Global Business Development Director, Densitron
With customer requirements in greater flux and an unpredictable economic outlook, it’s no wonder that OPEX-based managed services are becoming increasingly popular, writes Densitron Global Business Development Director Reuben Such.
If the events of the last 18 months have told us anything profound on a technology level, it’s that the more versatile solutions we have access to, the better. From being able to connect with internal broadcast systems no matter where you are located, to ensuring that there is sufficient capacity to support more intensive use, responsiveness and accessibility have been in greater demand than ever before.
So, it’s no surprise that the ‘as a service’-style offerings that have been widely adopted in broadcast over the last few years experienced a further increase in popularity during the pandemic. Giving customers the opportunity to both devolve responsibility for specific aspects of a workflow to a third-party specialist, and to save money by only paying for what they actually need, such services have struck a chord during a period when so many businesses have faced unprecedented operational challenges.
It is our opinion, however, that the benefits of managed services are such that they will resonate with even more user groups in the years to come. It was certainly with this sort of ‘long view’ in mind that we made our Intelligent Display System (IDS) available as a managed service in August 2020. IDS combines proprietary hardware and software allowing broadcasters to connect, control and automate devices and activities in and around the studio. Developed to make the use of IDS more cost-efficient, IDSaaS (IDS-as-a-Service) is based around the same solution and services but is provided instead at a fixed monthly cost.
The idea with IDSaaS is to cover all aspects of implementing and operating IDS. Consequently, it encompasses everything from design, hardware and software to ongoing support and backup. Customers can sign up for a determined time period – with two years proving to be the most frequently selected duration to date – and can also scale their use of IDS in line with the changing demands of their business.
From a vendor/service provider perspective, it has been extremely interesting to observe the reaction to IDSaaS over the last 12 months. There has certainly been an encouraging level of take-up from larger organisations, both in the public and private sectors. But there has been even more interest from smaller- and medium-sized operations – companies who are having to simultaneously react to immediate changes in circumstances and prepare for the next economic cycle.
Managed services reach maturity
That last point is crucial as there is no doubt that the opportunity to move from a CAPEX (capital expenditure) to OPEX (operational expenditure) approach is of fundamental importance here. CAPEX investments traditionally involve a longer decision-making process in which the final call may be made by a company board or finance director. With OPEX it is easier to classify investments as regular operational outgoings that can be actioned more quickly. The latter approach is going to be more appealing to the technical services departments of many companies who wish to make changes without sparking a lengthy internal discussion.
Viewing all this from a vendor perspective, it’s also apparent that OPEX is bringing intelligent display control within the reach of a new group of users who might have felt unable to invest in a comprehensive system up-front. Examples here might include community radio stations or educational facilities that provide broadcast training.
And there is another reason why managed services are now achieving a broader market maturity – ease of deployment. There is no need to recap here in great detail about the reasons for broadcasters moving more and more of their infrastructure into the cloud but suffice to say that a lot of them have flexibility and efficiency at their core. It’s also true, however, that companies are migrating to the cloud at different rates – for instance, some are taking a phased approach in which certain core functions are moved across at first, with plans to transfer other elements at a later date.
In recognition of all this, one of the big changes we have made to the IDS platform recently is to allow it to be used more flexibly. That might be as part of a cloud-based deployment, on-premise or at someone’s home, or in some kind of hybrid approach. Consistency of experience is paramount, and with IDS it’s as easy to cover all those core day-to-day aspects – e.g., clocks, tally’s and some DMX functions – at home as it is in the studio control room.
The nature of investment cycles means that CAPEX will continue to be the dominant approach at some of the larger broadcast organisations, but elsewhere we can confirm that demand for managed services is continuing to accelerate – and that applies just as much to non-broadcast sectors such as houses of worship, where we have registered huge growth in the US recently.
With the certainty of being able to access support whenever it’s needed, we expect managed services to carry on growing as we move out of the pandemic. Whilst it will take a while for the market to recover its pre-Covid lustre, we are already seeing some green shoots turn into saplings, and that is definitely encouraging! What’s more, we have no doubt that IDSaaS is going to be integral to our next phase of development as a company which has always put customer responsiveness at the top of its agenda.