The Big Brother uptime battle

The tech staff behind Big Brother work hard to keep the mobile feeds live
Written by Angus Kidman, Contributor

While fans of Big Brother are debating the exact nature of an apparent sexual encounter on the reality TV show, behind the scenes the program's IT crew are worrying about uptime of a different variety.

In addition to the daily TV broadcasts, 3G provider 3 also offers a continuous 24-hour video stream, which viewers can subscribe to on their mobile phones for AU$6 a month. Three also operates the show's official site.

Ensuring that the server systems can cope with the demand for the streaming service, especially when controversial events are taking place in the Gold Coast house where the show is filmed, can be a challenge, according to Michael Seager, IT planning and design manager for the Hutchison managed services division of Ericsson Australia. (Hutchison operates under the 3 brand in Australia.)

"The revenue from that for the telco is critical," Seager said at a press lunch for Avocent Corporation, which provides the DSView remote management system used to control the servers.

As the architect of the Windows server farm used for the mobile streaming, Seager takes the rap if there's a catastrophic system failure.

Seager admits that the platform choice for the system has required extra care.

"With Windows, you have to nurse it a bit more than a Unix solution," he said.

Seager wouldn't be drawn on what level of overall uptime 3 would find acceptable for the streaming service, other than to say: "They don't want any downtime on that thing at all." In the first three days of this year's show, more than 250,000 streams were accessed, according to 3.

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