Walsh started in the cloud by migrating Isentia’s broadcast storage to Amazon S3. Next went Mediaportal and social-media-listening services and the development of a cloud-based data pipeline to support the services and integrate the company’s disparate systems
The pipeline utilises Amazon EC2 for compute instances, Amazon RDS configured in a high-availability mode across multiple Availability Zones,streams to capture social-media conversations across the web and to perform preliminary computations on data before it gets deposited in .
“You can have these really crazy explosions and spikes, moving to the cloud is really great for us because we could just scale. And it can cope with that,” Walsh says.
The move to cloud has transformed Walsh’s IT team. A restructure meant a number of staff were retrained and experts employed. The team is chiefly made up of engineers, plus those in infrastructure and operations.
Walsh has improved capability with training in Agile, Scrum and Kanban; and introduced Lean and Design Thinking. There have been hackathons and a dedicated innovation lab has been established.
“Our primary focus now is on building out features in Mediaportal because they're going to benefit clients, and continuously building out this data pipeline that we have,” Walsh says.
Isentia was given access to beta versions of three of AWS’ new products launched at Re:Invent: Amazon Transcribe (which can transcribe voice audio recordings into clean text), Translate (for translating text fromn one language to another – “We have clients that need thousands of translations a day in Asia because we’ve got 10 different languages there,” Walsh says) and Comprehend (which can pick out positive and negative sentiment in text).
Each has helped Isentia move staff onto higher value tasks, Walsh says.
“These services allow us to be able to use the technology to do the heavy grunt work and then use the people to refine their results,” she says.
Image recognition tool Rekognition is also being tested to pick out logos in television broadcasts.
“It's okay when you have a really obvious clear object and there's not a lot of noise around it. If you’re trying to pick up something maybe on somebody’s top or a sports person and their moving it's really been very impossible to try and do, with very mixed results!” Walsh says.
“We'll be looking to integrate [the services] further into our pipeline so we can get more efficiencies and automation.”
At last count the performance of Mediaportal has increased by 25 per cent and the performance for social-listening products has increased by 40 per cent since the cloud migration, Walsh says. Administration time has been reduced by at least 50 per cent and it’s also enabled new products like Stories.
Stories analyses and clusters media coverage into stories in real time using algorithms capable of calculating the connection between tens of millions of data points.
Isentia suffered a shaky 2017 – its share price dropped more than 50 per cent over the 12 months – with a legal dispute with rival Meltwater and the closure of the content marketing firm King Content it paid out $48m for in 2015.
Now focused on its core business, its cloud foundations mean it is back on a more steady footing.
“We see FY2018 as a year of cementing our transition from a media-led to a data- and technology- led organisation,” Isentia’s departing chairman Doug Flynn said in the company’s last annual report.
The transition has not been easy.
“Somebody new comes in, they don't have thousands of clients like us. They can build and go whoops let’s try something else – not a major impact to them,” Walsh says.
“Certainly moving [to cloud] has been really challenging. We're doing the lifting and shifting, we're building new, and also servicing existing clients. We can't disrupt that. People say – oh just lift and shift – it sounds easy – it’s a lot of work!”
The author travelled to AWS Re:Invent 2017 in Las Vegas as a guest of Amazon Web Services.
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