TVNZ chooses local middleware

TVNZ has opted for a locally developed middleware product for both its television ad booking and operations.

TVNZ has opted for a locally developed middleware product for both its television ad booking and operations.

Synchromesh, developed by Auckland software firm Artisan Group, is being used by the broadcaster in a secure internet link with 30 advertising agencies. The system, called Telebook, lets agencies book TV ads – up to 1000 a day - directly into a TVNZ Windows NT server. Booking data is encrypted and compressed by Synchromesh modules, which have been to date installed at agencies by Artisan. Upon receipt, the transport module reverses the process and validates the file then transfers it to TVNZ’s Landmark air-time management system. It then notifies a TVNZ sales executive and monitors the file to ensure it’s processed within an acceptable period.

TVNZ IS business applications manager John Mulrennan says because Telebook's development was a pilot many changes were expected, and Synchromesh’s flexibility allowed these to be done on the fly. Mulrennan says one lesson the company learnt monitoring service availability and alerts “is that any planned maintenance on any node should be pre-warned rather than generate concern when the alerts start.”

Mulrennan says cost was naturally a consideration in such a development, and Synchromesh’s design helpfully didn’t require extra servers or licences.

Artisan development manager Chris Chamberlain says Synchromesh has much in common with “big name” middleware products like Microsoft’s BizTalk, BEA’s Tuxedo – which is used in other systems at the broadcaster – IBM’s MessageQueue and Tumbleweed’s IME – but has a more versatile architecture.

Synchromesh started with standard internet communication transports, Chamberlain says, making the product quicker to deploy; reduced the lines of custom code that get written with each application by adding logging, alerting, remote admin and client configuration to messaging; and its “difference engine” compression improves synchronisation of databases and reduces network traffic; and was developed with medium-sized and smaller businesses in mind.

Mulrennan calls TVNZ’s opting for Synchromesh despite already using Tuxedo “horses-for-courses”. BEA products link the company’s business-critical internal systems, he says, including SAP, Landmark, SATMAN, IBMS, and the new on-air automation system, OmniBus.

“Even though data and system integrity were equally critical, the model was quite different here, with many application vendors, multiple platforms and distributed advertising agency nodes, and cost had to be a consideration.”

Nzoom technology chief Alex Filkin says his division has had no reliability problems with Synchromesh, despite the age of the Teletext system and its complicated interfacing with existing architecture.

The central Synchromesh services were built using Visual C++, says Chamberlain, with some peripheral components built in Visual Basic. The company has recently rewritten its configuration management system using XML. Clients can be written using any COM-capable development tool, and Artisan is about to test integrating with TCL for Unix. Further encryption options will join PGP in future.

Synchromesh v3 will be available for general release this month.

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