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How the Media and Communications Industry Builds Data Architecture

Some of the first companies to use data lakes, cloud databases, and analytics pipelines can show us a lot about why modern, cloud-based data architecture matters to the data-driven organization.

A couple of years ago, Slalom surveyed 1,000 business decision-makers across multiple industries with the goal of discovering where companies see themselves in relation to what we call a Modern Culture of Data. We define a Modern Culture of Data as an organizational culture of experimentation and innovation, where people have the power to accelerate business outcomes with rapid insights.

Our survey found that the more advanced an organization’s data culture was, according to its answers, the more likely it was to be using the cloud. In fact, 98% of organizations whose answers indicated they were “immersed” in a Modern Culture of Data reportedly used cloud infrastructure or planned on adopting it. It may come as no surprise that in the media and communications industry — where data has long been an integral part of the business — the level of cloud maturity is second to none, according to a more recent Nutanix report.

Admittedly, the report doesn’t look at the media and communications industry alone. Instead, the report groups media and communications into the same category as the tech industry, where cloud use would be ubiquitous. But to prove that the media and communications industry does have its own cloud strengths, let’s explore three examples of cloud-supported data wins in three segments of media and communications: marketing and advertising, gaming, and movies and television.

“Just as media and entertainment companies mature and cement well-established processes and ways of working, emerging technologies and nimble startup competitors necessitate change for survival, making the industry a poster child for innovation.”

— Erika Nolting Young, Senior Principal, Slalom Strategy

Data lakes for omnichannel marketing optimization

One-third of organizations have their primary data lake platform in the cloud, according to Ventana Research. Plezzel, a client who recently joined their ranks, is a digital marketing automation software and services company serving the real estate industry. Its platform captures leads and inquiries from multiple online and social portals and pipes them back into clients’ customer relationship management (CRM) software.

Plezzel’s data reporting helps clients spot trends in marketing performance and make better decisions around listing promotion. To accelerate its reporting, we helped its team migrate data to Amazon Web Services (AWS) and form data lake architecture that automatically feeds data from multiple channels into Amazon QuickSight, where it can be easily explored, analyzed, and visualized for reporting purposes by anyone on the Plezzel team.

To learn more about using data lakes with Amazon QuickSight as part of your data architecture, check out the AWS Big Data Blog.

Cloud databases and analytics pipelines for player experience

The gaming industry’s customers want personalized gameplay experiences that match their interests and skill levels. They also want immediate insight into their performance and how it stands up to the wider player community. Gaming companies with loyal player bases earned them by harnessing and connecting massive amounts of data in real-time to deliver these kinds of experiences and insights.

Cloud databases allow gaming companies to store all this data — player data, leaderboards, session history, and game state — on a scale not possible with legacy technology. Among the most popular cloud databases for gaming are Amazon Aurora and Amazon DynamoDB. One of our clients, a large mobile/PC studio, is using Aurora with Amazon Relational Database Service (RDS) to help modernize its player platform and reliably scale its data.

To ingest, store, and analyze this data in real time, cloud platforms offer the building blocks and sometimes end-to-end architecture for analytics pipelines. For example, AWS has a Gaming Analytics Pipeline solution that supports the streaming ingestion of telemetry data. In gaming, telemetry data mainly represents player activity and is used to improve the gameplay experience. Several times, we’ve teamed up with AWS to help gaming companies use the Gaming Analytics Pipeline to quickly unlock new player insights inside their telemetry data.

To learn more about using AWS databases for gaming, check out the AWS Databases Blog for a deeper dive into DynamoDB’s gaming use cases and design patterns. AWS also recently introduced AWS for Games, naming Slalom as an industry-leading AWS Partner.

Centralized cloud data storage for movies and television

Although we’ve already mentioned data lakes in connection to marketing and advertising, they’re too important to the movies and television industry not to highlight again, this time in connection to content capture, storage, and organization. Data lakes are part of a larger media supply chain that the industry is working to streamline with the cloud. The cloud can help in the following ways.

  • Acquisition devices (cameras, microphones, sensors, etc.) are directly connected to the cloud through the Internet of Things. The result is less time required on set or in the studio and more virtual collaboration to produce content.
  • Content and associated metadata (titles, tags, descriptions, changelogs, etc.) are centrally stored in massive cloud repositories — i.e., data lakes — that serve as the single sources of truth for media assets during virtual collaboration.
  • Metadata is automatically generated for assets and extracted using machine learning, making content management and distribution more efficient.

Many of these concepts are explored in a comprehensive report about the future of media creation released by MovieLabs, a nonprofit technology research lab jointly run by Paramount, Sony, Universal, Disney, and Warner Bros. Check out AWS’ main takeaways from the report on the AWS Media Blog.

To learn more about how AWS and AWS Partners serve the wider media and entertainment (M&E) industry, check out last year’s announcement of AWS for Media & Entertainment.

Innovation and the art of keeping up

Slalom’s Erika Nolting Young explained once in the M&E Journal that companies in media, entertainment, and communications have become the poster children for innovation by necessity more than choice. Technology has been the backbone of the industry since before radios and televisions entered living rooms, giving the industry more time to mature and grow its tech stack, but with it more complexity in that stack, an expectation to evolve and adapt, and competition from young disruptors. The companies that are succeeding the most at keeping up are getting a huge leg up from modern data architecture — and, as shown in the examples in this article, the cloud.

To learn more about using the cloud for modern data architecture no matter your industry, check out our music-inspired ebook: Smells like data spirit.

Lily Hicks is a writer on Slalom’s global AWS team. She turns bright ideas from Slalom’s great minds into stories with actionable advice for technology professionals.

Slalom Technology is created by IT industry leaders and practitioners from Slalom, a global consulting firm focused on strategy, technology, and business transformation.

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