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Cloud Cover: ZengaTV deploys the latest technologies for timely service delivery

November 29, 2013
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ZengaTV is a free live and video-on-demand web- and mobile-based television service. The company offers customers access to a range of Indian and international television channels across various genres. The content can be accessed through personal computers, tablets and mobile handsets.

According to a comScore Video Metrix report, online video viewing in India increased twofold between March 2011 and March 2013 to 3.7 billion videos per month. This is owing to factors such as an increase in the number of customers accessing online videos as well as growing consumption per viewer. As per the report, the total number of customers accessing online videos has increased to 54 million viewers in the past two years.

In order to tap the lucrative opportunities offered by this growth, ZengaTV is leveraging telecom as a strategic business tool. It currently uses a multi-tiered set-up to offer updated content at optimal speeds.

tele.net takes a look at the entertainment major’s communications infrastructure…

 Communications set-up

According to Shabir Momin, managing director, ZengaTV, Amazon’s cloud technology forms the backbone of the company’s telecom infrastructure and 99 per cent of its functions are cloud based. “We are present in seven locations globally. The cloud enables us to deliver content within a very short span of time to any location.”

Apart from the cloud, ZengaTV uses VPNs, synchronous transport module (STM) links and VSATs. VSATs have been deployed for downlinking the satellite feeds that are used for streaming content for live channels. Once the feeds are downlinked, the company uplinks it on to its private cloud infrastructure. Post this, all procedures such as encoding and transcoding, additions or insertions to the content and streaming it live takes place on the cloud.

Apart from this, the entertainment major has deployed a 155 Mbps STM link to connect to the VSAT used to uplink and downlink content.

For connectivity among its various locations, the company uses a network provided by Amazon. “Amazon has connectivity amongst its own global nodes. They have a node each in Singapore and Hong Kong, and three nodes each in Ireland, the UK and the US. These are all interconnected on high speed internet that offers gigabit bandwidth,” Momin says.

In addition, ZengaTV has an internal data centre, which downlinks content and manages the company’s various services. The entertainment major runs 150 channels which are connected to seven satellite dishes. The data centre helps download the satellite frequency, convert it into digital format and push the content to the cloud. There are no physical servers at the data centre and the company uses IED boxes provided by its content partners. According to Momin, “We also have our own propriety encoders which run encoding functions and push it to the cloud. Only four people have access to this network as all the functions are streamlined through cloud connectivity.”

Apart from these, the entertainment major uses technologies for coding and facilitating video streaming. “For a video to be made available on a mobile handset, a browser or on the web, it needs to be encoded in different formats. We have built our own encoding engine for this purpose,” says Momin.

To secure its network, the company largely relies on the infrastructure provided by Amazon, which includes firewalls and intrusion detection systems for protection against external threats. Further, ZengaTV has created isolation circuits and various other circuits to create its own VPN to mitigate any external risks. The VPN set-up permits access to the company’s own IP addresses being used by its employees and no external network is permitted to access the company’s systems. It also has a second level of security in place, which helps in audits as well as anticipatory intrusion detection.

For redundancy, Amazon provides the company 100 per cent uptime, given the fact that the entire set-up is based on virtual cloud servers. In case one server fails, another automatically takes its place.

At the regional level, ZengaTV has deployed several mediums for network backup and redundancy. According to Momin, “If the company’s servers in Singapore experience high latency or are non-functional, the load balancer identifies the latency and routes the traffic to the UK or Hong Kong. It also sends an SMS alert and an email to those responsible for the server.”

In all, the firm uses 8-15 TB of bandwidth per month for its cloud set-up and 55 MB of bandwidth for its Indian operations. Technology-related expenses account for 15 per cent of its overall budget.

 Challenges and benefits

So far, the company has not faced any major issue with regard to its communications set-up. In fact, the cloud-based infrastructure has offered it several benefits. No capital investment is required for accessing the cloud as it is a “pay-as-you-go” model where the company pays on an hourly basis. Moreover, the set-up is flexible and enables scaling up of infrastructure depending on the company’s requirements.

Net, net, the cloud has helped ZengaTV ensure timely content delivery to its customers.

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