Adobe Anywhere – Currently An Enterprise Solution Only

On NAB we’ve seen a few reveals from Adobe, and among them also the premiere of Adobe Anywhere. I speculated extensively on Anywhere in the past, and I was perhaps a bit too optimistic in my assessment for required hardware and bandwidth, motivated mostly by the hope that we would be able to install it in our small facility as well. Alas, it’s not going to happen.

As of now, Anywhere requires at least 4 servers to run: one being a collaboration hub, and 3 Mercury Streaming Engines. Karl Soule explained, that this is a required minimal structure, because the MSE machines also take care of the rendering. This hardware should cover the needs of 6-8 editors, and supposedly scales well by adding additional machines. It’s certainly not inexpensive (starting at $5000 but most likely achieving $15,000 to $20,000 per piece), and the cost is certainly increased by Windows 2008 Server Enterprise Edition (about $2300 per license) and MSE requiring at least one Tesla K10 processing unit costing $3000 each.

I was not mistaken though about replacing expensive SAN licences with something a bit more affordable. The two currently recommended systems (Harmonic MediaGrid and Isilon X400 series) sport their own filesystems which cover most of the SAN benefits, without incuring the overhead. Plus they work via Ethernet, lowering the price of backbone architecture even further. However, don’t get your hopes up, these solutions are still pretty expensive, going into hundreds thousands of dollars.

Obviously, Anywhere is not a plug and play solution, it requires tailoring to the specific workflow and solutions in one’s facility, and Adobe has their own servicemen who will install and configure it. Judging by the fact that the cost of software and installation is also not publicly available, it is safe to assume that it does venture into the “if you have to ask, you can’t afford it” territory.

My bandwidth estimation was also too optimistic. The suggested pipe for seamless experience seems to be 25-40 Mbps, which is not insignificant, and in fact might be the biggest limiting factor to the actual spread of Anywhere. While it’s easily achievable locally, it is far beyond standard 3G data rates (2 Mbps), requiring LTE or HSPA+ connections, not always easily available, and is slightly beyond WiFi 802.11 a and g standards, requiring at least 802.11n communication using multiple antennas. It is also at the edge of what the most recent ADSL modems can provide (40 Mbps in the ideal conditions). So perhaps Bob Zelin’s dream of remote editing will still be limited by the last mile infrastructure, at least for a time.

In the end, the message is pretty clear: right now Adobe Anywhere is aimed at the enterprise players like CNN and large post houses who can afford the necessary equipment or perhaps can fit it into an already existing hardware structure. Certainly, the benefits are great, but the little folk can only hope that at some point these solutions will trickle down.

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8 Responses to Adobe Anywhere – Currently An Enterprise Solution Only

  1. Jack Guthrey says:

    It seems Avid’s Sphere and Central offerings may actually be cheaper and of course are shipping today. Quite interesting.

    • BartW says:

      I guess it depends on what you are editing with, and what’s your workflow. I have no experience with Avid’s Sphere, but looking through the specs, it seems to work with up to HD resolution formats, and streams H.264 proxies. Anywhere works with any file format that Premiere supports, and can stream the full res as well, if need be. The difference is also that with Sphere, processing mostly happens on the local assets, and Anywhere works on remote ones.

      In the end, the proof will be in the pudding.

  2. Was reading Bob Zelin’s article and he raised a good point: Smaller production companies could “rent” part of a larger post-houses’ server hardware & storage for Adobe Anywhere use, so they don’t need to invest in all of the hardware up-front.

    I already know many freelancers/small production companies that rent desk space in larger production company offices, this would tie in really well with that.

    • BartW says:

      It’s an interesting notion, although I don’t see it yet. For one, this post-house should set it up as a service, and take care of the access limitations on their servers – I believe it might be something currently beyond capabilities of Anywhere. Or at least something I have not heard about. But – more importantly – you’d be renting a significant part of their outgoing Internet connection (around 20-30 Mbps), which even these days is quite expensive, and sometimes even not feasible. Perhaps in a few years time, it might happen, and someone would be willing to run Anywhere as a service.

      It might be worthwhile to listen to the latest RC podcast by Mike Seymour and Jason Wingrove, where Mike is talking about the limitations of the software. My guess is they have been testing it for a while, and if you sift through what he’s saying, Anywhere 1.0 is right now viable as a local solution, not as the global one. These guys have offices around the globe (Chicago, Los Angeles and Sydney), and if they can’t make it work globally, then for me it means that the reality of Anywhere is a bit less than what Adobe tries to make it. At least for now.

      • Good point. I guess waiting for version 2, 3 etc. of Anywhere is where more of the magic is going to happen for most of us.
        Damn Adobe for getting us so excited…

  3. Thomas M says:

    I have seen Avid Sphere demoed over WiFi, and it seemd to struggle a bit.

    Both are Avid Sphere and Adobe Anywhere are new products, so we’ll see how it matures.

    I think the biggest issue will be bandwidth, down the road when 4k post becomes more commonplace.

    I can see it being especially important when you have After Effects users grabbing large files.

    I’ve used transfer systems like Aspera and Netflight, but they are very expensive.

    Hopefully as the products mature, we’ll have higher bandwidth like Google Fiber.

    • BartW says:

      What’s great about Anywhere is that the size of the file is not important for bandwidth, since it is only the output window that is streamed to the client. All processing is supposedly done on the server. So if a server can cope with large files, then you should be relatively safe. That is unless you have to upload the first, then the bandwidth does matter. But for the processing all the bandwidth you need is to show you the audio/video live stream at decent quality 😉

  4. Pingback: Adobe Anywhere for video 2014.1 « NLE Systems Inc.

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