Channel 4 is a publicly-owned and commercially-funded UK public service broadcaster, with a statutory remit to deliver high-quality, innovative, alternative content that challenges the status quo. Launched in 1982, Channel 4 is leading the way with innovative programming and digital services.
Piksel Group has been working with Channel 4 since 2006, helping to deliver, develop, and manage its VOD service across multiple devices and platforms.
As one of the first broadcasters worldwide to provide VOD services, Channel 4 continually develops its VOD platform and apps to meet viewer demand. With a registered customer base that has grown to 22 million viewers, Channel 4’s systems and technologies need to scale efficiently; they recently implemented a cloud based micro-services architecture, but this also served to highlight additional system constraints, and opportunities to improve.
One of the key systems within this ecosystem orchestrates the collation and distribution of metadata and video assets from Channel 4’s back office systems before delivering them to Channel 4’s flagship digital service, “All 4”, which offers simulcast, catchup and download viewing across many devices.
The move to microservices for All 4 delivered faster feature deployment and improved maintainability, but the orchestration system remained hosted in a Piksel Group managed private cloud environment. In order to fully realize the benefits and gain end to end scalability and flexibility, the decision was taken to migrate the orchestration solution into the AWS public cloud.
The biggest challenge however was time. Could we migrate the system, including its database, onto AWS quickly enough to generate the efficiencies and savings that the client needed to realize as part of their challenging programme of work, unlocking important end-user improvements in the product backlog? Could we also achieve all of this within budget and demonstrate improvements to the end-user experience?
Given Piksel Group’s detailed understanding of Channel 4’s ecosystem and in-depth knowledge and experience in the migration and implement of cloud-based services, Channel 4 asked Piksel Group to deliver the solution.
Although redevelopment involving another database technology was being considered, we proposed migrating from the hosted 11g Oracle to Amazon RDS for Oracle. This pragmatic approach minimized the risk of migration whilst retaining long-term cost reduction opportunities for Channel 4.
The migration of an Oracle database from the managed datacenter to Amazon RDS for Oracle was investigated with a proof of concept which demonstrated technical feasibility; leveraging Piksel Group’s prior experience of this technology and our knowledge of potential issues we were also able to illustrate the reduction in the amount of development work and testing time required to complete the migration, as well as cost and risk mitigation.
During initiation we identified a number of redundant database resources, and working with the developers we employed capacity analysis and trending information to ensure that the RDS instances were sized correctly and only the necessary PL/SQL code and schema data were migrated.
A number of additional enhancements were also made as part of the migration:
- Standard Cloudwatch metrics were enhanced with additional AWS Lambda based monitoring to provide detailed insights into database and application performance.
- Automated database refreshes for stage, test and development environments were implemented based on the production data set
- The database was converted to Oracle Standard Edition without any loss of required performance or functionality.
“Working with Piksel and our other development partners we have been able to move critical business processes from traditional architectures to AWS RDS, enabling us to continue to develop and scale our All 4 product as our registered users base exceeds 22 million”
Orf Warr, Channel 4 Chief Technology Officer
The project employed a phased approach, migrating the pre-production environments first, then applying everything we had learned to the subsequent phases. When production migration occurred, it was with minimal disruption and manageable risk, and most importantly, delivered on time.
This project forms part of a coordinated programme to deliver long-term cost reductions, simplify deployments and increase efficiencies, whilst continuing to offer a highly available multi-site solution.
Channel 4 and Piksel Group have together reaped the benefits of automated patch management, seamless backup/recovery capabilities and transparent multi-site availability while enhancing platform metrics and alerting to include both business-specific and platform-related scenarios.
- Effective management of costs whilst supporting increased throughput
- Smooth Oracle database migration to Amazon RDS for Oracle
- Enhanced database monitoring and metrics
- Automated deployments and availability management
- Automated data refreshes
- Improved capacity and environment sizing