blinkbox, the on-demand movie and TV service from UK retailer Tesco, is responding to the challenge of delivering an experience that is consistent both in terms of reliability and ensuring that movies look great, regardless of the device they’re played on, by using the latest Microsoft Azure cloud technology.
According to Jon Robinson, Group Head of IT at blinkbox, as the service became more popular, the operator found that running its own data centre was getting prohibitively expensive and blinkbox was running out of the computing power necessary to encode its catalogue of movies quickly enough so it could get them to work on the multitude of devices and screen sizes it needed to support. “Using Microsoft Azure has got this process down from weeks to just days or hours. It means we can make the latest movies and TV programmes available very quickly so our customers can enjoy them as soon as they’re released on whatever device they choose,” he explained.
Another issue was storing the data. “At the moment we’re adding 1.5 terabytes a day of new content. This is the equivalent of over 300 DVDs daily and this is only going to grow as we ramp up to all of our content in full HD which will double our storage needs. Beyond that, new video formats in future may mean we need even more storage and computing power. We felt that Microsoft Azure was the best solution to address these huge challenges and make sure our customers get the best experience possible,” he added.
Robinson said that blinkbox looked at all of the offerings on the market and felt Microsoft best understood where it wanted to go as a company and the demands of its customers. “blinkbox already runs a lot of Microsoft-based systems but a key factor was the ability for Microsoft Azure to work with our non-Microsoft technologies such as Linux. This flexibility allows us to use whichever tools are right for the job.”
Cliff Evans, Azure Lead at Microsoft UK, described cloud computing as the biggest thing to happen in IT within the last few years. “Small and large companies alike, are now able to provide great services very quickly without the overhead of running their own data centre. blinkbox is a classic example of an innovative, young company that is using the cloud to turn the way we consume entertainment on its head.”