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Signiant Series

Metadata Everywhere: How Signiant’s SDCX SaaS Platform Works with Metadata Across Distributed Content Repositories

Signiant introduces Metadata Everywhere, a new series about our innovative Software-Defined Content Exchange (SDCX) architecture and how it facilitates interactions with both media essence and metadata across disparate and distributed storage environments.

Most media companies know Signiant for our ability to move large files fast. After all, our software moves petabytes of content every day across the global media supply chain and we’ve been a bedrock in the industry for more than fifteen years. What may be less familiar is Signiant’s involvement with metadata. In order to deliver on the ‘intelligence’ in our intelligent file transfer software, we generate, extract, manage, and take actions based on all sorts of metadata. In fact, the role we play in the modern media technology stack is increasingly weighted in this direction.

In today’s complex hybrid cloud, multi-cloud world, media assets are anywhere and everywhere — and so is the associated metadata. Our innovative Software-Defined Content Exchange (SDCX) architecture facilitates interactions with both media essence and metadata across disparate and distributed storage environments.

Signiant’s SDCX Architecture

Signiant’s SDCX SaaS platform is made up of two distinct system components, a control plane and a data plane. In simple terms, the control plane handles metadata while the data plane deals with media essence.

The control plane is the brain. This is where technical administrators and media professionals interact with the system through various web interfaces. Control plane operations include access control, transfer orchestration, reporting, alerts, and the brokering of inter-company content exchange, as well as user operations such as finding, playing and transferring media assets. The control plane also generates transfer-related metadata, such as chain of custody information, and allows for the input of metadata by users.

The data plane of the SDCX platform deals with the media assets themselves, and this is where our transport protocol comes into play. This part of the system provides fast, secure, and reliable access to and movement of media assets regardless of storage location. Signiant never takes custody of the assets themselves. Content storage, whether file or object, on-prem or in the cloud, always remains under the customer’s control.

Much of the unique power of the SDCX platform lies in the ways in which the control plane and the data plane interact. As our nomenclature suggests, the control plane provides direction to the data plane to authorize, initiate, and track movement of (or access to) media. But the data plane isn’t just passively taking instructions — it is also continuously collecting information to feed back to the control plane. The data plane software, also known as the SDCX server, is aware of all assets in the associated storage and tracks changes such as files being added, deleted, or modified. It is capable of performing ‘edge services’ such as metadata extraction and proxy creation in addition to the classic transfer-related actions that the data plane can take on assets. All of these storage events and extracted metadata are continuously passed back to the control plane, which can then display information about assets, enable search, make decisions and instruct operations to be performed on the media. The benefits of these capabilities are multiplied by the fact that the data plane is highly distributed and comprises tens of thousands of Signiant storage connectors, deployed all over the world by the many companies that participate in the global media supply chain.

The exchange of information between the control plane and the data plane was initially geared toward mission-critical content movement, but the architecture is readily extensible into other areas. The SDCX platform establishes a foundation that supports the creation, collection, and aggregation of all sorts of metadata and enables a variety of media-specific functions that extend far beyond fast file movement.

Ten Ways Signiant’s Platform Works with Metadata

Chain of Custody

When it comes to secure oversight of valuable content, media companies require a highly dependable source of truth about where and when assets have been transferred. With both Media Shuttle — for person-initiated transfers — and Jet — for automated transfers — chain of custody information is available for any asset that is moved. Supply chain tracking can also be an important part of sustainability initiatives, adding another application for data of this type.

Pre-transfer Asset Compliance

When content aggregators receive assets that don’t comply with their delivery specs, time and resources are wasted. A popular capability of the Signiant platform is CloudSpeX, which extracts technical metadata for comparison with a predefined delivery specification. By rejecting transfers of noncompliant assets, the system puts the onus for basic quality control on content suppliers.

Metadata-intensive Standards like IMF

Metadata-intensive standards such as Interoperable Master Format (IMF) can be challenging for nontechnical users. IMF is a very powerful standard, but it isn’t inherently user friendly. Signiant’s platform makes it easy for a user to access just the version of an asset they need, displaying more user-friendly information about each component of an IMF package.

Custom Metadata Input

Efficient media supply chains depend upon the accumulation of information as assets move through the content lifecycle, and some of this information is captured by people. Media Shuttle meets this need with a very flexible means of including custom metadata forms for user input. That metadata then remains associated with the assets as they proceed through the supply chain.

Transport Optimization

Many variables influence transfer performance. Signiant’s patented intelligent transport architecture uses machine learning and a variety of data inputs to maximize transfer speeds. The real-time sensing of network and compute information, along with historical information and specific metadata about the assets being moved, such as file size and number of files, all help determine the optimal way to transfer a given data set over any IP network.

Inter-company Content Exchange

Signiant has long been the trusted broker of inter-company content exchange. With the introduction of Signiant Jet, we’ve made it even easier to set up and manage the secure exchange of content between companies. Once two companies set up mutually agreed upon transfer jobs, brokered through the control plane, both sides have access to information about transfers including chain of custody. The control plane maintains metadata to control who has access to an asset and under what circumstances.

Movement of Metadata Files

Just as essence files continue to grow in size, so do the files that contain all kinds of associated metadata. Whether essence or metadata, specialized software is required for sending and sharing files once they get beyond a certain size. Media companies increasingly rely on Signiant software to move both of these file types around the world with speed, reliability, and security. Our foundation in accelerated file movement only grows in importance as the volume of metadata continues to increase.

Industry-wide Anonymized Data

One of the many benefits of multi-tenant SaaS is access to anonymized data about what is going on in the industry at large. With more than 50,000 companies now connected to our SaaS platform, Signiant has visibility into emerging trends that can be used to inform our product development efforts or offer industry insight to our customers. As noted above, the IMF capabilities added to the platform in 2018 are a great example. As more and more IMF packages were being moved on the platform, it was clear that adoption of the standard was growing and this helped inform the decision to add intelligent IMF support.

Next-generation Metadata-directed Workflows

As the industry embraces loosely coupled, event-driven integrations, access to metadata via APIs offers an easy way to develop workflows using modern tools. Signiant has taken an API-first approach to our platform so that developers can easily connect our products to other systems. Workflows can be readily stitched together using event-related metadata to trigger specific actions, and other forms of metadata can be used to inform workflow decision points.

Federated View of Distributed Media Assets

Media companies need to be able to view, organize, manage, and find assets that are stored across a wide variety of storage types and locations. The Signiant SDCX platform is uniquely suited to this role and this is an active area of investment in our platform in 2021. Stay tuned.

Work with Metadata — Everywhere

In each case, the metadata interactions we enable — combined with Signiant’s core transport optimization — help make our customers’ media supply chains more efficient, cost-effective, and scalable. As the industry continues to employ disparate, distributed storage repositories for content, Signiant’s SaaS platform serves as an abstraction layer, providing a framework of information about the media assets in addition to a fast, seamless means of accessing them. This unified platform, which now connects more than 50,000 media and entertainment companies, enables users and systems to interact with media assets in various ways without actually transferring the heavy asset itself. Of course, when files do need to be moved, no platform is better suited to the task.

This brief is the introduction to our series, Metadata Everywhere. Other chapters explore, in more depth, the ten ways Signiant’s SDCX SaaS architecture works with the media essence and metadata across disparate and distributed storage environments. Learn about the many different ways media organizations can utilize the Signiant metadata framework to enhance productivity and optimize their technology stack.

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