How Disney Hotstar Achieved its Impressive Live Streaming Feat?

Hotstar has an in-house project called ‘Project Hulk’, which helps test the system's resilience and find breaking points.
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On 28 August, India defeated Pakistan by five wickets, inspired by an all-round performance from Hardik Pandya in the Asia Cup 2022. Social media appeared to be in a jubilant mood and was full of praise for the Indian Cricket Team; however, many also took to these platforms to point out how Disney Hotstar managed to live stream the game to nearly 1.2 crore people without disruption.

While it may come to the notice of many that such a huge number of people were simultaneously streaming the game live on Disney+ Hotstar, it was not the first time the OTT platform achieved such a feat.

In fact, the IPL final between Mumbai Indians and Chennai Super Kings in 2019 was reportedly watched by nearly 18.6 million people. However, the record currently stands at 25.3 million, achieved during the India versus New Zealand World Cup semi-final match. So, how does Disney Hotstar do it?

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Robust infrastructure

Hotstar, which has around 58.4 million subscribers, is not new to live streaming. In fact, Hotstar has been live streaming different sporting events for years now. To do so, Hostar has built a robust content delivery infrastructure for seamless live streaming.

Now, there are two important aspects of this infrastructure. Firstly, its cloud services from Amazon Web Services (AWS), which does most of the backend heavy-lifting, and secondly, its Content Delivery Network provided by Akamai Technologies.

A lot of planning and in-house preparation goes into the backend to stream live for such an event. A large-scale load testing also goes into preparing the platform for game days.

Further, Hotstar also has an in-house project called ‘Project Hulk’, which helps test the system’s resilience and find breaking points. The tool allows Hotstar’s engineers to mimic the entire user journey with different inputs and can also simulate entire traffic patterns, much like this match.

Hotstar has also built a scaling strategy where it pre-warms their infrastructure before an event like the India–Pakistan cricket match.

Further, the tool allows automated proactive scale-up with a buffer to handle spikes in traffic. The OTT platform expects to add around one million new viewers per minute.

Cloud infrastructure

To generate the load, Hotstar uses c5 9xlarge machines, and each machine has 36 CPUs, and 72 GB of RAM and Hotstar uses nearly 3000 of them, which means 108,000 CPUs and 216 TB RAM.

All of the computing power and hardware are provided by AWS. All the traffic generated by the platform is served by the Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) instances, and the Amazon Simple Storage Service (S3) Object store is used for data storage.

While Amazon EC2 is a service that provides virtual servers for compute capacity, Amazon S3 is an object storage service that offers scalability, data availability, security, and performance.

Further, Hotstar has load generation machines distributed in eight different AWS regions. This allows the engineers to carry out load testing and ensure that a single edge location or a region is not overwhelmed when load testings are done.

Content Delivery Network

Hotstar’s content delivery partner Akamai also plays a big role in helping the platform deliver seamless live streaming. A CDN helps reduce latency.

A CDN is a network of servers that distributes content from an ‘origin’ server worldwide by caching content close to where each end user is accessing the internet via a web-enabled device, according to an Akamai blog post.

Hotstar leverages Akamai’s geographically distributed servers to speed up web content delivery. This means every time you watch a live stream on Hotstar, it’s not coming directly from Hotstar’s servers, but it’s coming from one of Akamai’s servers located near you.

The distance between the users and the CDN partner server will be lesser than the distance between the user and the main server of the OTT platform.

Pritam Bordoloi
I have a keen interest in creative writing and artificial intelligence. As a journalist, I deep dive into the world of technology and analyse how it’s restructuring business models and reshaping society.

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