European media giant taps OpenStack-AWS hybrid cloud to accelerate time to market
- Industry: Media & Entertainment
- Headquarters: Germany HQ, multi-national audience
- Size: 6,000 employees
As a leader in European TV broadcasting, digital content, and e-commerce, Munich-based ProSiebenSat.1 Group is now one of the largest media companies on the continent. Since 2000, German and Austrian stations and multinational production, including Germany’s Next Topmodel and Promi (Celebrity) Big Brother, have built a strong business foundation. Now, emerging online offerings and increasing mobile access are fueling substantial and dynamic growth.
ProSiebenSat.1, with 6,000 employees, ranks number one in German TV ads and reaches 42 million households across the region. Yet the company constantly pushes into new markets such as HD content, streaming video, and travel websites, as well as new geographies including Hong Kong, Israel, and the U.S. Notably, its maxdome video-ondemand portal has positioned the company atop Germany’s online video market with more than 60,000 titles for TV, PC, consoles, and mobile devices.
Dynamic digital offerings to media savvy audiences, however, require substantial technology investment. But, with many decentralized business units, ProSiebenSat.1 maintains varied IT environments. Thus, the company’s global technology team decided to evaluate unified software development and IT infrastructure options in an effort to solidify market leadership.
ProSiebenSat.1 Group is the parent company to more than 20 business units and subsidiaries formed over many years and locations. Regional stations such as Sat.1, Kabel Eins, and Sixx report to the primary ProSiebenSat.1 TV business while content production, ad sales, and e-commerce reside in federated divisions. This decentralized structure has allowed teams across the company to drive innovation and growth.
While each business has a tailored approach to software development and platforms, all face similar IT challenges. Fast-paced markets require rapid and creative content development, and competitive forces yield cost and data protection pressure.
Faster Time-to Market and Lower Risk
Provisioning of new servers often took days and hindered business agility. To speed time-to-market, some teams turned to Amazon Web Services (AWS). However, not all production applications were best suited for the public cloud deployments.
Other divisions migrated to VMware-based virtualized server environments, and a few maintained bare metal and legacy compute environments. Emerging development teams leveraged LAMP stacks, node.js, and MongoDB. But with this varied approach, not all teams had adopted the latest IT best practices such as continuous integration and deployment (CI/CD) and breaking IT silos.
More recently, data protection risks caught the attention of ProSiebenSat.1 business leaders, most notably those using public cloud services. The company embraced strong data protection policies, but reliance on U.S. cloud providers brought security concerns.
A Unified IT Platform
Many divisions saw a need for change but were undecided on their direction – increase technology investments, embrace public clouds, or utilize centralized IT. A unified IT platform could lead to stronger central expertise and allow divisions to focus on market leadership and innovation. Furthermore, a central IT team could more efficiently manage vendor contracts.
With sponsorship of a few ProSiebenSat.1 engineering groups, the central IT team within the Global CIO office set out to explore state-of-the-art, unified software development and IT infrastructure. The team sought a single platform that could meet all business units’ needs – availability, cost, security, and time-to-market.
Other entertainment, online commerce, and gaming companies had recently adopted OpenStack open source private clouds, which made this platform a practical place to start the search. Furthermore, OpenStack could offer flexible and automated Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) to enable the company’s emerging DevOps culture.
The new platform, however, had to support a direct connection with AWS for bi-directional workload migration based on an application’s availability, cost, scale, or security needs. Other requirements included usage visibility and billing charge backs, as well as performance and uptime transparency. Lastly, the global IT team wanted a truly open platform they could constantly improve.
“Our goal is to design a platform that will be used throughout the business, that incorporates all the latest IT best practices,” says Bosc.
Within the centralized platform search, the ProSiebenSat.1 global IT team wanted to validate an existing workload and believed a cloud-ready web application would be a good choice. Furthermore, validating an application running on AWS that showed improved flexibility, cost, and security would help reach their goals.
The first step of the Central Technology Initiative, however, was to design and test a platform architecture in a high availability environment where a server failure would have no impact on uptime. This required an integration with ProSiebenSat.1’s existing load balancing solution.
OpenStack Platform and Mirantis Services
Global IT evaluated the OpenStack cloud platform and quickly found it met the company’s needs. Developers could access resources through APIs without talking to IT, whichwould reduce provisioning times from days to minutes. Operations teams could allocate resources but still maintain control through quotas and identity services. And both teamshad visibility of available and used resources through portals and dashboards.
The team also evaluated VMware’s vCloud but found it was more expensive and had limited APIs. Thus, the team confidently moved to conduct the validation on OpenStack. But they needed a technology partner to help.
Global IT had previously met Mirantis and reached out again. Immediately, the team found Mirantis to be an attractive partner because of its Use Case Validation Service, which includes the design, deployment, and validation of a customer specified OpenStack-based workload. The service also includes knowledge transfer, documentation, and ongoing support within a fixed cost and time frame.
ProSiebenSat.1’s global IT team also contacted Canonical but found the company to be less responsive than Mirantis and have fewer resources. Furthermore, Canonical did not have a similar consultative service.
Use Case Validation
Impressed with the validation service, ProSiebenSat.1 contracted Mirantis, and the project was launched. Quickly, a plan was defined, and a program manager assigned deployment resources. The project leveraged the Mirantis reference architecture and Fuel software, an OpenStack project pioneered by Mirantis, which rapidly deploys and manages cloud components.
After detailed requirements discussions, Mirantis and ProSiebenSat.1 decided to deploy several nodes with Swift object storage, Neutron networking, and Ubuntu and KVM on the compute nodes. The architecture also included MongoDB, Ceilometer for metering/monitoring, and Sahara for analytics.
Thereafter, Mirantis deployed the cloud with three availability zones for failover testing and developed an integration between the platform and existing A10 Networks load balancers. And ProSiebenSat.1 set up the AWS Direct Connect using private networking addresses.
The first application tested by Mirantis was a single-sign-on workload for a video-on-demand service, which ran in production on AWS. This application used SaltStack for orchestration and included a node.js front-end, NSQ message queue middleware, and a clustered MongoDB back-end.
After a few modifications to the OpenStack platform deployed in ProSieben.Sat1’s Frankfurt datacenter, the application met all validation criteria and the project was complete.
ProSieben.Sat1’s platform validation confirmed the IT team’s assumption that an OpenStack private cloud would benefit the three key stakeholders – IT operations, software developers, and business leaders.
For IT operations, a centralized private cloud would allow the global and divisional IT teams to focus on new developer tools and cloud features, not on tickets and provisioning. Automated infrastructure management could now be distributed to developers, which saves time and resources across many groups.
For developers, centralized OpenStack IaaS delivers a best-of-class platform with test and development tools to enable DevOps practices. Virtual machines can be provisioned in minutes versus days, eliminating old routines of help desk tickets bouncing back and forth between groups. And developers now have the visibility to see what platform resources they’re using on a daily basis, which is important to their business.
And for business leaders, the OpenStack cloud improves agility and timeto-market, lowers risk, and reduces operational costs. “Public clouds can be quite a bit more expensive than running a private cloud on our own location,” says Bosc. “You can do the math pretty quickly and see the savings add up.”
The first business unit to fully migrate to the new platform used only the OpenStack part of the cloud. After just two months, the organization saved a whopping 60% in hosting costs alone, due to its ability to tailor resources to what it actually needed, rather than having to overprovision resources because of rigidly predefined instance sizes with AWS.
Additional business units soon followed, including some previously AWS-based applications that run multiple websites with millions of users. Currently, the company is hosting 15 e-commerce platforms on the hybrid cloud platform, deployed on hundreds of VMs, with most running on OpenStack and a significant portion on AWS. A small team cloud operators efficiently manages the entire platform, leveraging Salt’s automated configuration management capabilities to quickly provision resources on OpenStack and AWS.
The global IT team has been continuously implementing OpenStack cloud improvements including adding more DevOps tools as well as containers for automated application deployment. After using Mirantis OpenStack as part of the hybrid cloud for more than two years, the company is now working with the Mirantis services team to migrate to Mirantis Cloud Platform, which will enable them to upgrade from Fuelbased OpenStack Kilo to OpenStack Ocata, migrate to OpenContrail to improve management of subnets, and streamline operations through its DriveTrain lifecycle management system. Additionally, MCP could potentially enable the global IT team to add containers-as-a-service (CaaS) and baremetal provisioning capability, as part of its larger goal of providing self-service infrastructure for any kind of workload requested by customers or partners.
- Improve time-to-market & DevOps process
- Strengthen data protection services
- Centralize & modernize IT infrastructure, lower costs
- OpenStack IaaS from Mirantis
- AWS Direct Connect & OpenStack hybrid cloud
- Salt configuration management
- Faster provisioning, from days to minutes
- Reduced risk & costs, including 60% savings in hosting costs after only 2 months
- Improved IT operations efficiencies integrations