Discovery, Inc. Meets a Tenfold Increase in Bandwidth Demand
How Discovery, Inc. accelerated bandwidth and innovation.
Like many media companies, Discovery, Inc. is undergoing massive change—all while trying to deliver quality content to as many people as it can, on as many platforms as possible. By making the WAN core to its business, Discovery, Inc. was able to keep up with a tenfold increase in bandwidth demand.
What makes the WAN at Discovery, Inc. unique
What kind of data center is required to provide 220 countries with entertainment
How Discovery, Inc. scales their business model
Who is this for?
00:07 -Hello everyone, I'm Sharon Mandell, the CIO of Juniper Networks.
00:11 I'm delighted to be joined here today by Brian
00:13 Duvall, Vice President Network Platform at Discovery.
00:17 Brian, welcome. It' s really good to have you here today.
00:21 -Hi, Sharon. I' m very happy to be here.
00:23 -I don' t know if you know this, but I spent a good chunk
00:26 of my career in the media industry, both at media companies,
00:32 as well as building technology in vendors to deliver for it.
00:40 It's really exciting to be able to sit here with you and really see
00:44 where things have gone over the last number of years in the video space,
00:49 and what leverages the network.
00:51 -Oh, yes, the media space can be a definite challenge, so I' m sure
00:54 if you' ve had experience in it, you' re aware of what I do.
00:59 -Why don' t we get going?
01:00 Tell us what' s going on over at Discovery Networks and what your mission is?
01:05 -Discovery, like most media companies, is undertaking a lot of change.
01:10 It's a difficult mission, but overall, it' s still the same mission
01:13 of trying to deliver quality content to as many people as we can,
01:17 and as many platforms as we can.
01:20 Most people know us from our namesake channel, right?
01:22 Discovery Channel.
01:23 It's a known brand, people know that, but we have
01:26 so many great brands around the globe.
01:28 We're in 220 countries around the globe, which a lot of people don' t realize.
01:33 A lot of people think, "Oh, it's probably US only network."
01:35 Pretty much everywhere, and we have a number of great
01:38 brands beyond Discovery Channel, TLC, HGTV, Food Network,
01:43 Magnolia for those Chip and Joanna fans.
01:46 We just have so many great brands that all fall
01:49 underneath Discovery, so we're excited about that.
01:52 Our international business is really interesting that people
01:56 don' t realize we have live sports, we have news channels,
01:59 we have so much internationally across our Eurosport
02:03 brand, which is the home for the Olympics.
02:05 We've got TVN, the biggest news network in all of Poland, and we have Golf TV,
02:11 pretty much golf internationally goes through our kind of digital brands.
02:16 We're growing, we' ve acquired a lot, and that' s our big-
02:21 the big mission is just great content as many people as we can.
02:26 -Yes, it's a tremendous collection of assets for sure.
02:30 Tell me about your WAN and the role it plays at Discovery.
02:34 -Yes, the WAN at Discovery is very unique. It' s completely key to our business.
02:39 A lot of corporate enterprises, the WAN is just viewed
02:44 as this expense, I don' t want to have to invest in it,
02:46 but I need something to connect to my offices together.
02:49 At Discovery, it truly is core to our business.
02:54 We built a global MPLS network managed by our internal team.
02:58 This isn't vendor-managed, this is internally
03:00 managed MPLS across Juniper MX Series routers.
03:04 Juniper is definitely key to everything we do.
03:08 Technically, it' s a traditional MPLS, backbone, a lot of layer three VPNs,
03:12 multicast VPNs to handle all of our live video and audio services around the globe.
03:19 It's become so common and core to our business that executive
03:24 leadership at Discovery knows the term WAN and it' s brought up often.
03:28 You usually don' t see an exec getting on a conference
03:31 call and thanking and saying how great the WAN is.
03:34 At Discovery, it' s become common verbiage.
03:38 That' s ...
03:39 -That' s really amazing. Most IT leaders don' t get thanked for their WAN.
03:45 They only get called-- [crosstalk]
03:46 -No, it's very paintful to be in the back of the line.
03:48 We don' t want to be called out because usually
03:49 it's only bad and we don' t get any kudos.
03:52 Discovery, the WAN has been so key and instrumental to what we do
03:56 as a global business, to allow us to be flexible and dynamic,
04:02 It's a big key part to what we do.
04:05 -How does cloud play in Discovery' s journey and where are you guys with that?
04:11 -Cloud, obviously, is a big term for everybody
04:13 and I think a lot of people have different definitions.
04:16 Back in 2015, maybe about six or seven years ago, we had
04:19 a pivot point in our IT organization where our digital
04:23 business at that time was already leveraging cloud services.
04:26 They were already in Amazon doing our digital web pages, and all
04:31 the public spaces you went to go see to discovery.com, things like that.
04:35 Our legacy broadcast business, delivering TV content,
04:39 corporate applications was primarily on-premise in 2015.
04:43 We were running into a few big hurdles.
04:46 We were running out of data center space, do we invest in larger,
04:49 bigger data centers to house all this new
04:51 growth we had through all these acquisitions?
04:53 I mentioned all those great brands, that takes up a lot
04:56 of data center space to produce the kind of content.
04:59 We made the call, "Do we invest in data center
05:01 or do we get out of the data center business?" as we' d like to say.
05:04 That's not core to how Discovery makes money, how great we can
05:07 build a data center, let someone else build the data center for us,
05:11 and let us focus on producing amazing content.
05:14 In 2015, went to the cloud. AWS, obviously was our big provider.
05:20 Really, we migrated that time our entire global playout business.
05:24 When you watch a TV channel of Discovery' s across all those great
05:28 brands I mentioned on TV, it' s played out of an Amazon EC2 instance.
05:34 That leverages and runs across our great Juniper Network backbone,
05:38 that MPLS network that always scaled up as part of that cloud journey.
05:41 We had to get into those colocation providers, peer
05:44 with those cloud providers, and ultimately own the edge.
05:47 We want to own as much of that network space right up to that cloud provider.
05:52 Those Juniper MX routers are the ones
05:54 that literally plug in to Amazon' s network,
05:57 and we send all of our TV channels down 24/7 across those connections.
06:03 The cloud journey drove the WAN journey.
06:06 We had to get into those colocation spaces.
06:08 Then, once that was established, all the rest
06:12 of our global connectivity folded into that new model.
06:15 We had those locations that we could land our WAN connections into
06:19 at all our corporate offices and eventually replaced our entire
06:24 global connectivity with this WAN backbone.
06:28 -How does the Juniper Network support the global vision?
06:34 -Ultimately, it' s the flexibility of the MX
06:38 Series platform and the MPLS protocol.
06:40 If you' re able to leverage that technology static with the VPNs
06:44 and segmentation of different types of networks across that,
06:48 we were able to collapse a lot of legacy services,
06:51 that service may be a circuit for just a broadcast use.
06:55 This was connected just to deliver this video content as one provider.
06:59 Then, my corporate network team had to deliver an MPLS, or internet circuit
07:03 into this office for general email and normal corporate business apps.
07:08 We built this backbone. Now, we have all of them running on that same architecture,
07:12 common hardware platform, but different logical routing tables.
07:17 The Juniper platform division is in the Swiss Army knife, if you will,
07:23 of the MX Series platform, we can do whatever we need at scale.
07:27 If we need to turn up another connection to another provider,
07:31 if we signed a deal with Amazon, or Apple, or YouTube, or whoever,
07:37 and we need to deliver content, it' s as simple as a cross-connect,
07:40 it' s as simple as just one extra handoff from our Juniper backbone,
07:44 and they can subscribe to the video services they require.
07:47 It' s allowed us to be more nimble, more agile, we can deliver
07:50 quicker, and our content and deal teams are very happy.
07:54 We don' t have to wait months to deliver a new service or circuit, it could
07:58 just be a cross-connect between two cages at a colocation facility.
08:03 -Agility is the name of the game today, speed limit (unclear).
08:06 -It is. Right.
08:09 -What are the challenges you guys are facing today?
08:12 -Well, once you build a WAN backbone like that, and we' re
08:15 a media company, you can imagine bandwidth is always a challenge.
08:19 We have a lot of large video files that are 24/7 to play on a TV channel.
08:25 We have to play out at least two copies of the same channel because
08:29 if one goes down, you don' t want the TV
08:31 channel to go off the air, so at least two.
08:35 We have, I would say at least 300 to 400 unique feeds around the globe
08:39 of different channels, in different languages, and different content,
08:42 and all that' s going across this backbone every day, along with your email
08:49 to the other office or the general Zoom call to interconnect people.
08:54 Bandwidth has been a challenge, and trying to maintain cost on that structure.
08:58 The fact we built it ourselves, and it' s our managed
09:01 routers, and we' re in these colocation provider spaces.,
09:04 that actually made the bandwidth a bit cheaper.
09:07 We' re able to get connectivity between the colocation providers a lot
09:10 cheaper than delivering to our office in random location, in city A or Z.
09:16 That ultimately allowed us to go from one gig connectivity
09:21 in our legacy network years ago, went to 10 bundles of 10 gig,
09:25 and then now the 100 gig core. We' re paying roughly the same cost.
09:29 Now there' s natural costs of production every years
09:33 with bandwidth, but the places we' ve leveraged our WAN allows
09:37 us to make those efficiencies at scale.
09:40 -It seems like the business is insatiable for bandwidth.
09:43 No matter how much you provide, it's looking for more.
09:47 -Yes, there' s bandwidth, and then at that scale, my other challenge
09:50 in my other hat is the network security piece falls underneath my team.
09:54 Securing that amount of data on large scale platforms
09:58 that can do security at scale is a challenge.
10:01 I think most people-- -You have to do it twice,
10:04 given the redundancy you just described.
10:07 -Right. There' s a lot of routing decisions, a lot of security
10:10 decisions, and then ultimately, with how much we have in cloud,
10:13 we' re over 60 to 70% in the cloud at this point
10:16 from a server infrastructure perspective.
10:18 We do have a hybrid model, we do still have some
10:20 on-prem data centers, but securing all of that.
10:23 securing it in the cloud,
10:24 my team is involved with that as well.
10:26 We do a lot of the VPC builds and the virtual
10:29 networking within the cloud space. It' s one network team.
10:33 we do it all, and we' re responsible for all of it, so the stress
10:36 levels get a little high on the security side as well.
10:41 -Juniper' s true north is Experience-First Networking.
10:45 How does Discovery make the total experience better
10:50 for your viewers and for your IT organization?
10:55 -Yes, I think Experience-First Networking, I definitely view
10:59 that as what' s been Discovery' s experience and my experience
11:03 at Discovery in the networking space and how Discovery' s dealt with that.
11:06 I think the key to what we did at Discovery to make it a success
11:10 was first, we broke down a lot of the legacy silos in our business.
11:14 We had a lot of segmentation of responsibility,
11:18 that as a global company, you' re set up for failure.
11:21 We had a broadcast networking team, we had a corporate networking team,
11:25 we had a post-production networking team, we had digital networking teams,
11:29 cloud networking teams, we broke them all down.
11:32 IP is IP, network connectivity is network connectivity.
11:35 If we want to be successful, we merge them all together.
11:38 This was probably done, I don' t know, six
11:40 to seven years ago and it' s been a huge success.
11:43 Now as we onboard, as we acquire companies, they' re
11:46 refreshed to see that model, we bring them in.
11:48 That' s the experience that we' ve seen with just merging network
11:52 into one stack, into one team, and having global control.
11:55 That' s been really key for us. Templates and standards.
11:59 Everyone asks for it. Everybody wants a standard.
12:01 That' s the way our team functions.
12:03 We' re never going to get funding to have more and more people.
12:07 Staff funding is always difficult to achieve. It' s about automation.
12:11 It' s about standards, and it' s about following those standards globally.
12:14 When you go to any office around Discovery, it' s the same
12:17 network design, it' s the same network config,
12:20 and that' s how we' re able to support it so well.
12:22 Our uptime metrics are great.
12:25 We don' t tend to see a lot of human-created outages
12:28 on our network team, which we take a lot of pride in.
12:30 When something does go wrong, it really is a shock to our business.
12:33 I think those are the big things for me.
12:35 Just centralizing everything, standardizing,
12:38 and standardizing on platform.
12:40 Juniper, we buy the right hardware from the right vendors.
12:43 You have to make the right design at the right
12:45 need and to match those two together.
12:48 We bought expensive hardware before and paid the price for it because
12:52 it didn' t fit the right model across any number of vendors,
12:56 but you buy what' s right for your standard per your need and don' t overbuy.
13:00 Once you hit that sweet spot you have a good experience.
13:04 -Great. You guys are the home for the Olympic
13:07 games in Europe, and that' s been a kind of on again,
13:11 off again on again event during the pandemic.
13:16 I bet it' s been pretty interesting.
13:19 How will broadcasting be different for you guys, with all of this going on?
13:27 -Yes, the Olympics, it' s been a challenging 12 months.
13:30 With our Eurosport brand in Europe, we had
13:32 bought the Olympic rights for all of Europe,
13:35 which was the first time the Olympic committee had done that.
13:37 They typically sold per country, like UK would be
13:40 awarded to one vendor and then Germany another.
13:43 They awarded us to all of Discovery and Eurosport.
13:46 All the languaging, all the content deals across all the countries in Europe.
13:51 Our first Olympics was in 2018.
13:53 That was our first stressful moment of trying
13:56 to deliver the Olympics at that scale.
13:59 We succeeded and the delay in 2020 has caused
14:02 some complications, you can imagine.
14:04 There' s a lot of things that go into shipping equipment out
14:07 to there, getting things staged, getting these connected.
14:10 The IOC has been great.
14:12 They' re fully committed to delivering this summer Olympics in 2021.
14:15 We' re still on target. Everyone' s shooting for that.
14:18 Discovery' s planning on delivering a quality Olympics.
14:20 I' m sure the athletes are happy. No one wants to see anything get canceled.
14:24 A lot of the heavy lifting and the planning was already done.
14:27 We had a plan ready for 2020. Now this 2021, it' s just a matter
14:31 of re-boxing everything up, shipping it out.
14:34 We did a lot of prep work between 2018 and 2020.
14:37 We called it the Eurosport Technology Transformation.
14:40 This was taking our entire global live sports network in Europe
14:45 and centralizing it, and making it where you could have remote production,
14:50 remote commentary, home-based editing, program scheduling,
14:55 quality control, everything could be done remotely.
14:59 Now we have that flexibility. When COVID hit, we were prepared.
15:03 We had commentators from their home doing football
15:06 matches in their native German language, right?
15:09 We had all this ability to produce and do everything
15:12 where we didn' t have to have anyone go into the office.
15:14 So Tokyo, we' ll have less people on the ground but we' ll be able to send
15:19 all that amazing content across that WAN in Juniper MX Series back
15:23 to the home bases and then do everything remotely.
15:25 So, yes, huge win, but a lot achieved in the past two years.
15:29 -Well, you just hear that there are companies that are
15:34 surviving and there are companies that are thriving.
15:37 The ones who were digital and prepared are really almost accelerating
15:42 now, and so it sounds like you guys were really ready.
15:45 -We heard a lot of companies go, "Man, it' s really slow.
15:48 Aren' t you glad you got all this time on your hands?"
15:50 I said, "No, we' ve had our foot on the gas."
15:52 It' s moving quick and we have not slowed down at all when we went remote, right?
15:57 If anything, for the network team, it' s just more work, right?
16:00 We got to make sure that quality- not only a quality VPN connection,
16:03 which is tough enough, but for editing purposes, video editing.
16:09 It' s been a challenge.
16:10 -Yes. Video is a whole different ball game than standard enterprise IT, right?
16:16 -Although now video is kind of everywhere, so that' s coming
16:20 home to roost for the more traditional--
16:23 -[crosstalk] Yes, everyone' s had to get used to Zoom.
16:26 -Yes. Right. What' s next for you, Brian?
16:30 -The biggest thing for Discovery, I' m sure everyone' s seen
16:33 the ads and our marketing blitz in the US, was Discovery+.
16:37 The viewing habits of people have changed, right?
16:40 Our existing TV-only model didn' t work for a number of people.
16:45 You kind of have those three buckets of people.
16:47 People that still watch TV, people that watch digitally,
16:51 and you have to address that digital customer, right?
16:56 So we launched Discovery+ as our direct-to-consumer offering.
17:00 2,500 shows at launch. 55,000 episodes.
17:04 It' s the largest ever content offering at launch for any digital service.
17:08 So you can put Disney+, Net-- All of them.
17:11 We' re the biggest at launch. We do have success so far.
17:15 12 million subscribers already by the end
17:17 of February, so things are on their way up.
17:19 We' re really happy with that. It' s going to expand internationally.
17:23 That' s going to be the global brand.
17:24 We' re going to consolidate a bunch of legacy
17:27 in existing products we had in a number of markets.
17:29 It will be Discovery+, so if you ever go international, it' ll be the same product.
17:33 In Europe, it will be the home of the Olympics, right?
17:36 So that one will move over from our Eurosport player to the Discovery+
17:40 market where we' re able to launch in those markets.
17:44 It' s going to be a global rollout that' s going to take some time.
17:47 -Brian, thank you so much for talking to us today.
17:50 Really inspirational what you' ve been able to accomplish,
17:53 and we really appreciate you joining us and telling
17:57 us all about how things work at Discovery.
18:00 -No, it was a pleasure talking with you. Thank you for the time.