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How the cloud gives Sky Italia the X-Factor

The broadcaster has worked with AWS to introduce near real-time voting to its version of the hit singing show

Sky Italia is using the cloud to help get viewers engaged in its version of X-Factor.

After working with a third party for 12 years, the broadcaster began exploring the idea of bringing the show’s voting platform in-house in 2021.

“We wanted to have a more generic platform, focused enough for X-Factor but extensible enough to handle other use cases,” said Nicola Cremaschini, principal technical architect of digital properties, Sky Italia. “In addition, in 2022, the TV show introduced temporary rankings on stage with the audience in near-real time. We had a very short time to get our platform ready to support X-Factor live events.”

The broadcaster chose to work with AWS, using the company’s managed services to re-platform in just six months. It launched for the first episode of X-Factor season 2022, handling millions of votes per session while adhering to competition rules and providing near-real time ranking. It also delivered better performance and reduced costs by 84 per cent compared to the previous single-purpose outsourced voting platform.

For the 2022 season, Sky Italia introduced near real-time results sharing, in which the host revealed the temporary ranking onstage with the audience while voting is still in progress. This meant the platform also had to open and close the voting system in near real-time.

To support the architecture of the new voting platform Sky Italia uses AWS Fargate to manage underlying infrastructure and Containers to host the voting application, AWS Lambda to run code for applications without provisioning or managing servers, Amazon SQS for managed message queuing, Amazon Kinesis Data Streams to stream data coming into the vote services as events in Sky’s ranking system, and Amazon DynamoDB to deliver single-digit millisecond performance at scale.

“By insourcing and re-architecting the platform to managed services, we reduced our costs by 84 percent,” said Cremaschini. “We love AWS for that! Our latency is very good under a huge load (142ms latency at p95 under ~56k votes/second and ~100k RPS). We were able to support near real-time ranking for the first time. That wasn’t possible without AWS. And, before insourcing, we needed days to set up our platform. With the adoption of AWS-managed services, we were able to evolve architecture between episodes with zero operations required to handle the platform. That makes it easy for us to quickly evolve the platform for other use cases.”

“It’s exactly what we set out to do,” he added.