As Covid caused worldwide conferences to go all virtual, the workload began to surge on the MAP Digital streaming broadcast platform. The company needed to accelerate its DevOps process and ensure its AWS infrastructure could handle the anticipated activity spikes. After finding it difficult to address these challenges when working with a previous cloud partner, MAP Digital solved the challenge by turning to a new partner: Mission. The Mission Cloud Elevate pod reconfigured the Kubernetes cluster running on AWS to create a new, modernized containerized cluster and built an automated pipeline for deploying the streaming broadcast platform to the cluster. Then, the Mission Cloud One team provided AWS-certified experts to continuously monitor, maintain, optimize and secure the AWS environment. With help from Mission, MAP Digital reduced the load times of its streaming broadcast platform 70%. MAP Digital also decreased code deployment times 75% by streamlining the deployment pipeline that uses an easy-flowing process with fewer steps running across a single workflow. The client also benefits from system monitoring and support for conference events that take place 24x7 across the globe. In addition, Mission provides proactive resolutions for system maintenance issues and helps control the cost of the AWS environment—even as new surges in workload activity occur—by automatically scaling compute resources up and down. With these benefits, MAP Digital can ensure streaming broadcast audiences always have great experiences.
"In addition to the infrastructure component, Mission is also skilled in DevOps, and that’s a powerful combination. We could envision how Mission would help us streamline our deployment pipeline so the entire development lifecycle could flow more smoothly”
MAP Digital has a 20+ year history of providing streaming video services for large conferences that facilitate attendee engagement onsite and over the Internet for virtual attendees across the globe.
The company uses compute resources on the Amazon Web Services (AWS) platform to provision broadcasts, and when Covid hit in 2020, CTO Wes Warren knew it was time to ramp up the capacity of the AWS infrastructure. He also wanted to streamline the DevOps process to accelerate platform enhancement roll-outs.
“Our clients were going completely virtual with their conferences, so we needed our AWS infrastructure to handle thousands of more attendees watching multiple concurrent programs. We wanted to tap into a partner with superior cloud infrastructure and application container experience to make sure our Kubernetes clusters could handle the demand.”
With internal teams focused on application development, Warren hoped to find an AWS partner who could proactively analyze the infrastructure and make recommendations based on AWS best practices. “We wanted to use the latest AWS technologies—such as auto-scaling and load balancing,” Warren adds. “That would enable our streaming service platform to maintain performance and reliability during the spikes in activity we knew were coming.”
Another concern for Warren was compliance with regulations, which is critical for MAP Digital since it provides services to many large public and financial companies. “Our clients require rigorous compliance for how they distribute content via webcasts,” Warren explains. “We had to stay compliant as we scaled, and we were up against fast-approaching deadlines for the many conferences we had scheduled a year in advance. We had to turn extensive onsite productions into completely virtual experiences.”
During Warren’s career, he has managed four platforms running on AWS infrastructures. Despite challenges with a previous DevOps partner, he did not consider moving to another cloud provider.
“AWS simply operates cloud infrastructure resources better and does not rest on the technologies they currently have,” Warren says. “They are committed to constantly improving, and with the number of cloud services they offer, everyone else is playing catchup.”
To take on the challenge of making sure the AWS environment was ready for the expected surge in platform activity, MAP Digital consulted with AWS, which suggested Mission as the new partner to turn to. MAP Digital considered other partners as well, conducting a diligent vetting process—as demanded by customer compliance requirements for any IT partners MAP Digital brings on board.
Mission won the project by demonstrating a higher level of professionalism along with its ability to build compliant cloud solutions. Mission also presented how they had streamlined and simplified AWS infrastructures for other customers to make their environments more reliable and cost-effective. This gave Warren the confidence Mission was the partner he needed.
As part of the Mission Cloud Elevate service, the Mission team reconfigured Kubernetes on AWS and Amazon Elastic Kubernetes Service to create a new, modernized containerized cluster for MAP Digital. Mission also built an automated pipeline for deploying the streaming broadcast platform to the cluster.
Mission then collaborated with MAP Digital to tune the AWS resources to be sized correctly and to set up the code for the database clusters. As the streaming broadcast platform stabilized, MAP Digital’s internal developers turned their sole focus on improving user experiences. And to speed up the DevOps process, Mission integrated AWS CodeBuild and AWS CodeDeploy with the development repository. When the MAP Digital team runs QA, commits instantly deploy to the staging servers, which is a huge time saver.
A second service MAP Digital tapped into is Mission Cloud One. Through this managed cloud service, a team of AWS-certified experts continuously monitor, maintain, optimize and secure the MAP Digital environment. In particular, the security component of Mission Cloud One appealed to MAP Digital as its AWS environment is protected from cyberattacks and enables the ability to quickly identify and mitigate any breach attempts.
To assist with the strict compliance requirements from financial customers that MAP Digital needs to follow, Mission implemented security monitoring and rigorous policies for data protection and communicating alerts on potential cyberattacks. “All of our networks are highly secure and monitored all the time,” Warren says. “We get notifications from Mission when somebody's trying to access one of the machines, looking for a security hole. We can see if there’s an unusual IP address, where it's coming from, and whether someone is probing for weak spots to try to breach our system.”
“When we engaged with Mission, we gave them a specific task overview of what we wanted to accomplish with our systems, our infrastructure, and our deployment,” says Warren. “Together, we wiped the slate clean and built an environment that's streamlined and performs much better.”
As an example, the Mission DevOps team analyzed how to tune the infrastructure to enable the MAP Digital platform to achieve ideal load times, which improved the performance by about 70%. “The average load speeds are drastically better through a combination of platform tuning by Mission and our code programming—which is supported by the improved DevOps processes,” says Warren.
The MAP Digital deployment pipeline has improved as well. It’s now an easy-flowing process with fewer steps running across a single workflow. Staging, QA, and production deployments all now happen faster.
“The new DevOps process brought our development times down drastically, cutting the time in half right away,” says Warren. “When Mission did further analysis, they found a way to cut the time in half again through pre-compiling and caching. Code now deploys in just seven minutes. We also eliminated the half day of planning we normally needed for each code deployment.”
Warren also appreciates the benefits of the Cloud One service.
“We serve all time zones, so we must have 24x7 access to help. Having Mission resources monitoring our environment and providing someone we can reach out to at any time is critical because so many people rely on our internal platform to be up and running—our business partners, our clients, and the attendees of their events.”
Whenever MAP Digital needs help, Mission is quick to respond and immediately escalates incidents that require additional resources. Mission also proactively monitors for system issues and acts in advance to take care of certifications expiring on machines and drives about to fill up with mail logs.
“Mission doesn’t just take the easy way out when issues occur and put temporary solutions in place,” Warren emphasizes. “They offer options with the pros and cons of each so we can make informed decisions. They also look for long-term fixes so that problems don’t keep recurring.”
Mission has also helped MAP Digital control the cost of its AWS environment, even as the usage of the streaming broadcast platform surged during the past two years. The Mission approach goes beyond simply adding more compute resources when spikes occur to also conducting analysis to understand why—such as SQL queries that need to be fixed on the programming side. Mission also conducts audits each month to identify idle and under-utilized resources that can be taken offline or consolidated.
“Every month, we bring our average bill down just through right-sizing,” Warren points out.
Mission also helped MAP Digital with auto-scaling. The servers monitor traffic, and when they start to approach their capacity, other servers roll up into the cluster automatically. “When the event is over, the cluster automatically scales down, so we don’t pay for compute resources we no longer need,” says Warren. “We’re managing to control our costs even as we send live streaming broadcasts around the world to huge audiences. Just as importantly, we know we will always provide great experiences because Mission is monitoring our platform.”
The Mission team came through in a big way when the biggest event MAP Digital supports took a sudden detour less than 30 days before the start of the conference. After months of prep work to get the platform and onsite gear ready to go, the company hosting the conference asked MAP Digital to switch from in-person to an all-virtual conference—a 14-track program with 14 simultaneous HD live streams going to over 60,000 unique viewers globally.
“We had to shift our entire AWS infrastructure to make sure the conference worked, and with Mission’s help, it went off perfectly without a hitch,” Warren says. “Without the experience of the Mission team and the close collaboration with our team, it would've been impossible to deliver the programming. One of the reasons the cluster worked so well during this event is that Mission understands we need redundancy after redundancy. Downtime for one of our programs is not an option.”
Warren says he envisions a long-term partnership because the cost of partnering with Mission is not even close to how high the cost would be if trying to hire an internal team of DevOps resources.
“Beyond the salary savings, there’s also the onboarding delay and managing full-time employees. With Mission, you get immediate value from a team with vast experiences and a wide set of specialized technology skills. We could never get that wealth of knowledge through an internal team.”
MAP Digital has harnessed a rich ecosystem of best-of-breed technology partners to deliver a proprietary, enterprise-grade, software-as-a-service content and connection platform that enables businesses hosting conferences to deliver better in-person and online experiences. Backed by an on-demand team of conference management professionals and comprehensive network infrastructure management services, the platform promotes engagement while enhancing information exchange and collaboration. MAP Digital customers also benefit from the ability to capture and measure real-time data to achieve informed sales, marketing, learning, and strategic objectives during conferences.