How Vimond grew a global broadcast media platform with AWS

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Vimond Media Services has re-engineered its distribution platform to run in the AWS cloud, to reduce distribution costs for its customers and provide them with more agile workflow – so they can exploit the broadcast industry’s move to IP-format media.

Case study key facts

Organisation Vimond Media Services
Industry Broadcast media
Current goals Reduce costs associated with distributing video content to subscribers; improve video management workflows with more agile tools
Current approach Vimond has used a variety of AWS technologies to create a new cloud-based video distribution platform, from its previous on-premises system; it’s continuing to work with AWS services to provide more on-cloud tools.
Outcome A tightly-integrated set of AWS services has enabled Vimond to improve its value proposition while also reducing content distribution costs. The company is currently talking to its existing customer base, aiming to migrate all those using its heritage on-premise platform to its new cloud platform in the near future.
Tools and suppliers used Amazon Web Services, Kafka, Zookeeper, Cassandra, Consul, HAProxy, Unified Streaming

Organisation background

Vimond Media Solutions is part of Norway’s largest commercial broadcaster, TV 2 Group; itself owned by the Egmont media group.

TV 2 started work on making TV programmes available from a website in the 1990s, but it wasn’t until 2002 that the company looked at developing a full-blown ‘Over-The-Top’ (OTT) online content service (it launched the TV4 channel on this platform in 2004, and MTV3 in 2008). TV 2’s forays into Internet TV became very successful in Norway, where it attracted a lot of interest from regional broadcasters. Before that point, these broadcasters had to develop their own OTT services in-house: but in 2011 TV 2 spun out its Internet TV arm as Vimond, headquartered in Bergen, Norway.

From its origins serving TV 2 and the local Norwegian market (today over 30% of TV 2’s revenue is from subscriptions to its OTT services; the remainder from adverts and rights), Vimond now provides a platform (technology and expertise) that powers the services of broadcasters and other service providers globally.

Vimond has remained focused on broadcasting, and has deliberately chosen not to diversify into enterprise video. Vimond’s customers rather like the idea that they’re dealing with people from a broadcasting heritage who understand their industry and the challenges they are facing, rather than dealing with a pure technology company that’s moved into the broadcast arena.

MWD Advisors spoke to Miguel Silva, Vimond’s Chief Commercial Officer, for this case study.

Project background

Vimond’s first offerings were sold using an enterprise software licence model, but the company has evolved its approach. The company responded to customers’ changing requirements by investing in developing a cloud-based platform, which it now tailors for clients using professional services.

Silva reports that ‘mentally’ the company shifted towards a cloud-based platform gradually, but the tipping point came in late 2014 when a customer (also part of the Egmont Group) wanted to launch an OTT service but did not have an operations department to run such a service. Vimond seized the opportunity to develop a cloud-based offering from scratch, which it’s since refined and extended to create a platform for all its customers. The cloud platform it developed was launched in 2015.

Although Vimond does still have some legacy customers using its on-premises software, it no longer offers that option to new customers; it offers only its cloud platform now, and is providing assistance to help its legacy customers migrate to the cloud.

Implementation characteristics and status

Vimond hasn’t chosen to implement its service in a multi-tenant public cloud (because of its customers’ security concerns). Instead it offers a private cloud service, deploying a dedicated AWS account for each customer’s instance of the Vimond platform. It’s therefore not able to pass on the more ‘extreme’ economic benefits of pure public SaaS; but still, it has found the benefits of cloud to be significant. Benefits cited include agility in new product development, scalability, global availability, security, ease of multi-platform support, and competitive pricing.

Vimond’s architecture, showing its use of Amazon services ELB, Route 53, S3, and RDS, is shown in the figure below.

Source: Vimond Media Solutions

The approach

Vimond’s CTO Glenn Pedersen drove the project to move to the cloud, and it was the CTO’s department (for product development) and COO Andreas Helland’s department (for operations) that jointly took it forward.

Vimond settled on AWS as the base for its cloud platform for the following reasons:

  • AWS’ scale and competitive pricing.
  • AWS’ strategy appeared to be well-aligned with Vimond’s strategy.
  • Vimond needed “everything” in order to develop its platform in the cloud, and AWS provided all the services it required under one roof.

Strategy

Vimond’s overall strategy to move to the cloud was driven by the economics of the broadcast industry. The cost of distributing content to subscribers was high, so the company needed a more efficient means by which to do this, while maintaining its world-class online video platform and tools.

Vimond’s Silva observes that the broadcast industry is moving to IP-based infrastructure – not just ‘cloud-based’, although companies can be far more agile with IP format media in the cloud (and thereby avoiding the use of legacy OTT broadcast systems altogether).

Deploying its platform in the cloud enabled Vimond not only to exploit economies of scale and a develop cost-effective business model for its use case; it also found that AWS has begun to provide many of the tools its customers need, meaning it’s able to offer customers much more efficient workflows.

Organisation and people

Adoption

Vimond hasn’t encountered much resistance in moving its platform to the cloud. Since the company went through its own internal debate about the move to cloud, it has found that this experience has helped it explain the affordances of cloud offerings to customers so that they understand and appreciate the new model.

That said, the company reports that it has not really felt the need to ‘evangelise’ about the benefits of cloud, because the broadcast media industry has already been primed to explore the potential benefits of cloud-based services. However, in some instances, it has needed to explore its customers’ security and access concerns (since OTT services are mission critical). Vimond has needed to assure customers that, wherever content is stored, it is held securely – and Vimond ensures that the systems are inherently redundant by making use of AWS’ different availability zones, and so on. AWS’ portfolio of certification and security measures has helped Vimond ease its customers’ fears, with Vimond constructing a robust and secure service on top of a robust and secure cloud-based infrastructure in AWS. Once that’s understood, Silva explains, the economics of cloud “sell themselves”.

In some contracts, Vimond has deployed some parts of its service in Microsoft’s Azure cloud (usually because a customer already had managed services outside of AWS’ infrastructure). The company continues to keep a watch on the relative merits of different cloud providers’ offerings, actively assessing and considering what the best platform is going to be for its own customers. However AWS has consistently remained Vimond’s cloud provider of choice, because of the breadth of its service portfolio, its commitment to innovation, its security assurances, and its pricing. When it has come to talking to customers about where Vimond’s cloud infrastructure resides, mostly the company encounters discussions of the relative benefits of running systems on-premise vs on a cloud, rather than debating the benefits of AWS against other clouds.

Roles and resources

Vimond’s cloud platform was developed in-house using only the company’s own resources. The CTO’s department continues to be responsible for developing the software, but does so now optimised for AWS (microservices architecture, use of Lambda functions, etc.) – and although this does represent a new underlying approach, overall the company hasn’t felt the need to overhaul its team skillsets in order to exploit AWS’ technologies. However, Silva notes that product development people are now also engaged in educating other teams about the possibilities that cloud can now offer.

The COO’s department, however, has needed to acquire specialist expertise in running AWS services for its customers around the world. One of Vimond’s engineers has stepped into a role as the company’s ‘data security czar’, reviewing both AWS and its own security (technology and procedures) to ensure continued and future compliance (such as EU GDPR in 2018).

Governance

The move to the cloud hasn’t affected Vimond’s governance arrangements. Silva comments that this is more of an issue for its customers, as the company doesn’t take responsibility for content regulations – they’re up to the customer to comply with. However, he does note that AWS’ numerous certifications and governance-related services do assist its customers in achieving and demonstrating compliance with regulations.

Technology and infrastructure

Depending on the needs of each customer, the Vimond platform can be either fully or partially deployed in the cloud. Individual platform services, such as content encoding and transcoding, can be installed on-premise; alternatively the platform can be integrated with other popular on-premise encoding and transcoding solutions.

The results

Vimond hasn’t undertaken a formal ROI calculation exercise, but qualitatively it reports improvements in scalability, cost-effectiveness and responsiveness to the extent that it no longer needs to undertake cloud business case reviews; the case is accepted “without argument” as Vimond’s business-as-usual.

The company has found that the combination of a more efficient video content distribution platform in the cloud, readily available tools, and security certifications has enabled it to increase the value of its proposition while also controlling costs.

Recommendations for adopters

In our conversations with Vimond’s Chief Commercial Officer Miguel Silva for this case study, he offered recommendations for organisations embarking on a similar initiative:

  • The physical world has yet to catch up with the cloud world in terms of legal structures, physical boundaries, and so on. Content can now be both hosted in, and distributed via, different jurisdictions – and organisations need to be mindful of the implications and risks of this shift. In a broadcast context, providers need to be aware of the risks of intrusions and be confident that their chosen cloud provider can guard against that. Content rights for broadcast video don’t specify where content is hosted, as long as only those with the appropriate rights to access it can do so, and appropriate controls are placed upon them as to what they can do with that content.
  • Consider which cloud provider is right for you, so you can offer your customers what they need. Be mindful of the options, and of how the market is evolving; be prepared to justify the decision to remain with a provider, or have a plan to migrate to another provider if compelled to do so.

Best practice insights

Vimond has responded to shifts in the broadcast media industry (to the use of IP-based protocols), and demands for lower-cost onward content distribution in global markets, by migrating its offering from an on-premise system to a cloud-based platform on AWS. It’s done this very quickly: from an initial offering in 2015, Vimond is already in discussion with its on-premise customers to migrate all of them to the cloud in the near future.

In doing so, Vimond has not only addressed original issues around cost and efficiency: it’s also leveraged new cloud-based services to provide a platform capable of delivering much more agile end-to-end workflows around video content and OTT services.

In an approach we’ve seen other players in other industries adopt, Vimond has chosen to live in AWS’ cloud-based world for one set of sound business reasons, but once there it has found that the wealth of other services available (and the ease with which cloud-based content can flow around those services to get work done) provides additional encouragement to invest further in AWS and leverage additional services as part of its core offering to customers.

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