DPG Media Successfully Launches Video On Demand Service with Gremlin and AWS

Executive Summary

DPG Media had to ensure the cloud architecture for its VTM GO video-on-demand (VOD) service was resilient to system failures. It engaged APN Partner Gremlin, whose chaos engineering solution allows companies to build a view of how their systems behave under stress testing using controlled experiments. As a result, DPG Media detected 35 priority software bugs to fix before VTM GO went live. On the go-live day, the number of concurrent viewers was 130 percent bigger than expected—23,000 rather than 10,000. However, DPG Media handled the additional workload by taking advantage of the scalability of VTM GO’s microservices architecture running on the AWS Cloud. Today, DPG Media is creating new services in 6 hours using AWS Lambda.

Chaos Engineering Helps Build Resilience

DPG Media launched VTM GO, a VOD platform, in April 2019. By downloading the VTM GO app, subscribers get 24/7 access to their favorite VTM programs, as well as international series and programs from other DPG Media channels, such as Q2, Vitaya, and Qmusic.

After the success of Netflix, viewers expect problem-free VOD streaming. DPG Media couldn’t afford issues with VTM GO, especially on day one. The company looked to apply chaos engineering to its software systems to run reliability checks. It made sense for DPG media, as Netflix uses chaos engineering—where software engineers carefully induce failures to see how systems react—to such good effect. Glenn Heylen, IT Architect at DPG Media, states, “We planned to run chaos tests and looked for the right tooling services. We came across the Gremlin chaos engineering platform, ran a demo, and soon after signed a contract.”

Gremlin is an APN Advanced Technology Partner. Kurt Monnier, Director of Customer Success at Gremlin, says, “Our comprehensive chaos engineering platform, running on the AWS Cloud, helps companies reduce the risk of unexpected conditions impacting the customer experience and keeping engineers up at night.”

VTM GO leveraged Gremlin’s software in a Gremlin GameDay to recreate real-world failure scenarios. Says Heylen, “There are always going to be issues that are rarely seen when developing software, and these issues can have a big impact, such as data-store latency bringing down the service’s catalog feature. We avoided any cracks in our software when VTM GO went live by working with Gremlin and using its chaos engineering service.”

VTM GO Meets 130% Increase in Concurrent Viewers with AWS

VTM GO runs on the AWS Cloud and is built using microservices with Amazon Elastic Container Service (Amazon ECS) for orchestration. Dimitri Larmuseau, Enterprise Architect at DPG Media, says, “The on-premises infrastructure for our video content needed to be expanded by a cloud layer to scale out rapidly. Without this, it would have been impossible to handle unexpected viewing peaks.”

DPG Media anticipated approximately 10,000 concurrent users for the go-live day. Instead, the number reached 23,000 on that first day—a 130 percent increase on the expected figure. “We handled this high peak load thanks to the linear scalability of our AWS infrastructure,” says Larmuseau. “In fact, the number of concurrent users could have been 20 times higher than the 10,000 estimate and each user would still have received a great, personalized experience.”

Hackathon Using Serverless Creates New Service in 6 Hours

To drive innovation, the DPG Media IT team conducts 24-hour hackathons. In a recent hackathon, the IT team used AWS Lambda, a compute service that runs code in response to events. The team wrote Lambda functions that stripped out the audio from videos on the VTM news channel website, transcoded the audio to text, and matched the text against a series of search categories. Larmuseau says, “We had a complete video-ingest transcoding flow set up in less than 6 hours with AWS Lambda. One Lambda function stripped the audio from video, another function transcoded the audio to text, and another AWS Lambda function analyzed the text. Now editorial staff no longer have the time-consuming job of manually categorizing the videos on the website.”

Heylen adds, “We can experiment more freely with AWS because we have fewer inter-team dependencies to slow us down. We work in squads, and each squad has freedom to choose the technology for their task. Ultimately, this means we have more speed and flexibility to seize on new opportunities. Our AWS infrastructure enables us to be more agile.”

DPG Media

About DPG Media

DPG Media is an international media company with activities in Belgium, the Netherlands, and Denmark. The firm’s mission is to inform, entertain, and inspire readers, viewers, and listeners. With strong, well-known brands in publishing, broadcasting, and online services, DPG Media serves customers 24/7.

About Gremlin

Gremlin helps companies test the reliability of their cloud architectures through its chaos engineering platform-as-a-service solution that empowers engineers to inject failures into their software to see the results and take remedial action.

Published April 2020