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Phoenix TV’s International Data Center Rises

1/15/2014 3:00:00 PM

Background

Phoenix Satellite Television is a Hong Kong-based broadcaster recognized as a leading global Chinese-language media provider. Phoenix TV is dedicated to promoting a free flow of information and entertainment to Chinese viewers worldwide. Phoenix TV has 3 main business units: Phoenix Satellite Television, Phoenix Weekly, and Phoenix New Media. To date, Phoenix TV operates 6 satellite TV channels that broadcast programs to audiences in Asia Pacific, Europe, America, Latin America, the Middle East, and Africa, covering more than 150 countries and regions.

Challenges

In 2012, Phoenix TV completed the construction of an international media center in Beijing. This new media center became Phoenix TV’s fourth global media center after Hong Kong, London, and Los Angeles. Serving as a key program production center for the Asia Pacific region, this multi-functional media center focuses on television program production, but also has significant administrative and commercial activities. This media center also provides production facilities for the use of other companies, generating a source of income as well as building a network of industry partners.

Having efficient, highly-functional IT systems is a key competitive advantage. The modern media industry depends on information technologies in all areas of the media business, including program production, Office Automation (OA), enterprise operation, and Human Resources (HR) management. Phoenix TV’s media center in Beijing is a multi-functional center that requires a sound IT infrastructure to support abundant IT applications. 

With limited resources, the Phoenix TV IT department faced challenges in meeting all these requirements. In the second half of 2011, the department invited Huawei to jointly design and build a new international media center IT system, which needed the following features:

Integrated IT architecture

The media center required support for extensive IT applications.

  • IT needed to develop a complete TV program production system, covering aspects such as collecting and editing materials, producing and broadcasting programs, and storing data
  • The media center is Phoenix TV’s operating base in Beijing. IT needed to offer a wide array of basic IT services, such as OA, enterprise communications, campus networking, and videoconferencing
  • IT needed to set up a comprehensive set of enterprise application systems, including ERP, HR, and Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems
  • The new media center also included partner offices. Therefore, IT needed to offer OA and IT resource rental services to Phoenix TV’s business partners

Decentralized IT construction model

Amid these challenges, if Phoenix TV IT adopted a traditional decentralized IT construction model, it could suffer many setbacks, including the following:

  • The entire construction period, from planning, design, bidding, procurement, and deployment to acceptance, could be prolonged, which would conflict with Phoenix TV’s project timetable and increase operating and procurement costs
  • Disparate IT systems would need to be deployed independently, which would probably cause inconsistent Operation and Maintenance (O&M) interfaces and complicate system O&M

As a result, the Phoenix TV IT department needed a new, collaborative IT construction model. At a technical exchange meeting, Phoenix TV IT told Huawei, “We need an end-to-end solution. Obviously, if we use multiple independent systems, we will suffer complicated system management and extra initial investment and subsequent O&M costs.”

Flexible, on-demand IT resource utilization

To support their global presence, Phoenix TV uses its 4 international media centers to broadcast programs and timely information to audiences around the world. These centers provide 24/7 services, ensuring Phoenix is the leading global provider of Chinese-language media.

As the global media industry has marched into a digital and HD broadcasting era, TV program production is becoming increasingly sophisticated. Before broadcasting an HDTV program, the TV station often must collect source media, transcode data streams, edit video clips, and store data in the program production systems. These operations require massive computing, network, and storage. Traditionally, expensive workstations were deployed in each of the departments responsible for media production. This ensured that work could be done quickly, but it had the following disadvantages:

  • IT resource utilization was low. A program production team would not use its IT resources around-the-clock. Therefore, many IT resources were wasted. For example, the server resource usage at Phoenix TV ranged from 5% to 10%
  • When there was breaking news, the reporting departments could not get required IT resources in a timely manner, which impacted program production. If the TV station procured extra IT devices to cope with these potential service requirements, the extra devices would be unused most of the time

In recent years, cloud computing technologies have rapidly developed and matured. For digital TV, the One Net architecture has been widely used to bring the benefits of cloud computing to TV stations. To keep its technological superiority, Phoenix TV said, “We plan to develop a cloud-based TV program production system that allows us to improve IT resource utilization and reduce device procurement and system O&M costs by flexibly distributing IT resources.”

Optimal balance between security and efficiency and convergence

On-time and accurate program broadcasting is the most important task for TV stations. It not only plays a major role in audience rating improvement, but also affects a TV station’s reputation and revenue. To prevent incidents such as delays, errors, and failure in program broadcasting, TV stations usually set up strict security management regulations related to the program production systems. For example, they may forbid access from office networks to servers and file storage systems in the program production systems.

Due to regulations, post production operations, such as editing, composition, and special effects processing, can be performed only in the program production systems. However, program producers would prefer that office and program production systems be converged to enable them to:

  • Promptly get media resources from the production systems and perform program pre-editing in the office systems when the IT resources in the program production systems are unavailable
  • Upload the pre-edited programs to the production systems to perform refined editing when IT resources in the program production systems are available

Such expectations can be met only when the office and production systems are converged, rather than separated.

No TV station possesses all media material required for program production, so program production teams must search the Internet for more material. However, most installed media systems allow users to access the Internet only from the office systems. Program production teams must pre-edit programs in the office systems then send the pre-edited programs to the production systems for refined editing, which is time-consuming and error-prone.

According to Phoenix TV, “We want to have a change. We plan to leverage advanced technologies to connect the program production and office systems and develop a secure and efficient platform that supports the integration of office and program production systems; therefore, we can ensure high work efficiency without compromising data security.”

Solution

Huawei established a multi-disciplinary project team to perform a comprehensive requirements analysis and architecture design for Phoenix TV’s international media center in Beijing. After several rounds of consultation and cooperative design, Phoenix TV approved the Huawei end-to-end ICT solution design.

Solution overview

Phoenix TV’s international media center in Beijing needed a large number of IT applications. If deployed independently, these applications would be expensive, difficult to administer, and take a long time to build. In response, Huawei designed a data center-oriented system that would centralize the equipment rooms, servers, storage, network, security devices, and unified communications systems. This comprehensive solution integrated all IT applications on a single physical infrastructure layer, allowing for unified system deployment and O&M. Compared with traditional IT systems, Huawei's solution reduced the end-to-end construction period by more than 30% and reduced initial capital costs by more than 20%.

Physical infrastructure

Huawei proposed a modularized equipment-room design to segment the IT system into 3 parts: the server equipment room, storage equipment room, and network equipment room. The power supply, data links, and key service modules were all deployed in redundant mode to ensure system reliability. Advanced techniques, such as enclosed cold-air areas and precision air conditioning, reduce Power Usage Effectiveness (PUE) to 1.5, significantly lowering the system's energy consumption. Additionally, modularized equipment rooms support service-based construction and feature high scalability, maximizing Phoenix TV’s Return on Investment (ROI).

Virtualization

Huawei provided FusionSphere virtualization software to transform the existing data center into a distributed cloud data center, providing a wide array of services, such as program production and management, OA, and IT resource rental.

For the One Net construction, Huawei partnered with Dayang (a China-based broadcasting solutions provider) to build a complete network based on media resource pooling. Dayang’s media production system, built on Huawei’s cloud platform, can flexibly control Virtual Machine (VM) resources in the resource pool based on time segments and services, which significantly improves server resource usage from less than 10% to over 60%. In addition, One Net allows Phoenix TV to concentrate massive IT resources within a short period of time, meeting program production requirements when incidents occur.

For the office systems, Huawei used a cloud desktop solution, allowing users to access the data center using Thin Clients (TCs), a solution that also allows access from mobile devices. Huawei deployed unified security policies in the data center to eliminate security risks, such as operating system vulnerabilities and viruses, protecting system security when production team members search the Internet for report materials. Additionally, Huawei used VM clusters to enable business partners to access the cloud desktop system, expanding the service coverage of Phoenix TV's data center.

Security

Huawei’s end-to-end solution provided comprehensive security protection for  Phoenix TV’s international media center. For equipment room security, Huawei provided an enclosed modularized equipment system and access control unit to prevent intrusion. For network security, Huawei deployed office and production systems on different sides of the campus network to physically separate these 2 systems. For data center security, Huawei deployed two Huawei CE12800 core switches in cluster mode and separated services using advanced CSS + VS technology to reduce device procurement costs, while improving system reliability.

For IT system security, Huawei physically separated hardware, such as servers and storage units, of the office system from that of the production system. To enable network interconnection while ensuring data security, Huawei developed a production security center, a buffer zone between the two systems. Program production teams can access the production system from the office system and transmit data between the two systems using web portals on the production security center. This design integrated the office and production systems while ensuring the data security of the production system.

Benefits

Huawei’s end-to-end ICT solution completely met Phoenix TV’s IT system requirements in terms of technological superiority, high quality and reliability, while reducing energy consumption and improving cost-effectiveness.

Huawei worked with Dayang to offer a cloud-based One Net media solution and an integrated production system solution based on a production security center. The implementation of these state-of-the-art solutions helped Phoenix TV improve key service development capabilities, including the following:

  • Comprehensive end-to-end solution reduced construction time by more than 30% and lowered device procurement costs by more than 20%
  • Cloud-based One Net media solution improved server resource usage to over 60% and increased program production efficiency by about 30%
  • Cloud desktop system supported approximately 1,000 users and mobile office, reducing costs by 30% compared with traditional PC-based desktop systems
  • Advanced data center solution features multiple energy-saving designs to reduce the PUE to 1.5, support for unified O&M, reduced the number of IT maintenance personnel by 50%, and improved TCO by 16%

Phoenix TV spoke highly of the cooperation with Huawei, “Huawei has a solid track record in delivering end-to-end ICT solutions, which is of vital importance for Phoenix TV. In the international media center project, Huawei leveraged its advantages in end-to-end solutions and offered Phoenix TV a highly cost-effective ICT solution.”

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