How to store and access (a lot) of protected content

Just read an article about iCloud on the Datamation site: “How Apple’s iCloud Will Rain On Google’s Parade”.

On rain? Everything about iCloud is a secret at the moment, except the (assumed) name. That said, Mr. Jobs may have a trick or two up his turtleneck when he announces specifics next week at the Apple Worldwide Developer Conference.

However, I come here today not to bury Apple or Google, nor to praise them. I just got to thinking about how I’d design a system that could store a massive amount of DRM-protected media (media bound for playback to a specific device or a user through a solo-use token). Then, I got to thinking other things, and magic happened.

Critical Mass: Bigger is Better
If you consider the huge number of users who purchased “I’m Yours” by Jason Mraz and then consider what it would be like to store that ONE song and DRM deltas for millions of users .. you’re looking at a lot of disk space.

iCloud and iTunes share a happy technical relationship with their users: they know who you are and what you bought. As a result, they can (theoretically) store each song in the library only once .. and then simply issue a rights token for the song’s use when requested for download or playback. Other providers may find themselves storing multiple copies of the same media (especially if unprotected), and while data deduplication is a great thing, it is only as good as an algorithm; and a 1% loss of efficiency translates into the need for many, many disks when applied in massive scale.

Connections: One Size Fits These
From my limited experience with an iPhone, an iPod and an iPad (relegated to setting them up for friends and getting them connected to Wi-Fi networks), I see the joy of having an AppleID for a consumer. Like the Windows LiveID and the Google Account, a single identity for many services is significant; especially for today’s consumers who are confronted with too many passwords for too many sites.

Ditto for the architecture: a single identity (via single sign-on) enables the ability to pass only one token while acquiring content from the system for more efficient operation. It also makes it easier to limit playback or download by device by rapid revocation whenever a device contacts the DRM provider.

On connecting to, and presenting content? A secure and homogeneous API layer for these devices that selects the content in the proper form factor for the device, verifies the AppleID and makes the user happy.

Developers, Developers, Developers
Back when silicon dinosaurs roamed the Earth (and I was coding in Visual Basic), Microsoft used a highly-successful strategy of driving adoption by luring developers to the platform. Developers deployed applications rapidly with easy-to-use tools, showed them to their employers in the enterprise, and enterprises followed suit.

Apple has done something even more interesting: they’ve achieved massive penetration into the consumer, and the developers have followed that breadth market instead. With over 350,000 applications in the App Store, developers are following the money.

There’s more (there always is).

About Michael Coates
I am a pragmatic evangelist. The products, services and solutions I write about fulfill real-world expectations and use cases. I stay up-to-date on real products I use and review, and share my thoughts here. I apply the same lens when designing an architecture, product or when writing papers. I am always looking for ways that technology can create or enhance a business opportunity .. not just technology for technology's sake. My CV says: Seasoned technology executive, leveraging years of experience with enterprise and integration architectural patterns, executed with healthy doses of business acumen and pragmatism. That's me. My web site says: Technology innovations provide a myriad of opportunities for businesses. That said, having the "latest and greatest" for its own sake isn't always a recipe for success. Business successes gained through exploiting innovation relies on analysis of how the new features will enhance your business followed by effective implementation. Goals vary far and wide: streamlining operations, improving customer experience, extending brand, and many more. In all cases, you must identify and collect the metrics you can apply to measure your success. Analysis must be holistic and balanced: business and operational needs must be considered when capitalizing on a new technology asset or opportunity.

One Response to How to store and access (a lot) of protected content

  1. Pingback: iPad – iOS + (HTML5 + Safari) x Facebook = « OpsanBlog

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