Travel Channel Delivers Enhanced Online User Experiences, Gains Visibility into Application Performance, and Optimizes its Environment with Red Hat Solutions

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June 17, 2010

Customer: The Travel Channel

Geography: North America
Country: United States


Business Challenge:

Required a management and monitoring solution to ensure www.travelchannel.com visitors have positive experiences with no downtime or viewing difficulties,

Solution:

With Red Hat Consulting and Amentra, a Red Hat company, Travel Channel implemented JBoss Operations Network (JBoss ON) on JBoss Enterprise Application Platform, running on Red Hat Enterprise Linux Advanced Platform, to increase visibility and availability, and improve the risk management of its Web applications

Software:

Red Hat Enterprise Linux Advanced Platform, JBoss Enterprise Application Platform, JBoss Operations Network, Red Hat Network Satellite, Red Hat Consulting, Amentra Consulting

Hardware:

Dell PowerEdge 2950 servers

Benefits:

Increased visibility to mitigate performance issues; Enhanced risk management and capacity planning; Increased throughput to servers 20-fold by increasing memory usage; Gained the ability to test the website’s refresh load, memory leaks, and performance issues during business-critical live events; Increased application availability; Gained knowledge through Red Hat Consulting and Red Hat’s Amentra Consulting team

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Background:

Launched in 1987 and owned by Scripps Networks Interactive, Travel Channel is available in more than 95 million US cable homes (Nielsen Universe Estimate, August 2009) and is the place for consumers to satisfy their urges to go, see, and do. Through the engaging storytelling and unique perspectives of its on-air personalities, the Travel Channel creates travel content that inspires, entertains, and taps into the human desire to experience new things, explore new places, and engage with interesting people and cultures. Travel Channeland#x2019;s high-definition simulcast, Travel Channel HD, is distributed to more than 17 million, and its website, www.travelchannel.com, serves as the networkand#x2019;s entertainment travel hub and averages more than two million unique users each month. Its largest annual event is a live simulcast of its popular and#x201c;Ghost Adventures Liveand#x201d; show broadcast both on television and via TravelChannel.com as an interactive web portal. In 2009, the Travel Channel received its first Emmy award, accompanied by six nominations. Travel Channel also hosts www.travelchannelacademy.com, the only travel-focused digital film school where anyone can register for online courses and boot camps to learn how to professionally produce travel media. The Travel Channel IT group is divided into three distinct teams: operations, digital media asset, and interactive. This teamand#x2019;s main goals are to promote positive and interactive website experiences and to provide content as quickly as possible.

Business Challenge:

Each year, Travel Channel conducts several live television events that are completely interactive with the company’s website. While watching, viewers can interact online through webcams, live video chat, texting, message boards, and forums. These events draw a massive following with more than one million hits to the website, resulting in Web traffic spikes of up to 300 percent, causing the need to monitor and manage all of the web applications to ensure there are no unfavorable outcomes for visitors during the live event.

“We mean it when we say “interactive,” said Richard Hood, senior manager of IT operations at Travel Channel. “If “Ghost Adventures Live” viewers see shadows go by on a webcam, they can text a message to the Travel Channel team, and we can send the personalities to investigate the area in real time.”

During “Ghost Adventures Live,” Travel Channel receives up to one-tenth of its annual revenue, and more than one million hits to its website. “On an average day we’ll get anywhere from 200,000 to 300,000 website hits,” said Hood. “During the live events, we can have up to one million hits in six hours, which is unprecedented for the size of our operation.”

In previous years during the live events, Travel Channel lacked the tools to effectively monitor and manage the performance of its Web applications. In addition, the spike in users overloaded the Web applications, resulting in unanticipated downtime.

“When you have a live event you have the world looking at you right then and there,” said Hood. “It is not pre-scripted and you don’t get to do a retake. If you have an issue, everyone can see it. We decided to become proactive and identify a solution that would enable us to test our systems before the event, monitor and manage during the event, and plan our capacity for future events,” said Hood.

Solution:

When the need for a middleware monitoring and management solution was identified, the Travel Channel IT team was not yet leveraging JBoss ON. However, this solution was already built into Travel Channel’s JBoss Enterprise Application Platform solution, which the company deployed in 2006. The JBoss Enterprise Application Platform runs on Red Hat Enterprise Linux, and Travel Channel currently runs 80 percent of its infrastructure on Red Hat Enterprise Linux.

With a need for these capabilities and minimal experience with a monitoring and management solution, Travel Channel worked with Red Hat Consulting and consultants from Amentra, a Red Hat company, to fully leverage the many capabilities of JBoss ON for its specific pain points.

Because it met all of its monitoring needs, including visibility, availability, risk management, capacity planning, and significant cost savings over proprietary alternatives, Travel Channel decided to utilize JBoss ON.

Benefits:

“I was amazed at how quickly JBoss ON was set up and configured to our specifications,” said Chuck Payne, systems administrator at Travel Channel. “Within two hours of working with Red Hat’s consulting teams, including Amentra, we had the monitoring and management solution installed. In addition, we had identified the roadmap for equipping our team with the tools necessary to identify issues, discuss pain points, and collaborate to address issues.”

Prior to the first live event after JBoss ON’s implementation in 2009, the Travel Channel IT team tested all of its critical Web applications and websites against inflated traffic projections, utilizing JBoss ON to identify and fix any potential issues. This testing ensured that the IT team was prepared and equipped to handle the traffic and usage spikes associated with their live events.

“The Red Hat consultants reached out to us in advance of the live event, worked with us during the event, and followed up with us after the event to ensure all of our needs were met and questions were answered,” said Payne. “This unsolicited feedback and candor solidified the feeling that Red Hat really cares about the success of our business.”

“JBoss ON also enabled us to remove the questions, concerns, and risks that we had during live events,” continued Payne. “We now have visibility into our Web application performance. In addition, we didn’t have to add another vendor, and thus complexity, to our environment.”

Travel Channel also realized key benefits through the use of Red Hat Consulting and Amentra, a Red Hat company. “The consulting and support from Red Hat has been outstanding,” said Payne. “It has provided me with the tools, skills, and knowledge necessary to identify problems and make accurate and efficient recommendations to fix them. While, I’m not reliant on the consultants, they are mentors to me and are constantly following up with us, which is unheard of in the IT industry.”

“In a short timeframe, Red Hat Consulting has enabled us to grow our environment and become self sufficient with the installation, tuning, and configuring of JBoss ON,” said Hood. “Additionally, the monitoring tool enables us to identify and resolve problems before our customer sees them. It allows me to focus my attention on other areas of my environment, and alerts me when we are meeting a threshold that is unfavorable.”

“The partnership we have with Red Hat is not based on dollars, it is based on the technology and the people who are committed to our success,” said Hood. “Red Hat takes the burden of hardening, testing, and supporting the technology, allowing us more time to satisfy the problem rather than playing with the symptoms.”

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