TV2 Norway Enhances Development Environment while Lowering Risks and Controlling Costs

Broadcaster and video streaming service chooses Aiven Platform across clouds

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TV2 Norway is the largest commercial television station in Norway and provider of TV2 Play, a popular and growing streaming service. However, TV2’s streaming operations require a very robust data infrastructure which was putting pressure on its engineering teams. To ensure TV2 could continue to serve customers, develop new services and control costs and risks, the company partnered with Aiven to create a standardized platform environment for all its data infrastructure requirements. With Aiven taking on management responsibility, the TV2 teams could focus on adding value to the business and exploring new ways to use data to enhance the company’s performance.

A TV and streaming company with major ambitions

TV2 Norway is one of Norway’s leading media companies. Its commercial TV station is one of the country’s largest, reaching more than 90 percent of Norwegian households. Since 2000 TV2 has experienced year-over-year growth, building on its strengths in broadcast television to create extremely popular online video and web-TV subscription services, as well as premium live sports coverage and thousands of hours of on-demand television programming. An early pioneer in the world of content streaming, it currently has more than 500,000 direct subscribers to its TV2 Play streaming service — which itself continues to grow every year. Recognizing that its success comes from a willingness to innovate and a focus on its community of viewers and users, TV2 wants to become a complete digital media house that provides high-quality content services on all platforms.


Infrastructure fit for data-driven business model

Today’s viewers can choose from huge volumes of content and content sources, which can be overwhelming at times. To personalize that content, and to make it easier for audiences to find what they want to watch, streaming services like TV2 rely on metadata about their users’ viewing habits and their preferences. It helps target content more effectively while supporting an advertising-driven revenue model.

As TV2 continued to develop its streaming services, it ran into one of the biggest challenges in today’s streaming-first TV world: effective collection, management, analysis and storage of data. That includes production data, but also audience metadata.

The data-focused model required by streaming services works only with accurate, complete and up-to-date data. And this depends on an infrastructure that can keep pace with increasing volumes and speed of both generated and flowing data. However, after years of growth and the adoption ofthe cloud in some parts of the business, TV2’s data infrastructure had become siloed, distributed and inefficient.

“We had a lot of autonomous teams doing their own thing and spinning up lots of different open-source tools and technologies,” says Thomas Aalèn, Head of Internal Development Platform at TV2. “As directed, the DevOps teams were focused on speed and experimentation but that meant we didn’t always have complete oversight or control — especially of costs.”

While giving teams such independence supported the company’s innovative ethos, it was also creating what Aalèn terms “high cognitive load” on the developers. It was time to rationalize TV2’s complex and resource-intensive data infrastructure, take back control, and move to a managed services model.


A robust, open-source, cloud-agnostic DevOps environment

Aalèn and his team started to create an internal development platform (IDP) to give developers and DevOps engineers a standardized infrastructure and development environment. “We wanted to narrow the technologies down and build a golden path for 90% of their use cases,” says Aalèn. As a first step, they looked for an open source service provider who could meet their exact requirements and, after a thorough evaluation of different vendors, chose Aiven.

At the heart of TV2’s technology strategy is the use of open source solutions and cloud computing services from multiple providers, as this prevents dependency on specific vendors. Consequently, the ability for TV2 to run its workloads on any hyperscaler cloud, anywhere in the world, was a big win. Additionally, Aiven’s commitment to running everything on open source variants also lowered TV2’s risk of adoption.

“As a major provider of news in Norway, we play an important role in society, and our open source and cloud-agnostic strategy is non-negotiable,” says Aalèn. “If anything happens to one of our technology or cloud providers, we need to keep operating. We use more than one hyperscaler to spread the risk. The Aiven Platform supports this strategy.”

The IDP originally supported TV2’s streaming and online news offerings, due to the importance of live updates and real-time data. Bjarte Brandt, DevOps Architect, TV2, explains, “Apache Kafka® has been a critical component of our data infrastructure for several years but we were losing control of our Kafka clusters. If Kafka doesn't work, our streaming services don’t work. With Aiven’s extensive expertise inmanaging and maintaining Kafka, we knew we could rely on them.”

But just as important was that the Aiven Platform provides a comprehensive range of the most popular open source technologies. “We have a DevOps culture at TV2, and we work hard to put the right teams together. But to be really effective they need the right tools,” says Brandt. “We liked Aiven’s platform approach from the beginning. As users of Kafka, MirrorMaker, Cassandra®, PostgreSQL®, OpenSearch® and Redis®, having them all integrated into the same platform is a huge benefit for us.”

Aalèn says, “We chose Aiven because the company met all our criteria. We get access to all the open source tools and technologies we need, plus a great UI and understandable pricing. We can run our workloads on Google as well as AWS — meeting our need for a cloud-agnostic solution.”


One supplier — multiple benefits

With Aiven providing the foundation of the IDP, Aalèn and his team benefit from having a single supplier to manage instead of multiple. “Despite using a dozen open source technologies, with the Aiven Platform we have a single control panel and a single bill for the integrated services. We also have just one SLA: an uptime guarantee of 99.99% across all services,” says Aalèn.

There are also benefits that can be seen in the day-to-day experience of TV2’s developers. Self-provisioning within the development lifecycle is easier and more efficient in the standardized environment: the Aiven Platformprovides a secure environment in which the team can create and test new applications and new functionality, and then put them directly into production — all while remaining compliant with important regulations like the EU’s GDPR. IDP is used by 35 teams and approximately 150 developers.

The cognitive load has been significantly reduced. Job satisfaction has improved, which is important in a country like Norway, with a small and a very competitive market for DevOps professionals. “By building IDP with Aiven, we have the one-stop shop that we were looking for,” says Aalèn. “And that has improved the day-to-day experience of our developers and DevOps engineers. We spend more time on the result rather than infrastructure.”

The new standardized environment has also helped with cost control. Everyone, including the development team, has a much better overview of what they are spending because Aiven’s pricing is easy to understand, which makes it easier to build a cost culture within development teams.

“Working with Aiven enables better cost control, so we get better architecture and more stable services based on better informed decisions,” says Aalèn. “We have maintained our development speed, but now we have cost control and reduced risks. The guardrails are in place. It ultimately means more innovation and more efficiencies. We’re providing a better service to the business and exploring new ways to use data to enhance the company’s performance.”


Extending the power of data to all areas of the business

Now that the value of the IDP is well established, TV2 is looking to introduce it into more areas of the business. “We’ll be enabling more areas of our company — the marketing department, for example — to become more data-driven,” says Aalèn. “As the core of the IDP, Aiven services are a key part of our future plans.”

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