Challenge of Scale Part 7 - Digital Asset Management

  • 21-Jan-2013

We've been writing about the challenges of scale in the enterprise, looking at it from the angle of each of the different technologies we cover. My colleagues have already covered various definitions and interpretations of the term "scale," so let's now look at some typical challenges of scale when it comes to Digital Asset Management.

In many ways, the challenges of scale in DAM are similar those my colleagues already wrote about with Cloud File Sharing and Media Asset Management, but there are a few DAM-specific differences I'll address here.

Workgroup & Marketing Team Origins

DAM technology originated as a departmental tool: a sort of "iPhoto on steroids," enabling marketers or photographers to organize and search their brand assets or snapshots over the last year (or more) of photo shoots. When we first started evaluating the technology about 5 years ago, the primary complaint from most enterprises customers was lack of scalability. "We took it beyond the marketing department and it croaked."

Today, though, about half the vendors we cover in our DAM vendor evaluation research are large-enterprise or large-implementation suitable, while many we categorize as workgroup or departmental are still barely scalable beyond a few dozen users and a few thousand assets. 

All vendors will tell you their platforms are "enterprise grade." Don't believe them.  If the real story is that DAM systems range from single-user desktop applications to full-blown enterprise software systems, how do you know the difference?

Numbers of Assets, Simultaneous Users

DAM system scalability becomes an enterprise issue when:

  • Hundreds of thousands or millions of digital assets are under management, rather than just hundreds or tens of thousands
  • There are hundreds or thousands of end-users, and often half or more of those users are external to the enterprise. For example, ad agencies or media production firms often need to collaborate and distribute assets to hundreds or thousands of customers or artists, and there is often a heavy occurrence of simultaneous logon of the user base
  • Large numbers of assets are ingested and outgested in bulk, often with transformation or transcoding happening during the process, which heavily taxes any technology infrastructure

When size really does matter

As pointed out previously in our post about Cloud File Sharing systems, with DAM systems in large-scale environments, you should always plan to test how a system can handle:

  Large individual file sizes

A sizable volume of files

Large number of big files

Ingesting and outgesting files in bulk

Bulk metadata tagging and modification

Another key concern for DAM systems at scale is the importance of batch or bulk metadata assignment and modifications. Because metadata is so vital for searching non-textual files -- and oftentimes bulk tagging is required for a specific brand marketing campaign, packaging project, or media production project -- ease of use for this functionality, as well as the speed that these adjustments can be made in the metadata database, become critical to good scalability within a DAM system.

The heavy lifting of transform and transcode 

Lastly, don't underestimate the importance of scaling your transcoding and transformation services. In large-scale DAM implementations, you're often required to run a powerful server just to handle format conversions of images and video to ensure they're delivered in the right format to the right channels.

If you have more questions or need help with your enterprise DAM project, feel free to contact me.

Our customers say...

"Real Story Group offers exhaustive coverage of globally available Digital Asset Management Research products. I have seen their reports and have compared them with the ones by Gartner and Forrester. Real Story Group's report on DAM systems is the best in the world."

Punit Dhandhania, Content Architecture, Workflows, Systems & Strategies Consultant, Independent Consultant

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