MAM systems were originally developed as a response to the niche requirements of the broadcast, defence and archive sectors. The solutions have matured significantly in the last decade and are now ideally poised to respond to the challenge of managing the growth of video assets generated the world over.
As Jonas Engström of Mayam remarked in his opening paper at this year’s FIAT/IFTA conference, MAMs have come a long way since the introduction of the humble index card to enable broadcasters to find reels of tapes in their vast archives.
The Ascent of MAM
There’s broad consensus now that the early MAM developers and their customers have been on a long, sometimes challenging journey together starting in the early nineties. At the end of that process, and heralding the 2nd generation of MAM systems, it appears that lessons have been learned, standards adopted and new technologies embraced. Most importantly of all (judging by the break out conversations at the FIAT/IFTA conference in Glasgow), there appears to be an outbreak of mutual understanding between MAM developers and their core customers.
This new climate of optimism and collaboration belies some of the issues encountered during the development and adoption of First Generation MAMs (including Imagen) which had the following characteristics:
- Bespoke developments for individual customers – difficult to support, expensive to upgrade
- Lengthy specification phase and project led deployment
- Management interfaces platform dependent (e.g. windows or mac)
- Only affordable by large broadcasters/institutions requiring large capex investment
- Management interfaces not particularly user friendly
- System available on internal network only (not the case with Imagen – we always had a web interface for external access)
- Limited interoperability with external systems
- ‘Waterfall’ project managed code/feature development
- Not particularly scalable or modifiable once delivered
As is often the case at the dawn of a new technology, first generation MAM solutions were often funded in response to new projects with specific requirements. In our case Imagen was initially developed as a searchable media database for the Ministry of Defence (for legal reasons we can’t say any more than that!). It was progressed further to digitise and manage the British Pathe archive and was the first news archive available online with full e-commerce ordering way back in 2003. Following on from that we further developed Imagen to manage varied media collections within Imperial War Museums – with particular attention to long term preservation, third party database integration, cross-site redundancy and connectivity to multiple storage platforms.
While the creation of these bespoke Imagen V1 systems (as well as many more) represent critical milestones in the development path for Imagen V2 they created a series of challenges that characterised issues consistent with 1st generation MAMs generally.
In particular, creating new branches of our code base to support bespoke (often esoteric) functionality for individual customer installations would cause our development team all kinds of problems and move us further away from a single unified product. Creating multiple versions of our software would also make support equally problematic – and expensive to cover. Put simply, the short term satisfaction gained by delivering a bespoke solution to a customer would ultimately create problems downstream when they found themselves locked into their own custom version of our software – they had effectively locked themselves out of a universal upgrade path.
One day son, you’ll be a MAM (version 2)
Clearly something had to change. After a great deal of soul searching and some initially difficult conversations with our customer base, we realised we had to stop delivering a never ending series of modified versions of our software and instead create a single product that would aggregate the best features from our existing installations. It would need to be highly configurable out of the box to meet the needs of the existing customer base and also appeal to new clients going forward. We had taken the decision to cease adding new features for the sake of short term commercial gain. Instead, customer requests for new additional functionality would be considered with the larger community of users in mind and added to our product roadmap – for inclusion in new releases, if considered a useful progression of the product for everyone.
Imagen today represents the vanguard of second generation MAMs and is consistent with the following characteristics:
- Not Bespoke – single configurable product for entire customer base
- High speed deployment – customisable out of the box for any customer
- Platform agnostic for access and management (i.e. browser based management and end user access)
- Hugely scalable – takes advantage of latest advances in object-storage technology
- Can be procured as a service model (Opex rather than Capex)
- Can be installed in the cloud or on premises
- Advanced interoperability via API or REST interfaces
- Agile product development and roadmap strategy shared with customer base
The next generation
With 2nd Generation MAMs like Imagen, modification of the product is a thing of the past – when there’s integration to be done it takes place through the API, with connectors to third party technologies that are easily updated.
We’ve arrived at MAM G2 (if I may be so bold) after considerable commercial analysis, patience from our customers and a huge amount of effort by our development team. Now our entire customer base, stretching right back to our first customer – the Ministry of Defence – are all using our 2nd Generation Imagen MAM.
Industry analysts Frost and Sullivan have also recognised that we’re leading the way in 2nd Generation MAM development and have awarded us the title of Digital Asset Management Entrepreneurial Company of the year for our groundbreaking approach. Specifically they recognise the steps we’ve taken to commercialise our MAM software and develop it as a cloud based SaaS – to bring our technology into common use. Media Asset Management was once the preserve of the large broadcasters and media archives but it is now crossing over into every day business use – not just for archive and access – but for monetizing content, for corporate communication, staff training, compliance in the workplace and sales enablement.
So in the perfect forum provided by the FIAT/IFTA seminar, made up of Media Asset Management’s key developers and early adopters, it’s time to recognise that MAM has finally come of age and is now a powerful and affordable tool for all kinds of businesses and organisations.