Established in 1996, Astro Radio is one of Malaysia’s pioneers of online radio streaming. The company delivered its first stream in 1999 and now broadcasts 10 internet stations and 10 FM radio stations across the country. Its services operate in four languages and support a wide range of listener demographics. Astro Radio is part of Astro Holdings Sdn Bhd, a Malaysian investment holding media and entertainment company.

Astro Radio had a co-location agreement that enabled it to host the equipment supporting its web presence at a third-party data center provider. “The infrastructure was shared among different businesses within Astro Radio and we to be careful not to impact any other live services,” says Jayaram Nagaraj, Head of New Media, Astro Radio. “Furthermore, we didn’t have redundancies to support our primary environment.” Astro Radio could only back up data to tape once a week at the co-location service, which left the business exposed to considerable potential risk if data was lost towards the end of a backup cycle.

The infrastructure was fragile, and servers and Astro Radio experienced networking equipment outages on a regular basis. In 2008, a router failed as the radio network entered a ratings period, leaving systems down for a number of hours and compromising the organization’s ability to measure web analytics for streamed content from its website. “Overall, we tended to achieve availability levels around 97 percent, which wasn’t good enough for our business internally, our visitors, or our advertisers,” says Nagaraj.

The infrastructure’s restricted capacity meant that Astro Radio could only support a maximum of 3,000 concurrent users on its live simulcast streaming services. Additionally, Astro Radio created websites to host campaigns for customers, which the co-location service could not support. It would often take as long as two weeks to find a separate web provider with the available infrastructure and then design the website.

Astro Radio’s co-located servers and other equipment were often supported—at considerable expense—by an administrator who was available around the clock. “We wanted a system that was highly automated, with its own monitoring and alert capabilities,” says Nagaraj. “Also, while our security was at acceptable levels, our company’s high public profile always meant we were on the lookout for ways of improving it.” The organization began looking for an infrastructure that could support broadcast-quality service-level agreements, scale to support its expanding business, and reduce support costs.

In 2010, as Astro Radio narrowed down its search for a local provider, the company learned that Amazon Web Services (AWS) had established operations in Singapore. The scalability, ease-of-use, and pay-as-you-use model of the AWS platform met Astro Radio’s business requirements and the company was keen to explore the opportunity. By September 2010, Astro Radio was undertaking staging work and the organization went live in January 2011. It took Astro Radio only two days to plan and draw up its architecture on AWS, and a similar length of time to get the new environment up and running. Over another three days, the organization completed penetration testing, secured the environment, and tested its applications.

Astro Radio now runs its IT environment in Amazon Virtual Private Cloud (Amazon VPC), which gives the company the ability to determine the websites that visitors can access. To make content available to listeners, Astro Radio uploads audio podcasts, articles, photos, and client campaign materials directly to six Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2) instances six times a day. The instances range from m2.xlarge to m3.xlarge. Once the content is loaded and tagged, it is entered into a its databases that the company uses as a master content repository. The website references this database to retrieve the content. Backups of the data are stored in an Amazon Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3) bucket.

Astro Radio uses Amazon Route 53 to manage all its domains and connect users to content running on Amazon EC2. Elastic Load Balancing distributes traffic across the instances, optimizing website performance, particularly during peak periods. The organization makes use of Amazon CloudFront to make video available to overseas markets, Amazon CloudWatch to monitor Astro Radio’s cloud resources and applications, and Amazon Simple Notification Service (Amazon SNS) to send text messages and emails to administrators, notifying them of high traffic or failure events.

To protect sensitive and copyrighted information, Astro Radio worked with AWS to learn cloud security practices. Astro Radio used the information learned to implement its own security levels that were the same or better than co-location or managed services. Astro Radio backs up data, daily, weekly and monthly, and retains copies at Astro Radio’s own data centers.

Astro Radio achieved considerable capital and operating expenditure savings by moving to the AWS Cloud. The company has reduced its hosting and migration charges by 90 percent of what it used to pay under its shared co-location agreement. The reliability of the AWS Cloud resolved Astro Radio’s availability issues; uptime improved from 97 percent to around 99.9 percent.

Astro Radio is now a far more dynamic and responsive organization. The company’s creative division, which develops web services and content, can propose an idea to a client, and have a website up and running to support a campaign in two or three days. If a developer comes up with an idea, the organization can proceed with testing and development at a cost of 100 or 200 ringgit per month. “The equivalent cost with our previous solution was about 30,000 ringgit, and that’s where the conversation usually stopped,” says Nagaraj. Astro Radio’s ability to take ideas on paper to prototype and to product is made easier by having a dynamic infrastructure.

Astro Radio partners with RADIOactive, which hosts its entire application framework on AWS, to serve the largest listening audience for online streaming of any broadcaster in Asia. RADIOactive serves 11 billion requests per month across mobile and online platforms. Astro Radio now has no restrictions on the number of listeners on its websites—podcast services are available for all radio brands without limitation.

Astro Radio’s IT team and business users can spend less time worrying about cost and access to systems and servers, and spend more time on innovation. It only takes Astro Radio 30 – 60 minutes to launch a new environment on AWS. “We know that when we walk into the office in the morning, we’ve got a blank canvas to do whatever we want,” says Nagaraj. “We have a clear direction on how we can provide amazing services to our clients and our internal customers.”

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