When it comes to integrating separate vendor components in the media workflow, APIs are the glue that binds everything together. They are an essential tool which allows solutions to communicate and exchange data with each other. When an integration is done well, APIs ensure system fluency throughout the workflow, from retrieving asset information buried within the archive store, to content processing tasks. But they are not without limitations.
So far in this blog series, we’ve explored what it means to have system fluency and considered why it’s important to ask the right questions at the start of the RFP process. Now, we’ll focus on how understanding API limitations can help broadcasters and media organisations to achieve a better outcome.
Transparency is not guaranteed
Vendors can be guarded about API documentation, and it’s sometimes difficult to know the ‘build’ requirement that you are buying into. While most vendors provide API documentation, it’s not always easy to determine the level of complexity or the sophistication of the API. Vendors may also have restrictions on certain features, that limit the functionality which can be achieved and might not match a broadcasters workflow aspirations. In some cases, API documentation may not be complete or accurate, and this makes it challenging to integrate solutions smoothly.
To someone who has a topline comprehension of API documentation, after a cursory review, an API may well seem sufficient to meet the organisation’s needs. If an implementation project is completed on that basis, it won’t be long before the cracks start to show in live workflows. User requests will return the wrong information and without intervention, the system will eventually breakdown. Had the right knowledge and expertise been available at the point when the API documentation was reviewed, those issues could have been avoided.
The problem with workarounds
Media workflows are complex beasts, and it’s not unusual for a workaround to have been put in place to solve an immediate integration issue. The problem with workarounds is that by changing how the solutions are intended to be implemented, they can create further headaches down the line, which can result in unforeseen challenges. APIs work by providing a standardised interface for applications to communicate with each other. When you operate in a way that diverges from the standard, it becomes much harder to slot the separate pieces together unless you understand the nuance of integration. It’s also more challenging to foresee problems that may arise during the implementation.
Having said that, an expertly integrated system will be able to handle requests that diverge from the standard. Being able to handle exceptions to the rule is important, because people work differently and not everyone will engage with the system in the same way. Just as crucial as being able to manage the exception, is that the system can communicate what it needs when it isn’t able to fulfil the request in the way that the user wants.
Project scopes can change
It’s essential to have an agreed upon project scope and an understanding of the requirements, before integrating different solutions. This means companies should be crystal clear about their objectives. To truly understand what a media organisation is trying to achieve when it embarks on an integration project, it takes more than just IT, cloud, or technical knowledge. It takes a deep understanding of the day-to-day stresses put upon each link in the chain, and how they differ at a post-production studio versus at a broadcaster or OTT platform.
Of course, project scopes can and do change over time, and different requirements can arise as the project progresses, or as third parties become involved. To manage this and to avoid communication issues, a highly flexible approach is needed. Rigidly trying to impose a solution decided on before all of the information was available will not work in the media organisation’s favour. Finding and implementing the right infrastructure solution tailored to suit an individual business’ needs does. Developments in cloud engineering are happening all the time, so it’s important to find a technology partner that is always up to date on next-gen solutions you might not have considered.
The 7fivefive team has extensive technical experience in broadcast architecture. We understand how cloud engineering and broadcast systems gel together for optimum results. We are committed to finding and implementing the right infrastructure to meet your organisation’s individual needs, whatever they may be. Get in touch to find out more.