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Sky Italia Delivers Real-Time Sports Updates, Optimizes Data Propagation 15x on AWS

2021

Media and entertainment company Sky Italia wanted to deliver a better fan experience by pushing real-time data updates during live broadcasts of sports events, but its Sky Sports website was already straining the performance capacity of Sky Italia’s on-premises data centers. The website receives 150 million page views per month and has recorded a peak of 2,041,954 visits for a single day. To enable real-time updates, Sky Italia required a faster and more elastic solution for propagating data, particularly during peak times.

Sky Italia migrated to Amazon Web Services (AWS) to rebuild its previous architecture from the ground up, increasing its horizontal scalability and elasticity during both peak and off-peak times and optimizing data transfers between its front-end system and backend applications. In addition to providing faster game updates, Sky Italia achieved greater operational efficiency, reduced legacy data center maintenance costs, and improved search engine optimization by attaining faster data transfer speeds.

“Achieving real-time updates of sports events was only the starting point to rethinking our architecture,” explains Giambattista Cerri, head of the digital team for editorial digital properties at Sky Italia. “The ready-to-use AWS services enabled the complete digital transformation of our architecture.”

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We find that AWS AppSync is the best solution to solve our problems. We were impressed by the speed of data propagation and received positive feedback from many areas of Sky.”

Daniele Mangano
Solution Architect, Sky Italia

Achieving Autonomy Using Serverless Architecture on AWS

Sky Italia is part of the Comcast-owned British satellite television service Sky, one of Europe’s leading direct-to-consumer media and entertainment companies, with 24 million customers in six countries. Until 2019, Sky Italia ran on-premises data centers in Milan and Rome, but it couldn’t scale up during peak times using its legacy architecture, resulting in slow data delivery that made real-time updates impossible. Sky Italia also pulled updates from thousands of apps by querying on the backend instead of the more efficient approach of pushing data from the apps to its website. “Our main goal was to provide faster data; when you’re following your soccer team, your Grand Prix motorcycle racing, or your Formula 1 season, you want the latest updates,” says Cerri.

Because Sky Italia couldn’t upgrade individual components of its integrated architecture to enable real-time data pushes, it chose to totally redesign an architecture comprising stand-alone, simple-to-modify components from AWS. AWS solutions offered the autonomy Sky Italia needed to increase elasticity, enhance operational efficiency, reduce compute resource costs, and improve data delivery speed and quality.

“We wanted to evolve our architecture to provide the highest level of performance for our customers, even at peak times during sports events, and increase observability to continuously improve the system,” explains Daniele Mangano, solution architect at Sky Italia. “That meant orienting ourselves toward a micro front-end approach where data changes could be pushed to the end user and each component of the architecture, when properly decoupled, could scale as needed and be independently managed.”

Pushing Sports Updates in Milliseconds

In 2017, Sky Italia decided to migrate to AWS and created the Software Center, a dedicated department to maintain its internal applications and promote digital transformation. Taking the DevOps approach to organizing its data, the Software Center split into two teams, one for digital properties dedicated to sports, news, Video on Demand, and talent shows and the other dedicated to the customer. For its digital properties, Sky Italia chose AWS services to manage high page view numbers on its two main websites, Sky Sports and the news site Sky TG24. It uses AWS AppSync, a fully managed service enabling simple and secure data access, to optimize data transfers and push real-time updates to millions of viewers. AWS AppSync enables front-end developers to query multiple databases, microservices, and APIs with a single GraphQL endpoint, facilitating faster, simpler data transfers. After deploying the first web components on its new serverless architecture, Sky Italia learned that AWS AppSync decreased time needed to propagate data by a factor of 15. It used to take a few minutes to push a full day’s update with multiple match scores; the process takes milliseconds on AWS.

AWS AppSync and AWS Lambda—a serverless computing solution that offers continuous scaling and subsecond metering—enable Sky Italia to maintain consistent data performance at peak and off-peak times and pay only for the compute resources it uses. “When we don’t have a major sports event, traffic on our website is reduced. But everyone wants to see the updates for, say, the Milan Derby,” says Cerri. “So we needed to be able to scale up in a fast, cost-efficient way.” Because Sky Italia no longer maintains on-premises data centers, it estimates a current cost reduction of 30 percent and expects greater future savings.

Ready-to-use solutions on AWS let Sky Italia reduce its time to market when producing and developing new components. “We constantly improve our digital properties and introduce new features,” says Cerri. “Now our developers can focus more on business logic and what’s needed to deliver sports data—not on management—because we use serverless, fully managed solutions on AWS.” The company adopted a continuous integration and deployment model and has shifted from writing monolithic front-end applications to taking a micro approach, breaking down applications into self-contained components that can be developed quickly and agilely. Sky Italia has also accelerated product development and reduced time to market by reusing and reaggregating data APIs through AWS AppSync and GraphQL—reducing code duplication and making front-end development even faster and simpler—and by parallelizing web component development and using libraries like AWS Amplify.

Moving the Goalposts

The first release of Sky Italia’s new serverless architecture focused on data delivery, but the next steps will involve managing multiple data providers within the same system. The company also wants to efficiently ingest and update data so it can produce web components in less time and manage multiple data providers and message types. For these solutions, it plans to use Amazon DynamoDB, a fast and flexible NoSQL database service; Amazon Kinesis Data Streams, a fully managed data-streaming service; and Amazon Kinesis Data Analytics. “The idea is to have powerful tools to automatically recognize the type of message to forward it to the appropriate ingestion flow with a unique entry point,” explains Mangano.

Sky Italia’s drive to improve the fan experience with real-time game updates unlocked even more possibilities to innovate on AWS. The company is in talks with Sky about potentially using AWS solutions to enable global real-time sports updates. Sky Italia’s news channels will also use the same architecture on AWS to push election data updates from Italy’s central government so that viewers can stay informed in real time.

“We find that AWS AppSync is the best solution to solve our problems,” says Mangano. “We were impressed by the speed of data propagation and received positive feedback from many areas of Sky.”


Sky Italia Reference Architecture

SkyItalia_SystemEngineeringView

About Sky Italia

Sky Italia is the media company of the Sky group, one of Europe’s leading direct-to-consumer media and entertainment providers. Part of Comcast, Sky delivers television and broadband internet, telephone services, and satellite broadcasting.

Benefits of AWS

  • Delivers real-time sports data updates
  • Reduced costs by 30%
  • Accelerated data propagation by 15x
  • Achieved elasticity during times of peak and off-peak traffic
  • Reduced time to market when developing new components
  • Improved search engine optimization


AWS Services Used

AWS AppSync

AWS AppSync is a fully managed service that makes it easy to develop GraphQL APIs by handling the heavy lifting of securely connecting to data sources like AWS DynamoDB, Lambda, and more.

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AWS Lambda

AWS Lambda is a serverless compute service that lets you run code without provisioning or managing servers, creating workload-aware cluster scaling logic, maintaining event integrations, or managing runtimes.

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AWS Amplify

AWS Amplify is a set of tools and services that can be used together or on their own, to help front-end web and mobile developers build scalable full stack applications, powered by AWS.

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