When you hear “Sony,” you may conjure images of televisions, PlayStations®, TV shows like Breaking Bad or even the little robot dog. It’s a mind-bogglingly large $77 billion business, and at MarkLogic World this year, Sony’s Vice President of IT Rob Maxwell gave us a glimpse into one portion of the business’s complexity: Sony Pictures Television.
Rob was onstage with MarkLogic’s EVP of Products, Joe Pasqua, discussing Sony’s challenging yet common aging IT infrastructure and data-complexity story. Part of that story included the fact that Sony’s mainframe was ready to retire—along with the personnel running it. It was the perfect opportunity for a major IT overhaul in which Sony could upgrade its data-management infrastructure to better support its skyrocketing media growth—a $9B business and counting.
Rob walked through the mind-boggling intricacies of Sony’s sales-to-finance process. He said, “It’s an extremely complex data scenario,” but I think that was a huge understatement. In order to sell a TV show or other media property, Sony needs to address an ever-increasing combination of details about a show, such as:
Rob said the combinations run into the billions, and it’s easy to see why. All of that detailed metadata about the show must be tied directly to the rights and billing associated with that show.
Rob then walked us through a common yet troublesome IT landscape complete with data sprawl and an aging IT landscape, which included a mainframe in the middle. Unsurprisingly, the mainframe had run out of gas and was struggling to keep pace with Sony’s growth. Further piling on the complexity was the merger of Sony’s U.S. and International divisions, which had previously been acting as separate entities. Rob likened it to an M&A situation with disparate processes, different systems and manual activities that all needed to be addressed.
Sony merged the businesses, retired the older systems and decided to use a MarkLogic Data Hub for the Sales-to-Finance “conversion.” MarkLogic was to serve as a place to “throw in the data” regardless of where it came from (i.e., spreadsheets, mainframe data). Once the data was in the hub, Sony wanted to conduct some introspection, decide which data stays and goes and deliver it to users and records via a curated process.
If there were changes in the data structures along the way, then we had a fighting chance of reacting and restructuring that data in a MarkLogic database as opposed to being locked into a relational world where we’d have to modify the schema, do a lot of Data Definition Languages (DDLs) around maintaining that data and stand it up again.”
The plan was to then send the data back into Oracle, but Rob and his team realized MarkLogic could do so much more.
Once Sony fed rights, fees, billing and other data into MarkLogic, the team “got the confidence we could stand up our production application around that data” and as a result, the MarkLogic Sales-to-Finance Data Hub was born.
With MarkLogic, Sony easily ingests, curates and views their data. Rob says the users “are just nuts about it.” He points to what he calls “the best screen in Hollywood,” where users can dice up deals in hundreds of ways. They can make adjustments on terms, detect events that breach contracts and more.
The speed has also been greatly improved: The system used to take 42 minutes from clicking the submit button to get all the revenue and fee records validated so they could go to the finance system. Today it takes seconds—and Rob says it has the potential to be much faster as they continue to implement and improve the hub.
The users really appreciate the sophistication that we’re providing them in terms of analyzing the data—it’s head and shoulders above what they’ve had in the past. They are actually committing to increasing revenue because we’ve made their jobs easier,” Rob said.
To conclude, Rob said he envisions the MarkLogic Data Hub as a “digital river,” which makes data available in real time with fresh values. A data river, in his view, serves as a place where apps can come and participate and integrate data, then analytics can sit on top of it. The digital river provides for automated input, global reporting and more.
The digital river is an ambitious project, but Rob and his team have succeeded amongst the most challenging data and IT scenarios. If anyone can create the Sony digital river, they can.
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