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Aligning Infrastructure with the Publishing Value Chain

On one hand, publishing is grappling with diminishing margins, non-linear explosion of content, and fickle brand loyalty; on the other hand, publishing has tremendous opportunity to transform with digitization and gear toward a collaborated, connected, converged world. The key is infrastructure.

The digital value chain of a modern-day global publisher comprises XML-based authoring, author collaboration, content conversion, metadata, federated repositories, digital asset integration, digital rights management, online stores, and multi-channel delivery. These key components are data- and memory-intensive, with the requirement of low latency, high throughput and consistent availability across multiple locations. In other words, the moving parts are complex, the way they fit together is complex, and all this complexity has to be managed for high performance and no errors.

Hence, the entire publishing value chain needs a critical assessment of current IT infrastructure to respond to scaling computer power, increasing storage and archival space, delivering content seamlessly to multiple devices, and uninterrupted support for peak loads.

There are three areas on which publishing organizations should focus their efforts: Next-generation data centers; content distribution networks; and Web support, which enables high computational capabilities, coherent access to content anytime and anywhere, and availability of Web assets.

Next Generation Data Centers

The consulting firm Gartner asserts that any data center more than seven years old is obsolete. As the technology refreshes after every three-to-five years, data center also needs to be compatible to deliver changing needs.

Next generation data centers (NGDC) could be a solution: Future requirements are kept in mind before designing a data center. Fundamental to the NGDC paradigm is service orientation by supporting and enabling users in a highly responsive way. It first leverages current IT resources to provide flexible IT capacity through servervirtualization (wherever possible) and allocates the resources on-demand using automated tools. Furthermore, IT applications get assessed for migrating on to the cloud (public or private) to achieve economies of scale, reduce spending on technology infrastructure, improve accessibility, and deliver new services with agility.

Thus, NGDC should be conceptualized by integrating physical servers and private and public cloud servers with corresponding business applications overlayed on eachlayer. For example, market research and content creation related applications could be taken to a public cloud (Amazon Web Services, SunGard Online, VMWare, to name afew vendors) technically, however, since these functions have competitive and sensitive information, users may not prefer this option. So, a private cloud is recommended in this case. Digital rights management should be virtualized and deployed in a private cloud due to regulatory compliance. HR and finance applications are good candidates for a public cloud, as are other non-core-functions within a publishing company.

Publishers could also create a utility to aggregate and manage cloud service which will help provisioning, monitoring and managing infrastructure. Additionally, itcould enable metering and charge-back of services on the cloud.

Content Distribution Network

Global education publishing services and educational institutions are looking for ways to enhance engagement with students by providing them rich and interactive content (live streaming of videos, three-dimensional and high-definition graphics) delivered through multiple devices in geographically dispersed locations. It requires a fault-tolerant, reliable and 24/7-available content distribution network (CDN) infrastructure.

Publishers need to ensure certain factors while designing CDNs — that is, choosing a CDN partner with reach across all geographies for scalability, CDN integration architecture in line with end-user traffic forecasts, updated edge servers with data repositories for accurate content, service measurement and ROI calculation to ascertain delivery quality.

Web Support

Publishers maintain multiple websites for different business units and subject types. These are becoming major sources of revenue with seamless mode to purchase and no control over visitor- and transaction-volumes. Infrastructure must be able to handle any performance issues, outages, security breaches and unpredictably high loads.

Health checkups for systems and infrastructure change need to be in place to avoid database swells and improper utilization of servers. Payment gateways should be secured and compliant. Real-time transaction monitoring systems are required to track business events and respond promptly in case of any exceptions.

With proper NGDC, CDN and Web support, publishers’ infrastructures will be equipped to cost effectively accommodate fluctuating needs from multiple channels.

It is an exciting time in publishing, when digitization is the need of the hour and robust infrastructure could play a pivotal role in gaining the market and mind share.

 

-By Divya Sharma

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