IABM Journal

Representing Broadcast & Media Technology Suppliers Worldwide
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Collaboration – A Key Aspect for Any Digital Transformation Project

Sat 23, 04 2022

We live in exceptional times that offer us almost unlimited possibilities and opportunities, but these also come with plenty of entirely new challenges. The unexpected will be inevitable in our fast-paced future, and each ICT media company and broadband service provider needs to be ready to deal with this. This means that every company should go through a digital transformation process to make sure it can be successful in a data-driven future. The digital transformation establishes the ability to change and evolve the company’s business continuously and ensures that the organization can easily and continuously transform its products and services. The essential challenge this boils down to is the creation of an agile and DevOps-oriented powerhouse.

However, digital transformation is not just about simply deploying new transformational technology. Technology only enables digital transformation. The latter remains a very complex and multi-faceted challenge for any organization. The key to success is empowering not only your own employees and DevOps teams but also people outside of your organization to get easy access to all the data they need to build, test, deploy, and operate applications and services at high velocity and to continuously optimize, evolve, and improve those products at a fast pace.

At the core of this is the need for the capability to collaborate. It is essential that there is easy collaboration between organizations, and between a company and the consumers of its services. At the same time, every technology platform also needs the ability to make secure and fast connections with other platforms, irrespective of the API or underlying technology.

Let’s have a look at some practical examples of how Skyline Communications and its DataMiner platform enable collaboration between people, between people and platforms, and through machine-to-machine interfaces. This may sound like a simple task, but keep in mind that everything starts with a solid and well-structured data collection and control plane foundation. You need to be able to collect data from just about anywhere, vendor and technology agnostic, fast and in near real-time. Only then can data consumption and collaboration functions be successfully and securely deployed on top of your technology stack.

 

CLOUD-CONNECTED PLATFORM ARCHITECTURE

As collaboration is no longer limited to your own employees, any on-premises platform needs to be connected from ground to cloud. Such a connection needs to be highly secured, well-defined and easy to configure.

With the DataMiner Cloud Platform, an admin can simply authenticate in the local DataMiner System first, which is often done via the corporate identity provider (e.g. Active Directory), and then in the DataMiner Cloud Platform. The latter authenticates through Azure Active Directory and supports multi-factor authentication (MFA). Based on secure JSON web tokens, encrypted signatures, and secrets stored in Azure Key Vault, a secure and permanent communication channel gets established, running on HTTPS and WSS protocols, both based on encrypted TLS connections.

While this may sound complex, it can be set up with just a few clicks by any admin. Once this is done, your IT SecOps team can manage users via the built-in web UI.  They can rest assured that all connections and interactions towards the cloud are subject to one well-managed and highly secured solution, regardless of where the data comes from, across the entire operation.

 

LIVE SHARING SERVICES

Dashboard Sharing

In the past, collaboration with customers was often based on PDF reports that were sent after an event or production was finished. Offering a digital experience to your customers requires much more than that. Cloud-connected DataMiner Systems come with “Live Dashboard Sharing” capabilities. Anybody can build dashboards on the fly, with real-time access to all data sources. The data sources can be mapped via drag and drop from a library of dashboard widgets (e.g. progress bars, tables, line charts, donut charts, pie charts, etc.). Once a dashboard is ready, all you need to do to create a permanent or time-limited share is add the email address of your customers or technology partner. Each recipient will get an email with a link to instantly access the dashboard via the DataMiner Cloud Platform.

 

App Sharing

DataMiner “No-Code Apps” empower people to build their own targeted applications on the fly. Like dashboards, these apps can leverage data from across the entire organization, but they typically focus on bundling all data relevant to one specific user group, inside or outside of the organization. In the example below, an MCR engineer shares a software-control panel with people working in the field to set up live RIST and SRT contribution links using 4G and 5G connectivity. These apps can be easily and securely shared, in the exact same way as dashboards. The one big difference with dashboards is that the apps allow you to provide near real-time controls for those parts of your infrastructure that you want to share with others. In our example, this is a specific group of receivers and live video sources.

 

Remote Connect

“Remote Connect” enables you to interface via the secure cloud connection and get full operational real-time access to the DataMiner platform via any browser. Depending on the user rights you were granted on this platform, you may see all products and data sources, or a subset of the managed equipment.

API Sharing

For many years now, it has been possible to use well-defined northbound APIs to have any other system access a platform like DataMiner. With such a standard API, often plenty of API calls are required to get or send the exact set of data you need. With user-definable APIs, it is now possible to develop dedicated RESTful-based APIs on the fly and publish those with just one click. Basically, any automation script or complex C# code running on DataMiner can be the foundation for your own API.

 

 

CHATOPS SERVICES

Collaboration is not only about sharing data. Messaging platforms such as Microsoft Teams or Slack are widely used in organizations that rely on distributed teams. With “Chatops as a Service”, DataMiner has been fully integrated as a bot in those tools. As a user, you can have conversations with DataMiner in a very similar way as with one of your colleagues. You can receive alarms and notifications, ask for a certain visual overview to get more details for a running service, or request real-time updates from any data source or product managed by DataMiner. You don’t need to open any other user interface.

DEVOPS SERVICES

Collaboration between people requires more than a platform supporting the functions mentioned above. It also comes with the need to create a true DevOps environment to build, test, and deploy applications and workflows in an agile and efficient manner. This includes an automated CI/CD delivery platform open to everyone developing new data source connectors or automation scripts, for example.

It is essential to have an open community for DevOps engineers and developers to share knowledge and expertise, where they can among others get all their technical questions answered immediately. Similarly, for agile projects with your customers, you need a platform that allows you to share project progress, detailed time expenditure, and immediate customer feedback on the small project iterations you have deployed. Only this way will all involved stakeholders and teams be able to collaborate efficiently.

Finally, it’s also important that everyone can learn about everything discussed above. Every organization needs to give their teams ample time to learn and embrace the principles to be successful in a data-driven world. Whether it be for operators, admins, or developers, access to free training, which everybody can consume at their own speed, dedicated to each specific role, is crucial.

Digital transformation requires the right technology to enable people to work in an agile manner and to tackle all challenges today and in the future. This journey can only be successful if people and platforms have fast and secure access to the right data at the right time to collaborate.

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