Taking Learning from TV to Cloud to Everywhere

Shadrach Kisten, VP of Information Systems, Sesame Workshop
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Shadrach Kisten, VP of Information Systems, Sesame Workshop

Shadrach Kisten, VP of Information Systems, Sesame Workshop

Sesame Workshop uses the educational power of media to help children everywhere grow smarter, stronger, and kinder. Children practice shape smarts with Grover and discover that a pyramid is not a cube, or a sphere. They learn how words can hurt feelings and seem unkind, as Zoe and Elmo discover. The Sesame Street Muppets have engaged and educated children for over four decades, starting with TV – the relevant technology at the time. Our work is global and now reaches 150 countries. Additionally, for the past five years, there has been an explosion of platforms for new content delivery – TV is no longer the only source of viewing our content. Smartphones, tablets and OTT services make the web a “massive content distributor.” The need to share and distribute our content to multiple geographic locations and many endpoints is more urgent than before. To meet this need, creative workflow and content location are drastically shifting. The IT infrastructure needs to be built to scale to deliver content anywhere, anytime, and to any video capable device.

"With compute and network scalability in place, virtualization and automation of scalability on the virtual level for business applications and OS is easily achieved"

Compute Shift and Challenges

In traditional IT infrastructure, approximately 80 percent percent of computing transactions happen internally, and 20 percent externally. A Gigabit speed on the network level was sufficient for email, file, print, database, file base editing and other business application services for day to day operations. A T1 connection of 1.54 Mbps or a T3 - DS 3 connection of 45 Mbps was sufficient for external traffic like email, web browsing, file transfer via traditional FTP or other transport processes. With the internet “cloud distributor network,” compute transactions are no longer 80/20, but are about 50 percent internal and 50 percent external. To supply to this massive content distributor that sits on the cloud, internal computing power is now exponentially larger and needs to be dynamically scalable and in sync with what’s going on in the “content cloud infrastructure.” As such, the media space business technology enterprise infrastructure is undergoing a massive transformation. To accommodate this change in this space, IT leaders must find ways to do this while managing to keep the traditional IT business systems and backend applications operational, without draining time, resources and budget.

Navigating the HP Ecosystem

Sesame Workshop scalability process starts at the compute, and networking layer in the data center. This is where agile scalability begins. One of our key vendors, HP, is facilitating this scalability. Our data center server infrastructure is the HP c7000 chassis/blade system. Because the HP landscape is extensive and fragmented, the procurement, planning, implementation, integration and support process can be challenging. Certainty on our requirements for scalability makes all of our process easier. We need the ability to scale our infrastructure on two levels; compute and speed. With the ability to scale on the CPU, GPU, memory level and the flexibility to add to these components, compute scalability is easily achieved. Additionally we require redundant SAN and LAN fiber interconnect for high availability. Its Virtual Connect interconnects modules support 1/10/20/40 Gb or 40 Gb IP Ethernet connection or 2/4/8 Gb FC connection. All these interconnect speeds give us flexible scalability to interconnect each blade server at varying LAN and SAN speed to our Cisco high speed IP and EMC Unified storage 1 Petabyte NAS/SAN infrastructure. With compute and network scalability in place, virtualization and automation of scalability on the virtual level for business applications and OS is easily achieved.

Now, our ingest, editing, transcoding, archiving, tagging, and other video centric software applications that require varying processing and bandwidth requirements can now be provision and deployed seamlessly. Varying digital media file for smart phones, tablets and distribution platforms will now have shorter production cycles when it needs to be derived from our high res digital archive. Self-service potential and unnecessary manual steps offering more flexibility to distribute to the new cloud distributor will now be possible. To keep this scalability effective and flexible with new media workflow, the data center needs to be in sync with the already scalable cloud infrastructure. Wide area network ingress and egress speed need to scale accordingly to avoid transmit and receive congestion. Fiber OCx and Ethernet WAN network at the data center level is now a commodity item. Connecting the data center to the cloud is easily feasible.

Conclusion

With HP Blade technologies, scalability, we are one step away from winning the “digital media triangle of infrastructure scalability.” Now with the flexibility of distributing, it’s our content anywhere, anytime via the cloud and to any device and platform. Hopefully our content can be less fungible as we generate newer and fresher content faster and seamlessly. Broadband availability now completes the last leg of the digital media triangle by delivering content to children via smart phone/tablet, web platforms and other OTT devices. However, since broadband is not readily available to underserved parts of the US and the world, hopefully, as HP ecosystems contribute to the flow of content in the digital media landscape, other tech companies will help close the gap where rates are too high, bandwidth too low,or connectivity doesn’t exist. The goal is to make Sesame Street content and learning more accessible to everyone, anywhere, anytime. We are almost there.

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