Metadata Everywhere: Federated Views of Distributed Storage
In today’s media world, your content is all over the place. It’s everywhere. You don’t necessarily know or even need to know exactly where your content is, you just need to know how to find what you need when you need it. This puts metadata front and center in modern workflows ⎯ it’s the key to organizing and finding media assets. And like the content itself, metadata is also all over the place.
Although Signiant has created some truly exciting capabilities, we admit that generating excitement about the metadata associated with file transfer technology is a challenge. Our goal for this series has been to demonstrate to the media industry that intelligent use of metadata is a natural extension of our fast file transfer roots. Pioneering work in the SaaS model for our core functionality has given us deep experience and a unique vision we strongly believe will impact our industry now and into the future.
Everyone in the media industry knows that metadata is a gold mine. The challenge is getting it out of the ground and making it useful, and that’s where Signiant comes in ⎯ we are in some ways a media metadata gold mining company. Our innovative SaaS platform can pull together metadata from disparate sources and make it available to people and systems all over the world. Signiant is not prescriptive about metadata strategies, and our system is rarely the single authoritative source within a media organization. Rather, it simply provides a conduit for efficiently accessing your metadata, wherever and however it exists.
This brings us to the next chapter of delivering transformational benefits to the M&E industry. Via a new platform offering known as Media Engine, we’re providing customers with federated, actionable views into their distributed content repositories. With this installment of our Metadata Everywhere series, we’re excited to share details of this powerful new service.
The Distributed Storage Challenge
‘Federated views’ may not sound exciting, but to our customers the ramifications are very exciting indeed. People hear the word ‘federal’ quite a lot but are rarely reminded of its meaning. When not applied to governments, anything federal or ‘federated’ simply means ‘one to many.’ Therefore, a federated view of video, audio and image content stored anywhere within your entire network of storage allows a single person to search and observe everything and anything wherever it may be.
This is critical functionality for media professionals. We live in a world of distributed production, complex interwoven workflows, scattered storage, more and more content destinations, and, as always, tight deadlines. To navigate this environment, you need to be able to find the content you need, preview it to make sure, and take action on it — without delay! Media Engine, which was introduced at the 2022 NAB Show, does all of this. We are now bringing the metadata capabilities of the platform front and center, putting them at the fingertips of media professionals.
Introducing Media Engine
The Signiant Platform moves petabytes of high-value content around the world every day, within and between media companies of all sizes. More than a million people now use the platform, and we’re always looking for ways to make their lives easier. Lately we’ve heard a recurring theme: Can Signiant give me the ability to search and preview media assets?
Media Engine is a powerful new platform service that does just that. Wherever your assets are stored, this new functionality makes it easy to find the content you’re looking for and preview a file before you send it. It’s a logical extension of the role Signiant has long played in providing fast, secure access to media assets, regardless of storage type or location.
What can I do with Media Engine?
- Federated search of Signiant-connected storage: Media Engine makes assets searchable by automatically indexing your storage, extracting relevant metadata and maintaining a linkage with the associated essence file. Once indexing is complete, users can perform a simple Google-style search from within the Media Engine web interface. The index is continuously updated in response to changes in the underlying storage, so when new assets are added they quickly become findable.
- Preview video files: During the indexing process, Media Engine also automatically creates an easily accessible and playable version of your media files. This makes it simple to confirm that you have the right file without downloading the heavy asset.
- Take action: Once you find the asset you’re looking for, you can move it using Signiant’s familiar file transfer capabilities. For example, files can be seamlessly downloaded or sent via Media Shuttle, without leaving the Media Engine interface. Other actions such as partial retrieval are coming soon. You’ll be able to mark in and out points to select a specific portion of a video asset, and then move only the clip of interest.
What’s unique about it?
- Easy, incremental adoption. Unlike a conventional MAM, there’s no need to move or ingest your content into Media Engine. Just leave the assets where they are and let us do the heavy lifting.
- The technology is already there. If you’re a Signiant SaaS customer, the Media Engine system is essentially “pre-deployed” across your distributed storage environment. With Signiant software operational at every location where media assets are stored, a virtual edge network is already in place to take on these new responsibilities. Media Engine simply leverages the existing Signiant technical foundation to deliver even more value.
- It works with all types of storage. Whether your content is stored on-premises or in one of the major public cloud platforms, Media Engine can help you find it. If you’re using cloud storage, we’ll handle everything you need on the cloud side.
- Accelerated access to content is built in. Regardless of where in the world your content is physically located, Signiant’s advanced network optimization technology ensures that content deliveries are fast, predictable, and secure.
- You can preview anything. Media Engine supports an extremely broad range of professional media formats and non-media file types, so it’s always easy to take a quick look at the essence to see what you’ve got.
- It’s multi-tenant SaaS. As with all Signiant SaaS offerings, key components of Media Engine are delivered as cloud-native, multi-tenant SaaS. This makes the system scalable, resilient, and highly available ⎯ and regular automatic updates give you access to rapid innovation. We monitor and manage the software on a 24/7 basis, so deployment is easy and the operational load is minimal.
How does Media Engine work?
Media Engine is underpinned by Signiant’s patented Software-Defined Content Exchange (SDCX) architecture, a foundation that can be directly leveraged to deliver a disruptive approach to media management. The platform features an intelligent cloud control plane that is ideally suited to an expanded role in managing information about each media asset ⎯ in other words, metadata. Because it’s tightly coupled to the ‘data plane’ system elements that connect to storage and move the content itself, everything stays in sync.
As with all Signiant offerings, Media Engine never takes custody of your media assets ⎯ they always remain under your control, in your storage. Any storage location that is
‘Signiant-connected’ for the purpose of file transfer is also accessible to Media Engine. The details of this connection depend upon the type of storage. For on-premise storage, the customer installs Signiant ‘SDCX Server’ software on a server in the same physical location as the storage. If the assets are in cloud storage, Signiant handles the cloud-side technology as part of our SaaS offering. In either case, there’s compute power and Signiant software adjacent to your storage, ready to undertake the task of indexing the storage and sending the results to the control plane.
Users interact with Media Engine via the Signiant console, a consolidated web interface that provides unified visibility and access to the Signiant SaaS offerings.
Security and Privacy
We know that security and privacy are paramount when dealing with valuable content, and Media Engine continues Signiant’s long-established commitment to these principles. In addition to the overall security features of the Signiant Platform, two new dimensions come into play with Media Engine:
- Metadata and proxy files are stored securely in the cloud by Signiant.
- User access to media assets aligns with Signiant platform permissions. When searching Media Shuttle storage, for example, a user will only see results from the portals and folders to which they have been given access.
We’re confident that Media Engine will add value right out of the box, but there’s also an evolving roadmap of additional capabilities on the horizon. Here’s a sneak peek at some of what’s to come:
- Indexing is available today for Media Shuttle SHARE portals connected to on-prem file storage or AWS S3. Jet and Agent indexing, along with Azure and Google Cloud support, are coming soon.
- Scrubbable thumbnails are available today. We will offer full frame-accurate proxies in the near future, which you will be able to download and send ⎯ as well as play.
- The basic indexing process extracts file name, extension, folder/subfolder name, last modification date, and media type. We’ll soon be expanding the metadata repository associated with each asset to include Signiant file transfer history and chain of custody information, embedded technical metadata, and information from other familiar tools such as Adobe.
- We believe that modern media companies need expansive and flexible metadata strategies, and Media Engine will directly support this vision. We’ll give you the ability to augment metadata in a variety of ways, such as importing structured metadata from other systems, leveraging cloud AI tools, custom forms for human input, and more.
- We’ll also expand optionality in areas such as metadata/proxy storage, allowing you to choose whether to have this data stored in the Signiant Platform or keep it in your own storage.
Pricing and Deployment
Media Engine is available to any company operating on the Signiant Platform ⎯ in other words, anyone who has an active subscription to Media Shuttle, Jet or Flight Deck. Every Signiant SaaS subscription includes a starter pack of Media Engine users so there’s absolutely no incremental cost to get started.
If you want to expand utilization beyond the base level, Media Engine scales commercially via a tiered pricing model based on the number of users, with the cost per user decreasing as utilization grows. Media Engine employs a ‘monthly active user’ model ⎯ a floating license construct that lets different individual users consume the subscription each month. Customers can add more Media Engine users by moving up a tier or by paying monthly overage fees. As with all Signiant SaaS products, our Customer Success Managers will monitor Media Engine usage and will proactively engage if utilization changes to help make sure you are on the optimal pricing plan.
Indexing is unlimited. There is no charge to index any Signiant-connected storage, whether on-premises or cloud.
To get started with Media Engine, contact your Customer Success Manager or email firstname.lastname@example.org. After executing an updated license agreement, you’ll be up and running quickly via a simple activation process.
For additional information, please visit help.signiant.com.