Moving into the clouds

First of all, we need to understand why we are moving into the clouds, with all the pros and cons we have with this decision.

  Image: Seven Deadly Sins of IT - We are special

Image: Seven Deadly Sins of IT - We are special

There are a number of benefits of migrating to the cloud as:

  • Scalability - need to grow or shrink

  • Flexibility - need to change fast

  • Security - higher security (perhaps)

  • Cost - lower cost (sometimes)

  • Competence - don’t have competence

  • Priority - don’t want to manage IT

But these benefits are not always true. It could be cheaper of running your own systems yourself and there can be issues to get the correct level of security for cloud solutions. It’s neither sure that your legacy applications can be moved to the cloud.

This is why we also need to see what kind of infrastructure and applications you should, or could, move to the cloud. An example of list from a business perspective could be:

  • Virtual machines, storage and monitoring

  • Application servers, integration plattforms, access management etc

  • E-mail and other colloboration tools for a digtial workplace

  • Software development & deployment environments 

  • Administrative applications as Financial and HR

  • Core business applications as CRM and ERP

  • Technical application used in production

  • Supporting business applications, e.g. for R&D

If we look at e-mail and other tools for collaboration, we more or less get all benefits with a cloud solution, so it’s a no brain to take a decision for most organizations.

The big question is if we can move our core business applications and technical application in production into the cloud?

We may run the applications in virtual machines in the cloud, but is it worth it? If we have existing applications in our own premises, managed by ourself or outsourced, then there is a huge question of the benefits.

If the legacy applications need a huge rewrite to accommodate a more digital strategy than before, yes we may have a case. Then we need to think if we should use SaaS or write bespoke solutions using micro-services and modern development paradigms, e.g. DevOps.

This is a much more complex descion to take than to recommend a cloud first strategy.

Back to our media company. What was the objectives for a cloud first strategy? It boils down to three main reasons:

  • Competence - don’t have internal competence to manage IT

  • Priority - don’t want to manage IT, but focus on business

  • Flexibility - need to change fast

For our core technical production systems, e.g. editing of films, we need local solutions and local competence, not cloud solutions.

Last, but not least important; We need to understand how to integrate the different parts from a business perspective.

How do you think about your strategy for cloud migration?

Your business in the cloud, or not?

Life is often a compromise and it is also true for selecting IT-solutions for organisations.

I continue to use our media company as an example for how to define a cloud strategy. Albeit small, with twelve main processes and lots of interactions with other parties, it’s getting complex quite fast.

 Image: Adobe stock photo

Image: Adobe stock photo

Film production is neither a digital only business. The real work is carried out on set with real people, not bots and avatars.

When the film is published, then everything could be digital, but content production is a different story.

We have a cloud first strategy, as we don’t want to bother with internal IT and we collaborate with different parties all over the world.

But, then we have the reality in post-production. Nobody uses bespoke editing applications, so you have to choose what software houses are offering you and they are not yet cloud friendly.

Editing 4K and 8K media is very demanding hardware wise as you need really fast CPU’s, high-end graphics, fast and large storage (several TB of data per project) and very high-bandwidth connections. Few ISP offers affordable 10 Gb/s internet connections and this is why we need local IT for some tasks.

But films are made outside the editing rooms and review of films need collaboration with both clients, directors and other stakeholders. Therefore we need hybrid solutions were some parts of the workflow is run locally and some parts in the cloud.

The audience most often want to see the finalised films on streaming platforms, so in the end, we need to deliver digital media. to the cloud.

What about security? Not even Sony Pictures managed to be secure enough.

I’m very sure that major cloud providers will have better security than us, if we had to expose our internal IT systems to Internet in order to collaborate with others.

Luckily, as a startup, we don’t have much legacy IT to cope with. Our CRM, Financials, HR, E-mail and project management systems are all done in the cloud. But, there are downsides also with the cloud solutions today. We have different vendors of SaaS-platforms and integration today is subpar. It’s getting better and better and we have to be flexible to change systems if the platform doesn’t develops further.

But for a large corporations with a long history of bespoke IT-solutions, it’s not that easy. This is why you have to be realistic about cloud strategies and have a strategy why, what, how and when migrating to the cloud.

Enterprise Architecture for a startup

I begun writing stories on paper, taking photos with Instamatic cameras and broadcasting radio long time before using a computer. Therefore, it’s not a surprise that I have started a media company a while ago.

But how does this relates to Enterprise Architecture at all? Isn’t EA only for large and complex companies and not for small businesses?

I don’t agree, so what is better than to show how to use an EA mindset for a small business.

Background

We have been producing Architecture Corner for nearly four years as a hobby project, but also participating in short films, features and TV-series for the last couple of years. During this time, I have written down how things work & doesn’t work on set. We have been trying to find out better ways of working and documenting this in Production Handboks, based on business processes, roles and tools.

 Photo: Adobe stock photos

Photo: Adobe stock photos

There is no EA function in the organisation, instead we talk of business development, where we use EA mindset and frameworks as tools to ”Continuously improve creativity”. We have added ”Better and better stories, together” to the mission statement for business development as storytelling is what is all about for us.

We will not share everything public, but at least we share some bits and pieces, so you can see how we apply an EA mindset for a small startup that have an ambition to grow. Bear also in mind that this work has been done piece by piece, during two years time, and small parts of the workflow been verified in actual projects, in an agile fashion by different crew members. 

Business Model

First of all, we start with a business model canvas to define what what kind of business we are in, i.e. Filmproduction. 

The canvas was used as input to the actual EA work as described in TOGAF and other frameworks. When we started only the value proposition and customer segments where in place, but now the whole canvas is ready, (and to be improved later on).

Process development

The high-level process for film production is the same regardless of type of production we do, but it differs on level 3 and level 4 depending on type of production we are doing.

As an example, there are some major differences between scripted stories, e.g. feature films and non-scripted stories as documentaries where you don’t have a detailed manuscript to start with.

Filmmaking process.png

Part of the work I have been doing is process modelling to find out differences in workflow between different types of films we produce.

Not only the workflow is different, but there are differences in type of information needed in the processes, depending on types of film. This is the main reson we need a basic information model so we know what kind of information we need to achieve quality in the production.

Film production is colloboration and the tools we use must support a good workflow though out the process, from development to delivery. We also work in different physical locations, with clients, talent, crew where those behind of the camera often are contractors. 

IT applications and cloud services

We need computers and software both to produce the actual film, but also to support the production process. The budget don’ t allow for in-house development and we have to rely on COTS and Cloud-services, where the latter is preferred as it better support our ways of working.

IMG_0995.jpeg

As you all knew, COTS software have their limitations. An example is that we found out that one of the major editing applications didn’t support the metadata needed for our end- to-end workflow. (Based on our information model)

We selected applications based on our workflow, the type of productions we do and how well it supports us making better and better stories, together.

Therefore, we have to rely on other editing applications (FCP/X and Resolve) for larger productions. AVID that is used in Hollywood was rules out for a number of other reasons. 

Does it work and is it not only a paper product? Yes, we tried this workflow in the short films Seven Deadly Sins of IT last year and we are not the only one who is using this way of working in post-production.

Do you think it’s an EA approach to building a business, or more ad-hoc style way of thinking?

Privacy

GDPR is another thing to take care of and how this impact film production depends on type of production, process, type of personal information and the applications & services we use for handling such data. Read more at http://www.artmann.co.uk/quality/legal/gdpr/ to see if you recognize parts of your favorite EA framework.

Final words

So yes, from my perspective you can use EA mindset for a start up, but you don’t need the whole framework at once. You neither need a very large organisation to do Enterprise architecture work.

It’s not possible to show the usual EA artefacts to the film community as they are often are creative people and wouldn’t understand our diagrams. This is the reason why we don’t make our presentation material in the usual style.

See you at the red carpet.

How is Jimmy dressed?

 Image: Adobe stock photo

Image: Adobe stock photo

Last scene in a manuscript 

Jimmy enters the black taxi from the right side and you could hear som music from his mobile.

The question now is how is Jimmy dressed and what music is playing on his phone?

In order to understand this, we need to look a whats written in the first scene, where we first see him, how his is dressed, and what kind of music he listen to.

The challenge in a feature film is that we have roughly 50 different scenes and they are not filmed in chronologic order. Therefore it’s the script supervisor who is responsible for continuty in and between scenes, and the large part of the job is done in pre-production before actual filming starts. 

We do a quick jump to an agile software development project with fifty different user stories. 

Who is then responsible for assure continuity of UX and functionality between the different user stories and teams? Next question is how they will do this?

If you can’t answer the question, your next software project may meet the fate of the film Plan 9 from outer space.