Scripps Networks Broadcasts a Cloud ApproachBy Samuel Greengard
By Samuel Greengard
Digital technology is forcing more and more companies to re-evaluate and revamp the way they do business—and the way they view IT and network resources. Within the broadcast industry, the challenges are significant. Networks must manage, store and share content; transcode video for viewing through Netflix, Amazon and others; oversee network bandwidth; and maintain robust websites and e-commerce functions—all while maintaining a secure environment.
At Scripps Networks Interactive (SNI) —which operates a number of brands, including HGTV, Cooking Channel, Travel Channel, DIY, GAC and Food Network—the need for a more flexible and agile IT infrastructure, including a more robust cloud environment, has led to comprehensive IT monitoring and management. "When we took a close look at IT a couple of years ago we realized that we had to operate in an entirely different way than in the past," explains Allen Shacklock, lead cloud architect for SNI.
The Knoxville, Tenn., firm—which had turned to Amazon Web Services (AWS) in 2012 to streamline IT and boost performance and speed—also turned to Boundary to monitor IT infrastructure and applications. Among other things, the environment provides enterprise event management, custom dashboards, contextual navigation, performance analysis and contextual driven alerts. It also uses an AWS CloudWatch Boundary plugin to periodically check for newly generated alerts and then post them to the Boundary event management system.
Shacklock says the environment, which includes a dashboard interface, has provided a way to understand network performance broader and deeper. It has ushered in a more proactive approach to managing IT resources at Scripps. "We are now able to analyze how long a process is taking and where bottlenecks and performance problems are occurring. We are able to do network topography mapping and understand how traffic is impacting application performance."
Video Encoding Wins Big Time
One of the biggest gains has centered on video encoding. "Because we're a broadcast company, we have a great deal of video content. Using cloud services, various SaaS products and AWS, we've been able to handle heavy transcoding and encoding of our content. We are able to push these assets to various partners such as Netflix and Amazon at a rate that we couldn't achieve in the past," he says. The environment has delivered significant speed gains—in some cases transcoding that required 6 months on-premises now takes place in two or three weeks. In addition, SNI has built a more reliable and stable IT infrastructure.
But the environment has also delivered other benefits. It has helped SNI build out an environment with auto-failover and redundancy, and deliver scalability that was previously unachievable. "In the past, scaling and auto-scaling capabilities would take months to complete. Now we're able to handle these tasks at the click of a button." Along the way, the initiative has helped IT become more strategic. "We are no longer relegated to simply keeping the lights on and the motor running," Shacklock concludes. "By focusing on automation we have been able to develop more strategic IT skillsets and deliver significant business benefits and results."
Photo: Alison Victoria, DIY Network
About the Author
Samuel Greengard is a contributing writer for CIO Insight. To read his previous CIO Insight article, "How to Align Business and IT Metrics," click here.