Audio Processing In The Cloud

By March 4, 2016 Editorial, Internet
cloud audio processing
Following on from my last article about alternative development models for audio mixing consoles, I got to thinking about other areas of the audio industry that might also see different business models emerge as a result of future developments in the Audio over IP sphere and related industries.

Ever since various incarnations of office desktop apps became available online (by ‘available online’ I mean to run within a browser), I immediately thought how useful it would be if we could do the same with audio software. At that time, the various audio networking solutions which we’re familiar with today either didn’t exist or were only on the drawing board.

I realise that we’re far from what I’m about to suggest, but I’d like to share it anyway so that the more knowledgeable readers might be inclined to comment and share with us the benefit of their wisdom. You can head over to the Linkedin version of this article and take part in the discussion there.

Virtualisation

For a long time now, technology has existed which allows many desktop applications to be run not on a user’s machine, but on a server somewhere (either on-premise or remotely) and delivered either through a browser or via a connector app. Citrix is a very big player in this field and if you’re interested in seeing the technology in action, I encourage you to try a demo of their Receiver application or you can watch the short video of a Windows desktop being virtualised on to an iPad below:

httpss://youtu.be/8VYmHcI6Hww

Office apps are the mainstay of such technology; anyone who has used Google Apps or Office 365 has seen this done with word-processors and spreadsheets, how much longer will it be before we see audio apps being offered in this fashion too? Of course to do this sort of thing remotely for AV requires tremendous bandwidth and connection speeds, so we may be waiting for a while, but it may not be unworkable for a large organisation to do in-house.

When the required factors finally allow, it might be possible to sign up with a provider and cherry pick various audio applications and pay a monthly subscription based on what you use. A bit like cable TV, but instead of channels, it’s software.

Plugins in the cloud

Another variation on the scenario above would be sending an audio stream to a third party for remote processing (effects, plugins etc) and having it returned to you in real time. Again, a subscription based model would allow users to be charged based on what they use (perhaps at a cost per sample?).

Check out Yamaha’s Cloud VST project for a work in progress look at this idea.

Remote Infrastructure

Once we are able to route networked audio (and video) over a WAN at high speeds, it opens up the possibility that some of the equipment needed for a production need not be on location at all. The obvious issue here is one of redundancy; nobody wants to be in a situation where a network outage takes their event offline because half of their equipment is no longer physically there, but the BBC have done a similar thing with their ViLoR project which sees control surface equipment in regional radio stations interfacing with remote data centres. You can read more about that HERE.

Remote infrastructure would allow production facilities to open up more of their equipment and its processing capabilities to users off-site and, crucially, in real-time.

Workflows like this don’t just hinge on the technology factors and waiting for speeds etc to catch up with our ambitions. It also requires manufacturers and software vendors to discover new business models for the way they sell and charge for their products. Undoubtedly, the two go hand in hand and I look forward to seeing what new possibilities emerge in the future.