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What are Software Defined Workflows?

Article from Masstech

Mon 01, 03 2021

Software defined workflows span the media ecosystem and the wider technology ecosystem allowing assets, systems and processes to be joined and run together. Workflows address repetitive tasks that an organisation runs regularly and can optimise pipelines by allowing content to be processed frequently and quickly.

Building a workflow: coding Vs visual design

There are multiple ways to build workflows. Traditionally, setups have been built through a language such as C#. This is great where a business has developers on hand, though it requires experience and expertise in software development, or a certain scale of team. However, it creates problems in smaller teams and organisations that don’t have the resource on hand to create a workflow using coding skills.

More recently, workflow vendors have been working to create visual interfaces that allow workflows to be created in a rather more drag and drop fashion. This involves, for example, dragging an element onto a visual canvas, adding variables or confirmation parameters to that element and connecting it to another element. This enables team members without coding know-how to build out complex workflows which address the needs of the business. This is the route Masstech has taken with our software defined workflow builder within Kumulate, an example of which can be seen here:

Why is language and taxonomy important when designing a workflow orchestration engine?

There are a number of workflow or software defined workflow engines, not only catering to the media and entertainment (M&E) landscape, but also across the wider technology industries. The most successful of these are those that apply clarity and consistency to the language and taxonomy that they use. Consistent use of icons for workflow steps, and the language used as descriptors and categorizations (e.g. Task, Asset, Context, Participant, Infrastructure) – when these are applied consistently within the application, it’s much easier for non-coding end users to understand the concepts involved, and makes the construction of the workflows they need a simpler and faster process.

Triggering and orchestrating workflows

Workflows can be triggered within systems such as Kumulate in a number of different ways. Here are a few examples:

  • From the video timeline – While working with a proxy of a video for example, it’s possible to trigger a workflow on the complete asset or a segment of the asset.
  • From within the orchestration engine – Within the workflow orchestration engine itself workflows can be triggered to run immediately, set to run on a schedule or when certain conditions are met.
  • From the content manager – Multiple content items from any storage location can be selected from the Kumulate content management interface, and sent into a particular workflow for processing.
  • From the storage manager – Specific storage-related workflows (movement, transcode etc) can be performed on all assets stored in a given location, directly form the storage locations module.

On the orchestration side, workflows are run by a server, or set of servers. Workflows are built within a browser by a member of the administration team and are then deployed to one of more orchestration engines within the customers platform; these servers can reside in the cloud or on premise. Individual workflows can then be executed and operated from each of these orchestration engines, allowing the operations to easily scale with the business, and to operate in the most appropriate and efficient virtual or physical environment.

Keeping workflows and their assets secure

As workflows and the assets they process move increasingly into cloud and hybrid-based environments, and require input from multiple partners and vendors, security becomes of paramount importance. Whether securing access to content itself, or simply pointing to a storage location such as a cloud bucket, users need to consider how to securely provide access credentials to the required cloud services, and how the billing for those services will be handled. This is referenced in some detail by MovieLabs in their white paper and video on security for production workflows. [1]

Using software defined workflows to drive organisational pipelines

Software defined workflows’ main function is to enable the user to create repeatable pipelines of activity. Whether fully automated, or a combination of automated and manual steps, these pipelines are designed to drive content of a variety of forms, (in our examples video media), through a series of predefined stages. In much the same way that a factory would process content on a production line, software defined workflows create a digital production line for processing content.

The pipelines allow you to consistently and repeatably process content for many purposes, such as transcode and delivery, content enrichment or storage management. Let’s look at some examples where workflow automation can assist your business in replacing manual steps that team members may have to take today.

  • Multi-Platform Delivery: i.e. a transcode to multi transcode formats from a single or multiple source files. With an accelerated delivery.
  • AVID Nexus Storage: i.e the synchronisation or triggering of content movements based on rules between Nexus storage and other storage volumes.
  • AI Enrichment: i.e. the enrichment of one or more pieces of content utilising AI services such as Amazon Rekognition or Graymeta Curio.

All of these simple examples could have been performed manually by a member of a team. However, these workflows and their associated triggers allow the organisation to consistently perform tasks automatically, with little to no human intervention, thereby reducing the time to perform them, eliminating human error, and enabling additional reporting.

Integrating software defined workflows with your other tools

Utilising software defined workflows can allow rapid integration with third party tools and systems, for processing, data exchange or even manual integration. Here at Masstech we have many template workflows created, with many integrations, such as:

  • Amazon Rekognition: automated content analysis for recognition of people, objects, locations, non-compliant content etc
  • Tape and disk storage migration: automated, rapid migration of content, e.g. from on-premise to cloud, as an automated background operation that doesn’t disrupt daily operations.

And, of course, there are many others as part of Kumulate’s software defined workflow toolset which allow you to integrate with a range of cloud and on-premise services, including any of your own in-house systems or tooling.

How can Masstech help

Masstech can help you to automate both manual and digital processes. We provide:

  • Visual software defined workflow builder with drag and drop interface
  • Pre-built template workflows
  • Workflow orchestration engine
  • Powerful workflow status and reporting
  • Professional services as required to support your team

We’re happy to help identify challenges and bottlenecks within your business that could potentially be optimised and automated, obligation-free. Our workflow experts can pinpoint where pre-built or customised workflows can address your specific business requirements, as well as provide professional services to assist you and your team however we can.

info@masstech.com  www.masstech.com

References:

[1] MovieLabs – https://movielabs.com/news/new-whitepaper-future-of-security-for-production-workflows/

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