by Larry Larmeu

The World Cup runs on the cloud

Jun 25, 2018
Cloud ComputingTechnology Industry

Global events like the World Cup and the Olympics are a perfect showcase for cloud’s versatility and elasticity.

soccer world cup
Credit: Getty Images

When huge global events like the World Cup or Olympics occur, demand for certain services can increase dramatically. From ticket sales, to ecommerce, to video streaming, the temporary increase in demand is the perfect use case for cloud computing.

Can you imagine the amount of infrastructure it takes to stream the World Cup online? From June 14 to July 15, demand for online streaming from providers like Fox Sports, Telemundo, and BBC increases greatly, only to drop back to normal afterward. For ticket sellers, that timeframe can be even shorter. Tickets can often sell out in a matter of hours or days, with a temporary surge in demand during the sale and a dramatic drop once the tickets sell out.

Ticketing in the cloud with

Entradas is an online ticketing agent based in Spain. Founded in 1998, they were one of the early entrants into the ecommerce space in Spain, offering tickets to concerts, plays, sporting events, and more.

Online ticket sellers have historically struggled with the explosive nature of demand for event tickets. It is quite common to see events that say they have sold out in minutes, with ticket sellers experiencing application slowness and downtime due to the number of users constantly refreshing the site, waiting for the “Buy” button to show up, only to find that hundreds to thousands of transactions were never completed due to capacity and timeout issues.

Entradas decided to combat this by relying on the cloud. They moved from their previous on-prem infrastructure, which was managed and provisioned manually, to AWS. This move allowed them to worry less about their infrastructure and spend more time on their product, shifting labor efforts from operation to innovation. “It doesn’t make sense for me to waste energy maintaining physical machines when I could use my resources to create features that make us the go-to site for ticket purchasing in Spain,” says Marcelo Royán, CTO of Entradas.

Using their cloud infrastructure, Entradas sold over 50,000 tickets to the Spain vs Italy World Cup qualifier, with peak sales reaching over 500 tickets per minute.

Telemundo partners with YouTube to provide real-time World Cup highlights

Telemundo is one of the most popular Spanish language broadcasters in the US, and their World Cup partnership with Google makes them the sole provider of Spanish language World Cup video content on the Google search platform in the US.

Telemundo is providing real-time video to Google search, including game previews, goal highlights, and news. The content can also be found on Telemundo’s YouTube channel. Telemundo is also partnering with YouTube TV, Google’s subscription-based streaming service, enabling users to stream entire games or record them to YouTube TV’s cloud DVR service.

By partnering with Google, Telemundo is able to take advantage of their existing cloud services, as well as their existing client base, to provide their content over multiple channels, with far less investment than would be required to do it on their own.

BBC and STV partner with AWS to provide World Cup video streaming

UK broadcaster BBC, whose iPlayer video streaming service relies heavily on AWS, saw a record online audience of over 3 million streamers when England defeated Tunisia 2-1 in their opening match of the 2018 World Cup.

BBC, a public service within the United Kingdom, is very open when discussing the architecture of their platform, having posted extensive breakdowns of how their services work on their blog platform. Much like other AWS customers, BBC have developed their own delivery system on top of AWS, which they call Cosmos. Cosmos takes advantage of some of AWS’s prebuilt tooling, adding an additional layer to allow BBC to manage their custom software deployments. BBC have stepped their game up this year, trialing Virtual Reality and ultra-HD services for a select number of customers.

STV, a Scottish TV provider, also relies on AWS for their streaming service, partnering with cloud consulting firm Cloudreach to build a scalable streaming service that can handle the temporary increases in demand that come with hosting events like the World Cup.

NBC Sports relies on Microsoft Azure to stream the Rio Olympics

The World Cup isn’t the only global sporting event that creates such a huge demand for tech resources. The Olympics pack even more content into a shorter time frame, with NBC hosting over 4500 hours of content over 17 days for the 2016 Rio Olympics.

To do this, NBC partnered with Microsoft Azure, providing real-time streaming of more than 50 simultaneous events, and set records for numbers of unique visitors and total hours streamed. All of this with no operational issues according to Eric Black, CTO of NBC Sports digital media services. “By using Azure, we don’t have to rack, power, cool, and monitor a bunch of hardware, and we don’t have to reserve capacity in advance; it’s all on-demand usage,” Black says. “We can leverage the cloud and Microsoft’s expertise in cloud to dynamically scale for our audience.”

Cloud elasticity is not just for sporting events

Although these sporting events are great use cases to show the power of cloud elasticity, as well as the value of the on-demand nature of cloud services, there are plenty of other use cases that apply. For retailers, increases in demand during periods like Christmas, including Black Friday and Cyber Monday, are a great example of taking advantage of the cloud.

Viewers of the popular US television show “Shark Tank” have probably heard of the “Shark Tank Effect” – a phenomenon where thousands of users watching the show simultaneously search out the product shown on the show, often crashing the product’s ecommerce site due to lack of elasticity to support the increased demand that the show provides. Mark Cuban, one of the investors on the show, requires any business that he invests in undergo an extensive redesign to ensure that their site will be able to handle the traffic that will occur when the show is aired. Several other cloud-based providers offer their services to business that will be on the show, ensuring that their platform is built to handle the capacity required for these temporary increases in demand.

For many business, events like month end, quarter end, and year end require extensive processing, analysis, and reporting, temporarily increasing the workload on critical backend systems. Merger and acquisition events typically require multiple systems to be set up quickly to support the efforts, which are often only required for the duration of the M&A effort.

Cloud can enable your business to provide great service during periods of temporary or temporarily inflated demand, while also allowing you to avoid over-provisioning your hardware and having it sit idle during slower periods. This, coupled with the built-in automation capabilities of the cloud, can allow you to focus your time more on your products and less on your infrastructure.