About Enlighten Designs
Established in 1998 and based in Hamilton, New Zealand, Enlighten Designs is one of New Zealand’s largest website design companies delivering innovative and customer focused technology solutions. Their clients range from medium enterprises to large corporate and government organizations. While Enlighten Designs relies on its own infrastructure based in Auckland to serve its client base, leveraging the cloud for overflow capacity has been very rewarding.
Enlighten Designs uses Amazon Web Services (AWS) to stream live sporting events. Recent events include the 2010 cricket series consisting of both One Day Internationals and Test cricket series between New Zealand and Pakistan, and the Winter Olympics Vancouver 2010. Both instances have been streamed over the Sky Sports website. “AWS has made our streaming process for both the Black Caps series and Winter Olympics extremely easy to implement and maintain.”
Why Amazon Web Services
The company does not utilize AWS 100% of the time, as their existing server infrastructure based in Auckland, New Zealand meets the day-to-day hosting needs of the clients. However with the current load already in place, successfully implementing and hosting these live streaming events required external server capability as their single streaming platform had insufficient bandwidth to cover both events. AWS has proved to be a reliable and cost effective solution which has enabled them to accurately quote and then successfully deliver on their promises. As Alex Taylor, Lead Developer at Enlighten Designs explains, “Had we invested in the cost of the physical hardware required to pull off these projects, we would have been looking at a minimum of $70,000. This does not take in to account the people resources needed to configure and install the servers to meet specification, or the amount of bandwidth required to spread over the load. A conservative estimate would be well over $100,000, and even then we would have had no idea what resources were required to meet demand.”
While using AWS as part of the live streaming solution, they have deployed instances on Amazon Elastic Cloud Compute (Amazon EC2) to power the underlying infrastructure for streaming live footage of the events. The team at Enlighten Designs shares the architecture (see Architecture Diagram below) designed to stream the cricket series between New Zealand and Pakistan. For the Winter Olympics event, the architecture differs slightly; essentially, all the streaming of content begins at an origin server, and then spreads across 5 additional edge servers to connect to a load-balancer to allow even bandwidth distribution, ensuring a reliable service for viewers.
Figure 1: Enlighten Designs Architecture on AWS
By using Real Time Messaging Protocol (RTMP), the streaming audio and video is delivered to the servers via a Flash player over a secure HTTPS connection through Wowza Media Server 2. Each edge server then allows for around 250 streams. To accurately monitor and maintain the correct load, a Firefox plug-in known as Elasticfox is also being used by the team. The ElasticFox tool allows for an easy-to-view dashboard with one-click functionality to scale up or down additional resources as streaming levels change.
Configuring environments on Amazon EC2 has been easy and intuitive for the Enlighten Designs team enabling quick deployments. “A big advantage we found was that the AWS servers are preconfigured and all that was required was uploading XML files to meet specifications. This resulted in dramatic reductions in overall cost to Enlighten; and along with the scalability of resources depending on demand effectively made any solution other than AWS untenable.”
Successful streaming of these two events has increased the company’s confidence in usage of AWS for future clients too. As Travis Houghton, Sales Manager states, “From a Sales perspective, I appreciated the clear, understandable pricing which makes it very easy to deliver project estimates and give clear indications on pricing to our clients. Aside from that, the way AWS is so incredibly scalable, and if we take the Winter Olympics as an example there was no real way to know what capacity would be needed. We got so much confidence and assurance through knowing we could easily pull on extra server resources as needed.”