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A Scalable Video System & Monetization of Digital Video Assets

Problem

A high-volume web publisher didn’t have the software infrastructure to realize the full potential of its valuable video content.

Solution

Greane Tree Technology built custom software to allow more dynamic display and sophisticated tracking of video assets.

Abstract

An online publisher wishing to monetize its growing collection of unique and influential digital video assets didn’t have the internal capacity to build a scalable solution. Greane Tree Technology built a high availability web application quickly using the right tools for rapid development. Two months after project start, the site was launched. One month after launch, the site was supporting a million views monthly. A year after launch, the site had served up almost 100 million views without any significant outages.

Introduction

The client was well known for their worldwide print and online publications. They had a growing collection of quality digital video assets. They wanted to host the videos on their own site in order to control syndication and monetization of those assets, and they needed video content management capabilities for their editorial team.

Hypotheses

When the client first came to Greane Tree Technology, we discussed their requirements and quickly understood the type of software tooling and high availability infrastructure they’d need for scalable development. We added intermediate project milestones to mitigate the risks inherent in long release cycles. Because the client wanted to explore different user experience designs in order to find the one that maximized engagement, we knew we would have to rapidly iterate over changing requirements. The Agile software development methodology, with its rapid prototyping and short release cycles, was a perfect fit for this situation.

The client was already familiar with building software systems to serve large audiences. They knew they would need scalable design and specialized components. In designing their high availability architecture, it was critical to plan for short and long term scalability goals. Technical spikes, or implementation prototypes, were created to explore and validate scalability and integration goals and acted to inform later stages development. In order to reinforce and experiment with different user experience designs, we held daily and weekly checkpoint meetings to allow the client to provide feedback and guide and validate the direction of the application aesthetics.

Implementation

The client knew what they wanted and had a loose “definition of done.” In the spirit of Agile, we kept the number of upfront requirements meetings minimal and leveraged evolutionary design and development disciplines to iterate quickly. This process allowed the client to provide feedback on and experiment with variants of user experience design and application functionality. However, since they wanted a quick turnaround, we consistently worked very closely with them to re-frame and re-prioritize the remaining efforts at each checkpoint. Focusing on the highest priorities first, we were able to give the client the information to make important decisions on critical application features early and refine them as needed. We also allowed them to cut and redefine less important application features in order to attain their most important goals, objectives, and values.

We had several meetings to understand the client’s infrastructure requirements and overall performance growth goals and to determine the tooling and software components that we could use for the application. In order to develop the most robust, scalable, and high availability infrastructure, we created technical spikes to baseline and measure the differences between each architectural approach. The results were compared using different combinations of hand-selected software components to validate our expectations of the run-time behavior and to select the options that would match or exceed the client’s performance goals.

Conclusions

Rapid, scalable development of enterprise video content management capabilities doesn’t have to be a risky venture. By using the Agile development methodology and specially selected, best-of-breed software components, we were able to support our client’s new business model and performance objectives. The editorial team can now manage their own video content and take advantage of new revenue opportunities. Their website traffic is rapidly growing and already supports multiple millions of views weekly.