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Looking into the future with Digital UK

Freeview EPG reinvented for the cloud!

Digital UK wanted a hybrid cloud solution for their Freeview broadcast services. So they selected Merapar to be their technology partner to re-envision their critical Freeview broadcast infrastructure as a cutting-edge cloud-native solution using Amazon Web Services (AWS).

The challenge

The challenge was to seamlessly combine an on-premise, public cloud infrastructure, dynamically targeting micro-service containers to balance availability against cost. Plus, the broadcast availability had to live up to the expectations: a minimum 99.99% availability.

Our approach

Broadcast availability expectations (at least 99.99%) and typical cloud provider availability (99.95%) are no longer incompatible, since the truly critical components are deployed over the on-premise infrastructure, whilst everything else runs in the public cloud.

Leveraging features only available in the cloud, Merapar designed and built an on-demand DR (Disaster Recovery) system that is online only when needed (and for regular automated testing), resulting in significant operational savings.

The result

Working in close collaboration with Digital UK and the BBC Engineering Operations team, Merapar combined licensed core components, open source tools and bespoke agile software development with modern UX&D (User Experience and Design) principles. The result is a cost-effective solution optimised for existing business processes, built on an advanced architecture ready for future expansion.

Digital UK, which provides and operates the broadcast infrastructure for the UK’s Freeview DTT service, has concluded a software services agreement with Merapar for the critical CSI (Central Service Information) system, which will be operated by the BBC Engineering Operations team. The system provides channel management and EPG metadata processing, without which customer devices would not be able to discover channels or browse the EPG. The system allows individual channel owners and service providers to upload their schedule information, where it is verified and collated before being output as DVB Service Information (DVB SI) for distribution over all multiplexes in the UK DTT network. It also handles real-time triggers from the playout systems to enable accurate PVR recording.

The Merapar solution uses leading open source projects − including Docker, Kubernetes, Angular 2, Spring Framework, Cassandra, RabbitMQ and Prometheus − to deliver advanced functionality quickly and on budget. All open source tools have been carefully vetted for quality, maturity, adoption level and community engagement, and Merapar contributes to the open source community whenever possible. Merapar specialises in the Amazon Web Services (AWS) cloud platform, but by the use abstraction layers can build cloud-agnostic solutions where independence is required. On top of Amazon EC2 we us Kubernetes with Docker engine.

The customer

Paul Roberts, Head of Systems Development, commented: “Merapar’s specialist knowledge of broadcast and cloud technologies makes them the ideal partner for upgrading the software needed to support Freeview. Their clear understanding of our specific technical and commercial requirements will provide a flexible and resilient system that underpins the operation of the platform as it continues to grow. Merapar were very flexible in their approach, with deep understanding of our specific technical and commercial requirements. They demonstrated out-of-the-box thinking to provide a robustly engineered solution at a cost-effective price point.”

About Digital UK:

Digital UK supports Freeview viewers and channels. The company manages strategy, policy and service development for digital terrestrial television (DTT) in the UK and provides day-to-day technical management of the Freeview Electronic Programme Guide (EPG). Digital UK is owned by the BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and Arqiva and has also led development of Freeview Play, a new hybrid platform bringing together free-to-view DTT and catch-up services in a range of TVs and set-top boxes. www.digitaluk.co.uk

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