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.