Cloud computing is an increasingly popular concept for enterprises trying to control their content and technology acquisition and distribution costs, enabling them to get more "bang for the buck" by turning many I.T. and publishing functions that used to be managed in-house over to third party infrastructure providers. Estimates of cost-efficiency benefits from using cloud computing services range in the 10x to 20x range over traditional in-house software solutions, so the motivation to use cloud computing services is clear. But as much as cloud computing is gaining in popularity, the ability to have business controls over who gets what content in cloud computing in a way that can scale with a company's operations has been a challenge for many companies on both sides of the content equation.
My recent trip to speak at the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco on Content Nation brought me down the bay to a company in Santa Clara that is working actively to build content policy controls right into cloud networking infrastructure. Sonoa is a company that brings the problems of managing content distribution and management via cloud computing down to a level that fits many publishers and their consumer and enterprise customers like a glove. From the perspective of Sonoa, the problems of content distribution in cloud computing revolve around now to meet client expectations for content and applications services in a Web/intranet environment and how to enable service providers to understand who is using their content in a transparent and efficient manner and to establish quality of service controls. The solution to these problems from Sonoa's view is to give both sides in this struggle more intelligent network management tools to help both sides monitor, control and understand who's getting what content more effectively.
The core of Sonoa technology is in essence very efficient software that can operate in top of most popular Internet and intranet network router devices and identify which content and services are getting to which clients and end-users and to control both access and service quality. Because Sonoa technology works at a very low level in network infrastructure, it's easy to implement Sonoa capabilities without interfering with the overall design and management of both networks and applications platforms. This is a key factor for content that's delivered via feeds, digital objects such as video streams, widgets and embeddable software and services defined via programming standards such as SOAP and REST. Unlike DRM systems, which try to do the near-impossible (and largely undesirable) task of "locking up" digital objects once they've arrived on a digital platform, Sonoa is focusing on whether and how digital services get delivered to specific clients and the measurement of how they are used and maintained. This makes a lot of sense especially for digital services that rely on a network connection to remote resources to deliver their value: why lock up the payload that you're delivering when you know that they need that network tether anyway?
Sonoa Systems capabilities can be delivered via its own networking cloud as well as via a client's own networking. In other words, the policies for accessing content can be built right into a highly efficient cloud networking infrastructure, making administration highly cost-efficient and execution of service-level agreements with content licensees very efficient. I think of these capabilities as a "content policy cloud" - in other words, Sonoa technologies help to build into network infrastructure the implementation of agreeements between a publisher and an enterprise partner or client and makes it easy to enforce and monitor those access and service agreements. Unlike typical networking infrastructure, Sonoa's technology does this for individual content services and objects. This aligns perfectly with where many enterprise and media publishers are taking their business models - towards agreements in which their content gets integrated any number of ways into their clients' platforms. Instead of turning that embeddable content loose in the client's cloud and losing track of it, Sonoa enables complex deployments in client platforms to be monitored clearly at most any scale.
Sonoa technology enables publishers and enterprises to work cooperatively with their business partners to work towards both specific access limits and specific service level agreements that meet both parties' needs. Unlike earlier attempts at baking content distribution controls into network infrastructure such as Bang Networks, Sonoa Systems has the benefit of more mature and widely implemented object programming standards, more acceptance of external services coming in through the Web to enterprises and a more highly scalable design for supporting clients. Instead of beginning to wheeze after a few hundred clients are supported, Sonoa has the ability to scale up to mega-clouds of high performance content streams.
Sonoa Systems has a growing client list, including media companies such as MTV and Warner Music Group and enterprises such as J.P. Morgan, Pfizer, Wells Fargo and IBM. I find it very interesting that major enterprises interested in both productivity and security are opting for this technology. To me, that means that some enterprise-oriented publishers are behind the curve in terms of what their major clients are putting in place to implement and monitor content services. In earlier days we always worried about feeds and APIs creating "escaped" content services; with a service such as Sonoa Systems, it becomes far easier with this era's networked services to monitor usage more easily and to implement levels of service, access and performance that are easy to administer and that allow clients to use embeddable content in their own applications far more easily. Our visit to Sonoa Systems was well worth a trip down to the shallow end of the bay; I hope that major publishers have a chance to check out this emerging technology that can help them to forge more effective business models in today's content distribution environment.