The Salesforce platform provides users a 360 degree view of their customers, helping them connect and nurture relationships in a whole new way. An initiative at the company is Salesforce Live, which has webcasts, productions and events, including a live broadcast of Dreamforce.
Hosted in downtown San Francisco by Salesforce, Dreamforce is an annual, massively attended conference. Bringing together a mixture of thought leaders and professionals, the event has historically attracted over 170,000 people to attend. The focus of the show is often on keynote addresses, training sessions and networking events among many other activities that take place at the conference.
When it came to the topic of expanding the audience for the venue, online proved a natural fit. “Streaming is a huge part of Dreamforce, has been for many years,” said Michael Rivo, Business Director of Salesforce Live. “We put a big effort into driving large audiences for our Dreamforce broadcast. For the past several years we’ve had millions of viewers in real time watching the live stream of the broadcast.”
To help achieve this goal, the underlying technology had to be accessible and reliable while creating an overall high quality production for online viewers. For more information on the infrastructure used to support the large audiences, be sure to download this Live Video Delivery System Built for Scalability white paper as well.
Having an accessible live stream played a key role in the overall broadcast. This includes both how viewers could watch the stream and also where.
Part of this entails creating something that is accessible over a wide range of devices. As was discovered, this includes actively reaching viewers who are actually already at the conference. “We’ll walk the campus to see how people are engaging with our streaming content,” says Salesforce’s Rivo, “and we see people watching on their mobile device because they’re on their way to another talk or they’re just sitting outside having lunch and they’re watching the live stream in real time of something that’s happening across the campus.”
To facilitate this, content is live transcoded to reach virtually every device. This process involves taking an RTMP feed and transcoding it so that it’s compatible across a large range of browsers and devices. During this, the content is also setup to support adaptive bitrate streaming. This entails having multiple resolution and bitrate combinations available for viewers, while the player dynamically switches between them based on the viewer’s connection speed. As a result, someone on a fast connection would be able to watch a high definition version, while someone on a slower connection, for example on their phone with a weak signal, could watch a lower resolution version.
On the topic of where viewers can watch, some success has been owed to the breadth of locations. “Our viewing audience has grown a lot over the years,” says Salesforce’s Rivo, “in fact, last year we had our largest organic audience ever. Being able to stream to social channels, to your own website, syndicating through partners, lots of different opportunities now to get the content to where the audience is.”
The ability to embed video into a site has a wide range of options as well. This includes being able to share with partners, but also restrict what websites are allowed to share that content if desired.
Reliability and scalability
Part of the goal of streaming Dreamforce is to greatly expand the audience for the event. Salesforce has been tremendously successful in this as well, bringing content to millions of viewers in real time.
Audiences of this size require a strong infrastructure to support it, with reliability as a focus. IBM has heavily invested in the IBM Cloud to help ensure successful global video delivery. Additionally, IBM has invested in technology called SD-CDN (Software Defined Content Delivery Network) to achieve this. The SD-CDN approach is built for both scalability and global reach. It manages this through utilizing multiple CDNs (Content Delivery Networks), each of which has servers located throughout the world. This huge global presence expands the geographic reach of content by caching in a CDN’s servers. As a result, viewers will get that content by connecting to the nearest server rather than having to wait for their request to go directly to the origin. This speeds up the delivery, but also allows for larger audiences by mitigating load on a particular server.
The SD-CDN approach takes this to the next level, greatly boosting the scalability and reliability. This is done through QoS (Quality of Service) aspects of the service, which are integrated in the player. As a result, when a viewer experiences buffering this occurrence is detected. Trying to resolve the issue, the viewer will be seamlessly switched to a different CDN to try and mitigate it. Not only does this give the viewer a better experience, but also works to resolve potential issues before they happen. For example, a server at a CDN might be facing issues, with an early sign being reduced performance. Before a total outage occurs, though, the viewers had been switched to a different source.
Broadcast TV quality production
A lot of emphasis is placed on engagement and making high quality video content for viewers. This includes not just creating engaging material, but also production values of the broadcast. “We approach it like an entertainment broadcast because of the caliber of speakers and the breadth of content,” says Salesforce’s Rivo. “We put a lot of effort into making it look like something you would see on broadcast TV and what’s really interesting is that the core audience that’s joining us on our website are staying for 45, 50 minutes, an hour long and really engaging with the content that’s there.”
To achieve the desired level of quality, IBM and its partner Suite Spot help Salesforce produce top tier events every year. This includes working on scheduling, coordination and production. IBM’s 24/7 support team is also on hand as well for the event. “The managed services that we get from the IBM Cloud services team has been fantastic,” says Salesforce’s Rivo. “At Dreamforce we’ve had a representative who is sitting right there with us, able to answer questions.”
To learn more about the production services used, register for this Video Production Tips: Secrets of Success webinar conducted by IBM and Suite Spot.
As noted in the Salesforce case study video, Salesforce has made video a priority. They have continued to broadcast and grow their audience while attracting a massive, highly engaged turnout for their Dreamforce event.
For more information on the video services, register for the Getting Started with Enterprise Video Management webinar.
For video content and coverage from Salesforce, also be sure to check out Salesforce Live.