About the Berlin Philharmonic
The Berlin Philharmonic, founded in Berlin in 1882, is considered one of the best symphony orchestras in the world. Sir Simon Rattle has been the principal conductor of the Berlin Philharmonic, and director of the Berliner Philharmonie concert hall, since 2002. The Berlin Philharmonic operates its own video platform—the Digital Concert Hall—where listeners can hear live concerts and excerpts of concerts in High Definition, with bandwidths of up to 2,500 kbits/s. The recordings can be viewed directly on the organization's website, on Internet TVs, or through the app.
When the Berlin Philharmonic began building the Digital Concert Hall in 2009, the organization was aware of the challenge it was taking on. "We provide our listeners in almost every country in the world with long, high-definition video recordings with classical music," says Alexander McWilliam, director of software development for Digital Concert Hall. "This does not allow for any interruptions, because the video needs to be cached somewhere along the route for transmission."
Berlin Phil Media GmbH, which runs Digital Concert Hall, first tried using traditional Content Delivery Network (CDN) providers to deliver its product. Every provider, however, had the same problem: content is only requested from the origin server and served in the CDN when the first user accesses it. This led to constant interruptions in the long, high-definition videos available through Digital Concert Hall, which severely affected the listening experience. Because Digital Concert Hall provides a large volume of live recordings and listeners are located all over the world, it is a relatively rare occurrence for a user to access a video that is already available in the CDN.
Another problem for the providers was bandwidth bottlenecks. Whenever a user encountered interruptions from the CDN provider due to too narrow bandwidth, Berlin Phil Media GmbH had no option than to report the interruption to the CDN provider and hope that they would resolve it quickly.
The Berlin Philharmonic hired tecRacer, an Advanced Consulting Partner in the AWS Partner Network (APN), to help them solve this problem. "tecRacer has made a name for itself in Germany, both as an AWS partner as well as an Adobe Media Server solution provider. They had precisely the expertise we needed," says McWilliam.
Why Amazon Web Services
The Berlin Philharmonic's entire library includes more than 2 TB of video data and grows by around 400 GB per year. The video data are stored in Amazon Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3) and distributed to the AWS regions in Ireland, Virginia, Tokyo, Oregon, Sao Paulo, and Sydney.
Instead of using a traditional CDN, the Berlin Philharmonic runs its own Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2) instances in each of the regions listed above, which in turn deliver videos to users. An Adobe Media Server then assumes delivery. The Adobe Media Server has very high demands on the performance of the underlying file system, which is why the entire library is mirrored on Amazon Elastic Block Store (Amazon EBS) volumes that are directly attached to the corresponding Amazon EC2 instances, allowing the Adobe Media Server to quickly carry out file operations.
Amazon Route 53 uses latency-based routing to distribute users through the Amazon EC2 instances in the various AWS regions. This ensures every user accesses the Amazon EC2 instance that provides him or her with the best viewing experience.
Implementation of the globally distributed streaming infrastructure took less than one month, including proprietary development of a URL-signing mechanism.
Amazon EC2 features such high throughput rates that only one m1.xlarge or even one m1.large instance is needed to run in each region. This setup is able to deliver up to 200 HD video streams at the same time.
An additional advantage is that users who have connectivity problems because their Internet service provider directs them to the closest AWS region through an overloaded node can be easily rerouted to other regions. Instead of having to depend on a CDN provider to address issues, customers can switch off the autopilot in their profile and select a different AWS region on their own.
For the Berlin Philharmonic, AWS provides the flexibility needed to come up with entirely new solutions to demanding problems and implement them quickly. "AWS's performance portfolio is so broad that a solution can always be found. We are excited about AWS's flexibility, performance and transparency," McWilliam says.
“AWS's performance portfolio is so broad that a solution can always be found. We are excited about AWS's flexibility, performance and transparency.”
Alexander McWilliam, Director of Online Development