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Take the Instance, For Instance

Last week, while wandering through yet another “cloud” conversation and flagging unfamiliar terms to tackle, one came up over and over and over.

“Instance” is another everyday word that takes on a completely different meaning, when speaking with Software People. (Not unlike “edge,” to Distribution Network People.)

Here’s an example, from that set of notes: “What that means in terms of scaling is that you can deploy instances much more on-demand. So we were able to get instances scaled and deployed really fast, within a few seconds, and, as a result, all that new content too.”

If you were to look up what “instance” means in software terms, you’d immediately bump into an “object.” Not an object like your keys or anything you see near you right now, because the trouble with software is that it’s all pretty much invisible, unless you can see in code.

An “instance,” in this instance, is a glob of code. It’s typically a software application that no longer runs on its own special piece of hardware, and isn’t necessarily able to see or talk to other apps on other special pieces of hardware that are also mission-critical to whatever the purpose is.

In this case, the purpose is the sending of video — linear, on-demand, over the top, under the bottom, whatever — to the screen that wants to display it. And the “instance,” or “object,” is software speak for making that app run on general-purpose servers, instead of vendor-specific gear.

Let’s say the app’s purpose is ingesting and storing content. Instead of the “old way” of ingesting — either pulling it down from a satellite or off of a backbone fiber, then pouring it into a purpose-built, probably proprietary storage server — the “cloud” way is to treat assets as “instances,” which can be cloned nearly instantaneously.

The benefit: finding and using storage space, quickly and efficiently. One of the good things about cloud — video or otherwise — is that it upends the (prior) need to submit a requisition for more storage, then wait four weeks, then order it, install it, and activate it.

That way is particularly snarly for those unexpected “surge moments.” In the world of IP, the peak metric item isn’t the Super Bowl. It’s the FIFA World Cup. When suddenly6 millions of people want something, in IP, it’s critical to be able to spin up computing, storage and connectivity resources, really fast. For instance.

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