuttling media on portable hard drives or transferring files through corporate VPN. Others have adopted screensharing platforms like Teamviewer and VNC to access on-premises systems from secondary computers. These methods, while function, have resulted in fractured workflows with core resources such as shared editorial storage, tape archives, and high-end editorial systems under-utilized or sitting idle.
Virtualizing the creative workstation is another option for today’s content creators through the use of virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) platforms like VMWare Horizon. VDI has been a standard practice for task-based job functions for decades; you could even consider mainframes from the 1960s and 70s as a primitive form of VDI. Only in recent years has the technology become a viable and acceptable solution for creatives. Unlike the traditional approach of managing physical workstations, VDI enables organizations to provide high-end virtual workstations complete with 3D graphics acceleration, audio support, and multiple displays with access to on-premises resources like shared storage and archive, without the expense and overhead of supporting individual workstations. A VDI infrastructure is based around a hypervisor to provisions, managing the virtual machines and hosted on dense hardware servers or blade servers clustered to provide a pool of available resources. An entire Post department-worth of physical workstations could be collapsed down to 6-10 rack units of hardware in a data center. VDI is attractive to IT organizations as it simplifies deployment, offers greater control over security, and makes scaling beyond a fixed number of workstations easier to manage and plan for. Organizations can easily deploy VDI into an offsite data center that offers greater levels redundancy and protection against facility outages like power and network maintenance. One of the greatest limitations of VDI is the lack of virtualized MacOS support, a favorite of creatives.
A third approach is cloud-based Desktop as a Service (DaaS) companies like Bebop and Avid’s own Avid On-Demand. Much like a roll-your-own VDI, these companies offer turnkey virtual workstations provisioned for content creation. Avid On-Demand is built around the Avid ecosystem with virtualized Media Composer workstations connected to Nexis storage workspaces hosted on the Microsoft Azure cloud. Bebop Technology offers a non-Avid option, providing virtual workstations preloaded with Adobe Creative Cloud, Cinema 4D, Autodesk products, etc. — all you provide is software license and media. In the case of Bebop, teams can have their workstations provisioned in their own cloud environment. Teams interested in moving to a DaaS model do have to consider the expense of moving to a managed service where usage costs can rapidly accumulate, as well as the logistics of shuttling media onto and off of the platform. Automated transfer workflows do need to be considered when planning for a move to DaaS; fortunately, the service providers include the tools to make this relatively easy…”
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