There are many misconceptions around cloud technology: “It’s not secure”….. “It’s too expensive”…
While there are sometimes truthful elements in such statements, the reality is always more nuanced.
In this article, we’re going to look at seven of the most stubborn myths around cloud and debunk them (or at least cast some doubt on them).
Myth #1: The cloud isn’t secure
When you move to the cloud, a big part of your security footprint gets managed by someone else. Security tends to be stronger when resources are pooled, not siloed. While individual studios do invest in IT security, Google has over 800 dedicated security engineers whose work Athera users benefit from automatically.
Shifting to cloud doesn’t change the fact that your data needs to be secured. But it does change who is responsible for what. With everything in-house, you’re responsible for anything that could happen, including a data breach.
Cloud works on the principle of a shared security model: Cloud providers and Athera provide security of the cloud, while you are responsible for working securely in the cloud.
The Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) evaluates the security of contractors who work with creative content. The major cloud services providers, including Amazon and Google, have all been audited by the MPAA.
In turn, companies like Thinkbox, Foundry, Adobe, Autodesk, and Avid work with the major, MPAA-certified cloud providers. Because of this, the big six Hollywood studios are all confident to use cloud technology in some form or another.
So while it’s true that the cloud doesn’t magically solve the important issue of security, it’s important to consider how your studio can benefit from massive investments that public cloud providers have put towards securing it.
Myth #2: Using the cloud is more expensive than owning my own stuff
Most companies tend to have a “water line” or “steady state” where their resources are generally constant. It makes sense to purchase these resources up-front if it’s cheaper to do so.
But where studios fail to optimize costs and engender risk is when they purchase up-front resources for unpredictable or short-lived needs. In this case, cloud makes more sense because costs are usage-following.
Cloud allows you to balance your steady-state and volatile needs. Studios often forget to price-in risk such as cost of maintenance and IT expertise, equipment failure, unpredictable staffing needs, and changing external environment (technology changing, market moving, etc).
Cloud allows you to embrace this risk and only pay for it when it actually materializes.
Similarly, freelancers today use “fixed-price” bidding, but cloud allows “cost-plus” bidding, where the incremental cost of changes by the client is passed on, vs. assumed by the freelancer. This makes bids more competitive initially, and balances risk evenly between client and freelancer over the course of the project.
Myth #3: It’s not fast enough!
The truth is, having your own stuff within your own four walls will likely always be the fastest set up.
With the internet, the speed of light and network switching technology are undeniably limiting factors.
But today, for most of us, the internet tends to be really good – particularly if you have access to it via fibre-optic cables.
And in fact, we’ve nowhere near reached the zenith of how fast our connectivity will be – the rate at which connection speeds are improving is accelerating. More people are getting connected at higher speed in more places on earth faster and faster.
Athera only requires about as much bandwidth per artist as an HD Netflix stream – which is something most people don’t question the availability of.
Myth #4: I’ll lose my preferred way of working
You can work pretty much any way you want in the cloud. A lot of what people are using in the cloud to create VFX is the same as what people are using outside of it – things like Linux, GPUs, software…
The difference is, with the cloud you don’t need to maintain or update anything – that’s all handled for you. And you can login and work from anywhere. And just pay for stuff when you need it.
Athera has been built to match the best-practices VFX studios follow when setting up their own on-prem pipelines.
That encompasses a whole bunch of different things, like allowing people to work in contexts using Container functionality: people want their contexts to be air-gapped and properly set up, just for that one task in hand, and that’s how Athera has been built.
The platform also offers a lot of customizability with a public API and configurable scripts. While you may have to adapt some things in order to maximize the benefits of cloud, at the end of the day it’s the same underlying technology that we’re used to using under our desks.
Myth #5 It’s only for technical people, not artists
We’ve all used Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook, Netflix… these are services that exist by virtue of cloud technology, but we don’t think about that at all when we’re using them.
That’s because, while the way these services work behind the scenes is clever and technical, they’ve been built with non-technical users in mind.
Cloud has been embraced by organizations transforming their IT. But the wave of transformation is bringing cloud into the hands of everyone: our phones, pictures, television, talking speakers, cars, and more. Why not artists, too?
There’s a compelling argument to be made that someone ought to do this for VFX – package everything up and allow people to access it using cloud technology.
And someone has – it’s what we’re striving to do with Athera.
Myth #6: It’s only for the big players.
There’s a perception that cloud tech for VFX is complicated, expensive, and hard to adopt – and that therefore only the big guys can use it. That may have been true in the early days, but we’ve got to a point where cloud now actually empowers smaller players to be a disruptive force in the VFX industry.
The idea that cloud is only for the big players has been seen as true mainly because cloud technology is relatively new and was initially complex. Now, however, Foundry is putting all that complex stuff into a box that’s easy for anyone to use.
In fact, we think small players can take advantage of the cloud even more than big players. That’s because the advantages of cloud play to the strength and weaknesses of small companies even better than large ones.
Large companies often just use cloud for an incremental improvement. Whereas a small studio has the opportunity to completely reinvent themselves, undergoing a rapid evolution rather than an incremental change. This allows them to compete with the big guys without assuming any of the up-front costs.
Myth #7: I don’t need to bother, it’s just a fad!
If you look at other industries, they were saying cloud was just a fad 15 years ago, and it didn’t work out that way.
In fact it was just the start of a long term trend – and the businesses that cottoned on early, or – even better – were born in the cloud, are the ones that dominate many of those industries today.
The ‘fad’ phase of cloud is now long-passed: it’s becoming a commodity. What’s really interesting today is how cloud is actually powering new experiences.
The VFX industry is lagging in this curve, and we feel the time is ripe for cloud to be something that every artist uses without really thinking about it.
Through that lens, cloud is the opposite of a fad. It’s going to become so commonplace, that in a few years time it will feel strange even talking about ‘cloud based pipelines’ or ‘cloud based workstations’ , because cloud will be so woven into the way we do things.
Still not convinced? The best way to understand what the cloud can mean for VFX is to experience it for yourself. Get a free, 30-day trial of Athera here.
Or if you already have a production-ready project in mind, apply to do a Proof of Concept.