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Case Study

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The Problem

Hard Rock Cafe came to us with an aging software system used for distributing and displaying music videos in their restaurants. The limitations of the existing technology prevented Hard Rock from taking advantage of high-definition screens and modern audio-visual infrastructure. In addition to the audio-visual goals, Hard Rock wanted to give their business more control over the musical experience within their restaurants.

Here are several of the main goals:

  • Support high-definition video output
  • Support multiple independently controllable video streams per location
  • Centralize all configuration management
  • Durable and compact hardware
  • Provide a local tablet device for interacting with the music system
  • Be reliable and supported 24 hours a day, 7 days a week
  • Achieve the above goals without losing existing functionality of legacy system

Our Solution

There were two primary components to this project: the hardware and the software.

Software

To meet the various requirements, the software was divided into several components. A few major components included:

Management Control Panel
A centralized configuration portal for all locations, used by corporate management.
Music Decision Engine
A proprietary music selection engine that makes playlist decisions based on time-of-day, cultural sensitivities, ethnic region and holidays.
Programmable Promotional Content
Dynamic injection of promotional content at fixed intervals, customizable by region, time of day, time of year and many other parameters.
Real-time Reporting
A core feature of the system is the ability to generate elaborate reports on system usage.
Content Distribution Network
A content delivery network for synchronizing new music video content to the local servers.
Local Tablet Interface
An iPad application for interfacing with the music system. This allows the local staff to customize the experience for their current guests.

Hardware

When designing the hardware, we had to consider a few obstacles:

  • Hard Rock Café has limited rack space
  • Power outages are a fairly common occurrence
  • Restaurants are a rough place for sensitive computer hardware

With these considerations in mind, we developed a hardware solution that met an exceeded the requirements.low-profile server with four independently controllable high-definition video output cards, including:

Quad-Channel High-Definition Video Output
A single server can output four simultaneous video streams up to a resolution of 1080P. In addition to supporting the latest resolutions, the server can output in older analog signals to support infrastructure in older buildings.
Mass Storage
Each server contains as much as 8TB of storage devices, assembled in a fault-tolerant RAID array. The disk array supplies enough storage for thousands of music videos, and can continue to function in the event of a hard disk failure.
Lights-Off Management
Every server has the ability to be controlled remotely, even if the operating system cannot load. We have remote power control, console access, temperature sensors and other diagnostics tools.
Rugged Low-Profile Chassis
The server chassis was chosen to fit in tight spaces, have plenty of ventilation and provide housing for several hard disk drives.

Support

One of the main support challenges on this project is that the hours of operation never stop — Hard Rock operates in practically every time zone. To deal with this reality, we took several steps:

Emergency Support Line
We call it "The Bat Phone". This is a special line that goes straight to our on-call support staff.
Support Ticket Tracking
We use a ticketing system to track every support request from the time it is reported to the time it is resolved.
Pro-active Monitoring
Using a combination of off-the-shelf monitoring tools and proprietary software monitoring, we are able to predict and correct most problems before they become showstoppers.
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