At one of the many \u2018server shut down ceremonies\u2019 to take place at media monitoring firm Isentia over the last year, someone from the IT team pasted a picture of the retiring server onto a pi?ata.\n \n\u201cThen the infrastructure and ops guys got to smash it!\u201d remembers chief information officer Andrea Walsh. \u201cWe\u2019ve had lots of different parties and ceremonies as they\u2019ve turned off.\u201d\n \nWhen Walsh joined Isentia in 2015, the Sydney-headquartered company which operates across the Asia Pacific region had been struggling with its on-premise set-up.\n \nThe media\u2019s attention is often unpredictable, meaning when focus fell on one of Isentia\u2019s long list of clients, there were huge spikes in compute demand for its monitoring services.\n \n\u201cReally early on we knew we had an environment that was constantly having issues and disruption to service,\u201d Walsh told CIO Australia at the Amazon Web Services Re:Invent conference in Las Vegas last month.\n \n\u201cWe had a large physical footprint and a challenge with that is how do you cope with spikes in volume of data? It\u2019s that tipping point where you need enough capacity to cope with a level of a spike, but then it sits there idle in between.\u201d\n \nTwo years ago, Walsh, with the backing of the executive, established a cloud-first strategy. Starting with its broadcast storage, then its client Mediaportal and social listening offering, the company is now \u2013 almost \u2013 all-in with cloud, with AWS. \n \nWith only a few pinatas left to pop, Walsh and her team, freed from the fire-fighting and management, are looking at how far they can push automation and how machine learning might improve their customer offerings.\n \n\u201cWe can now focus more on creating new services and being a center of innovation for Isentia,\u201d Walsh said.\n \nPublic perception\nIsentia operates in 11 countries across the APAC region supporting more than 5,000 clients worldwide, including 84 of the world\u2019s top 100 brands. Among them, the likes of IBM, Lenovo, L\u2019Oreal, Macquarie, Microsoft, NAB Bank, ANZ Bank, HSBC, Nike, Nikon, PG, Samsung, SAP, Seek, Starbucks, Visa, Walt Disney, AMP, Bupa, Canon, Destination NSW, and Domain.\n \nThe communications teams within each of those companies needs to know when and where their company is being mentioned and it what way. They might also want to keep track of how their industry or competitors are being discussed. The same is true of the public sector \u2013 the Australian Government is a major customer. \n \n\u201cWhat we do is set up a series of search criteria all across TV, radio, online, social media, print press and basically find anything relevant for them,\u201d Walsh explains. \n\u201cIt could be how your CEO is being represented, or how the AGM was perceived, in the public sector how is the public responding? How's the media responding to this suggestion or recommendation? And it's not always what I would assume to be obvious things \u2013 it\u2019s often something that's emerging that is completely separate from anything,\u201d she adds.\n \nIsentia\u2019s clients access coverage through the company\u2019s Mediaportal, and can access a repository of media files about them.\n \nThe volume of data monitored daily by Isentia is in Walsh\u2019s words \u201cinsane\u201d averaging about nine million items a day.\nIsentia captures for its clients every day:\n13,000 broadcast summaries30,000 print items300,000 Facebook comments\/posts1,200,000 online news items3,200,000 forum posts4,500,000 tweets daily\nIsentia FY17results presentation, August.\n\u201cWe try to find relevance in all the noise and there is a lot of it!\u201d Walsh says.\nPage Break\nWalsh started in the cloud by migrating Isentia\u2019s broadcast storage to Amazon S3. Next went Mediaportal and social-media-listening servicesand the development of a cloud-based data pipeline to support the services and integrate the company\u2019s disparate systems\n \nThe pipeline utilises Amazon EC2 for compute instances, Amazon RDS configured in a high-availability mode across multiple Availability Zones, Amazon Kinesisstreams to capture social-media conversations across the web andAWS Lambdato perform preliminary computations on data before it gets deposited inAmazon Elastic MapReduce.\n \n\u201cYou 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,\u201d Walsh says.\n \nNew focus\nThe move to cloud has transformed Walsh\u2019s 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.\n \nWalsh 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.\n \nAndrea Walsh, CIO Isentia\n\u201cOur 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,\u201d Walsh says.\n \nIsentia was given access to beta versions of three of AWS\u2019 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 \u2013 \u201cWe have clients that need thousands of translations a day in Asia because we\u2019ve got 10 different languages there,\u201d Walsh says) and Comprehend (which can pick out positive and negative sentiment in text). \nEach has helped Isentia move staff onto higher value tasks, Walsh says.\n \n\u201cThese 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,\u201d she says.\n \nImage recognition tool Rekognition is also being tested to pick out logos in television broadcasts.\n \n\u201cIt's okay when you have a really obvious clear object and there's not a lot of noise around it. If you\u2019re trying to pick up something maybe on somebody\u2019s top or a sports person and their moving it's really been very impossible to try and do, with very mixed results!\u201d Walsh says.\n \n\u201cWe'll be looking to integrate [the services] further into our pipeline so we can get more efficiencies and automation.\u201d\n \nAt 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\u2019s also enabled new products like Stories.\n \nStories analyses and clusters media coverage into stories in real time using algorithms capable of calculating the connection between tens of millions of data points.\n \nIsentia suffered a shaky 2017 \u2013 its share price dropped more than 50 per centover the 12 months \u2013 with a legal dispute with rival Meltwater and the closure of the content marketing firm King Content it paid out $48m for in 2015.\n \nNow focused on its core business, its cloud foundations mean it is back on a more steady footing. \n\u201cWe see FY2018 as a year of cementing our transition from a media-led to a data- and technology- led organisation,\u201d Isentia\u2019s departing chairman Doug Flynn said in the company\u2019s last annual report.\n \nThe transition has not been easy.\n \n\u201cSomebody new comes in, they don't have thousands of clients like us. They can build and go whoops let\u2019s try something else \u2013 not a major impact to them,\u201d Walsh says.\n \n\u201cCertainly 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 \u2013 oh just lift and shift \u2013 it sounds easy \u2013 it\u2019s a lot of work!\u201d\nThe author travelled to AWS Re:Invent 2017 in Las Vegas as a guest of Amazon Web Services.