Launched as a single channel in 1985, Discovery Communications is now a leader in global entertainment reaching three billion cumulative subscribers in more than 220 countries and territories through its global brands – led by Discovery Channel, TLC, Investigation Discovery and Animal planet, and providing countless hours of high-quality programming across platforms and around the world.
Whether its providing necessary IT services to support Discovery’s global business and workforce or making content available to growing audiences, the cloud has become an essential part of Discovery’s IT infrastructure. The decision to embrace the cloud within the organization was driven by needs for flexibility, security and scalability that only the cloud could address.
And, to manage the cloud infrastructure that it’s built, Discovery Communications recently implemented a cloud management and automation solution designed to increase transparency and simplicity in the management virtual resources at scale across different public and private cloud technologies.
To get a better understanding of why Discovery has embraced the cloud, the challenges that arise in such large, complex implementations, and the reasons why Discovery turned to cloud automation to overcome these challenges, we recently interviewed Dave Duvall, the Senior Vice President of Infrastructure and Support Services at Discovery Communications.
[/vc_column_text][vc_column_text]During our discussion, Dave elaborated on Discovery’s hybrid cloud approach, why they moved in this direction, and the role that cloud automation and cloud management are playing in managing this hybrid cloud infrastructure.
Here is what Dave had to say:
Mr. Duvall: Technology is the backbone of all that we do at Discovery, and we are focused on a long-term, highly-flexible roadmap that supports Discovery’s global business and employees.
Today, most of Discovery’s digital assets are in the cloud, and we are actively rolling out next-generation, cloud-based environments across business systems. Ultimately, with a company of our size, diversity and complexity, cloud technology enables a necessary flexibility that legacy systems do not.
Cloud Sprawl: What unique IT challenges does a large media company like Discovery face? How does the cloud help Discovery meet these challenges?
Mr. Duvall: Global media companies like Discovery Communications face a multitude of challenges – from the vast amounts of content and data created and shared daily to information security, which everyone is focused on. Cloud solutions allow us create efficiencies, such as right-sizing our storage needs on a real-time basis and ensuring our employees and external partners can quickly and easily access the content, information and tools they need anytime, anywhere.
Beyond the inherent scalability and flexibility, the cloud is providing a unique opportunity for a greenfield design of our infrastructure capabilities. We are more easily able to address emerging security standards and design challenges than we would with physical data centers.
Cloud Sprawl: Describe Discovery’s hybrid cloud approach. What benefits and challenges does a hybrid strategy create for the company?
Mr. Duvall: As with many enterprises, a hybrid strategy is vital to our success. The migration of thousands of workloads does not happen overnight and ensuring that we have command and control of our legacy, as well as go-forward platforms, is vital.
The challenge for any enterprise implementing a hybrid cloud approach is effectively managing the old infrastructure, while investing time, talent and attention to design the future.
For this reason, we have elected to govern our migrations through two primary buckets: 1) “Lift and shift” workloads are managed essentially using legacy tooling. While this is the least efficient operating model, it is sometimes necessary. 2) “Cloud native” workloads are designed from the ground up to support automated deployment, auto-scaling and other cloud features to enhance availability, efficiency or ideally both.
Cloud Sprawl: How does delivering cloud infrastructure to users that expect self-service capabilities change/impact the role of corporate IT?
Mr. Duvall: The self-service aspects are challenging my organization to really mature as a service provider, something I am very passionate about. It all starts with a product-centered philosophy on operations, paired with high levels of customer engagement, alignment of products and services to customer demand and a focus on continuous improvements.
Today’s corporate IT engineering teams must think like product managers, which is something many wouldn’t have envisioned years ago.
The reality is cloud technology provides a lot of choice, and we have to continually measure ourselves against outside offerings to ensure we are staying aligned to our customers – either by building or brokering solutions.
Cloud Sprawl: We understand you are leveraging a cloud automation and management platform from DivvyCloud among other toolsets for helping to manage your hybrid cloud infrastructure. Why was cloud management and cloud automation important for Discovery?
Mr. Duvall: There was a lot of discussion among our Engineering and Architecture teams about the long-standing metaphor of servers as pets vs. herds. We quickly agreed that a core operational tenet would be towards an “automate everything” philosophy, logging into our servers to troubleshoot or fix would be an exceptional event and an operational failure.
There are several reasons for this – from wanting full visibility into our running state environment at all times and continuing our mission to efficiently deliver solutions to the enterprise to leveraging infrastructure as code to quickly redeploy and recover in the event of failure or a bad deployment.
Automation allows us to leverage autoscaling, workload grooming and other approaches to ensure our costs are managed and, most importantly, contained.
Cloud Sprawl: What were you looking for in a cloud management/automation solution? What considerations led you to choose DivvyCloud? How will their solutions help Discovery enable its cloud adoption strategies?
Mr. Duvall: We chose not to concentrate on traditional Cloud Management Platforms, as our initial focus was not on a self-service portal but more on foundational capabilities and insight into our environment and cloud consumption. We began with a few key needs:
1) An ability to detect cloud change events and to respond with policy enforcement against items like tags, security groups, etc.;
2) A solid UI for dash-boarding and rollup, as well as all functions to also be accessible via an open and documented API; and
3) Extensibility to ensure our automation and management platforms can quickly adjust to new use cases and technologies as we mature.
With these in mind, we found DivvyCloud to be a perfect fit for our needs – a very open and extensible platform that will allow us to mature our cloud management and automation.