AWS cloud computing early adopter: Hungama Digital Media's experience

Back in 2008 when cloud computing was still a concept, Hungama had already started using AWS cloud computing infrastructure for its huge storage needs.

Hungama Digital Media started out as an online promotions agency during the Internet boom of 1999, and its uniqueness lies in the bringing together of three media in an integrated marketing platform. The organization is also in the business of creating and hosting websites for customers. Many of Hungama's customers create websites which last only for a fixed period of time, so flexibility is necessary for the company, since making massive capex investments in servers could be a waste. The company has its data center distributed at Mumbai and Pune, with some of its data hosted at a data center service provider.

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Day in and day out, Hungama has to deal with humongous amounts of content. According to Manan Chhatrapati, the chief technology officer for digital business at Hungama, "In order to manage so much content, we need flexibility in storage. It is not possible or wise to keep on purchasing storage, since it has a lot of constraints in terms of space and cost."

While scouting for vendors who could provide Hungama with flexibility, they came across Amazon Web Services (AWS) and its cloud computing model. Initially, Hungama tried AWS' cloud computing services by hosting its own portal on the platform. It gave Hungama the opportunity to try both the EC2 and S3 components of the AWS cloud computing platform. This also gave them an idea of how things would work on the cloud. They realized that a good merger of storage along with servers would give them the required flexibility, and AWS provided them with it. "AWS cloud computing services felt like a great opportunity which would provide us with the right flexibility. Also, honestly, two years ago there was hardly any competition in this space, and Amazon was one of the pioneers here," recalls Chhatrapati.

It became quite easy for Hungama to cater to its British and American customers because AWS' cloud computing services had its hub in those places. The cloud has its own inbred issues, and latency can be one of them in many cases. Hungama faced a similar predicament because of the bandwidth availability problem between India and the US. To resolve it, they used CDN networks. AWS has recently established a Singapore hub, so the latency has now become almost non-existent.

Currently, Hungama has almost 40 TB of data hosted on the AWS cloud computing, and even this is continuously growing. At some point of time in the future, Chhatrapati envisages that the organization's data requirements could grow to around 200 TB.

Coming to other practical aspects of the AWS cloud computing based arrangement, Hungama has a payment model for storage on a per hour basis of usage and bandwidth. So far, it has not faced any issues with regard to security. To give Hungama access to its servers, the AWS cloud computing platform generates a key (with encrypted username and password). From a physical perspective, it is not possible to know on which server the data resides.

AWS has recently started a new service, which allows customers to ship data through a physical hard disk. This hard disk is then attached to one's assigned server(s) to transfer data. "Imagine the time saved with this, because if I try to upload it from here it is a long-drawn process; considering the bandwidth constraints, it takes oodles of time," says Chhatrapati.

Not everyone has to jump on to the cloud bandwagon though. There are scenarios and conditions which one must consider before adoption of cloud computing. "In case I need to host a project in India, and I know bandwidth will be a big issue, there is no point going in for the cloud. There are certain scenarios where I need access to physical servers—especially in cases like payment gateways—where I need to have the server in-house. The cloud is ideal for short-term projects," advises Chhatrapati. It also makes sense in scenarios where latency becomes a big issue, and one is not looking at investing in a content delivery network (CDN).

"From a cost-saving perspective, the AWS cloud computing service is phenomenal, and it gives amazing flexibility. We might also consider the cloud for our disaster recovery requirements in the future," concludes Chhatrapati.

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