The SPI Files: Edgar Roman, PBS

By Jen Carter, Station Products & Innovation

Last week the SPI Files went shopping with shopPBS's Nadia Bashir. This week we are sticking close to home and learning about software development and cloud computing with PBS Interactive's Edgar Roman.

Who are you and what do you do at PBS?
My name is Edgar Roman and I am the Senior Director of Software Development at PBS Interactive. Essentially, I am in charge of the software development team that creates and maintains the online products for PBS Interactive.

How long have you been at PBS, and what did you do before working at PBS?
I’ve been at PBS for two years. Before this, I worked for eight years at Symantec, a global provider of information security software and services. I ran the software development team for the Managed Security Service.

If you didn't work in digital media, what would you be doing?
Definitely something related to online services and software development. I enjoy solving hard problems and building cool products.

What are the top three reasons stations might want to consider using cloud computing?
  1. Lower overhead and time savings. If things are working, then everything seems fine, but what happens when a hard drive blows and you have to spend a week to get repair services
  2. Consistent environments. I’ve been there before – over time a data center tends to get many different models as you buy new hardware over time. Dealing with multiple revisions of hardware during upgrades and patching makes my head hurt.
  3. Ability to Scale. The nice thing about the cloud is the ability to turn up or down the number of servers at a moment’s notice. If you find the load on a server to be overwhelming, then in 10 minutes you can add additional capacity instead of having to wait weeks for new iron to arrive.
Any drawbacks to using a cloud?
Yes, it tends to be more expensive up front. But if you factor in time and effort from the team, it’s really not. Consider the items you can skip:
  • Determining the hardware requirements
  • Learning how to setup complex technologies like SANs, server clusters, replication, fiber channel, network topologies
  • Dealing with hardware failures
  • HVAC issues and power supplies
  • Testing you backup UPS and power generators
  • Having a remote location backup facility
In terms of reliability, it’s pretty good, but not immune to failures as well. You still have to have a good disaster recovery plan – that doesn’t change.

If you could make one recommendation to stations trying to improve their web presence without stretching an already tight budget, what would it be and why?
If you already have a server in house and it’s working, then I would probably stick with it but start tracking how much time and effort it takes to maintain. Try to put a dollar figure on the productivity cost and this would point you in the right direction to see if you are ready for the cloud. Don’t just jump into the cloud for the sake of it. But check out the AWS [Amazon Web Services] – they have a lot to offer.

Explain cloud computing in Twitter-style, 140 characters or less.

Cloud computing is hassle-free hosting if you can afford it and if it makes sense for you. Let others deal with the boring details of hardware.

And – just for fun – a few quick-fire questions:

iPhone or Android? iPhone

Dogs or cats? Dogs

Elmo or Grover? Grover

I am currently listening to… Glee Cast Covers

I am currently reading… Moby Dick

I’m currently watching… Amazing Race

Most overused phrase: lol

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