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Starting from scratch

Starting from scratch

When working from scratch, setting up a digital media distribution platform can present an integrator with a number of challenges.

Local integrator and managed services provider, Sonnet, was approached by a client involved with entertainment and media content retail and distribution, who was experiencing challenges around two separate projects for expanding its digital media distribution platform to a wider audience under more competitive markets.

The first project aimed to consolidate multiple servers which distributed content to retail outlets. Network connectivity also needed to be available using VPN technology. The second project was supplying a wider audience, as well as accessing and downloading content directly from the Internet. At the time, the client had one head office and 30-40 stores across Australia.

The company was experiencing challenges determining the size of the infrastructure, its deployment, and a wide range of security issues. Ultimately, these solutions had to be scalable and support hundreds of thousands of users and sessions, through a secure environment. They had to also be cost effective, due to the increasingly competitive nature of the industry.

Senior architect at Sonnet, Jorge Munoz, said that, in addition to logistical issues, understanding the requirements of the client in full was an issue.

“We were given a list of partial requirements initially, and discovered later on that there were other requirements involved in the project,” he said.

Sonnet found virtualisation offered the answer to most of these challenges. VMware’s ESX platform was chosen for its scalability, functionality and interoperability aspects.

The implementation was done in three months. Having the capability to deploy virtual machines on-demand greatly streamlined the server provisioning process. Sonnet was able to provision for new virtual servers on the fly when requirements would demand a higher capacity for content serving.

Munoz said that when designing access security, most of the challenges were overcome by dividing the entire available infrastructure in compartments, namely management, remote access, VPN access and public/Internet access.

These compartments formed the basis of the security model to be adopted. Within each of these compartments, layers of security were added by creating virtual LANs (VLANS) that replicated the VMware virtual infrastructure and the firewalls.

Sonnet also ran into trouble with a third-party application the client had commissioned, Munoz said. “The application had requirements that were not documented and took us a week to find out about. We were able to solve this by implementing a new set of rules on the firewall, however.”

In order to simplify administration and ensure standards, the solution included the deployment of Cisco devices for firewalls, routers and networking switches.

“If I was to do a similar installation in the future I would use the same model, but I would standardise everything onto a multi-vendor approach, rather than just using Cisco,” Munoz said. “That would allow us to take advantage of the strengths some vendors have in different areas.”


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