Add The New York Times to the quickly growing list of companies replacing their own data centers with public cloud services.
As it continues to modernize its infrastructure, the publisher is planning to shut down three of the four data centers hosting its content and internal applications in the near future, migrating most of the workloads to Google Cloud Platform and Amazon Web Services, Nick Rockwell, the company’s CTO, said in a phone interview with Data Center Knowledge.
The Times is a rare success story in the digital age, when most traditional media giants are struggling as they continue seeing their advertising revenues sucked away by internet companies -- primarily Google and Facebook. The publisher has managed to compensate for some of the steep decline in print revenue with a growing digital subscription business (the last presidential election and The Times’ subsequent coverage of the Trump administration have boosted that growth substantially) and by expanding into new markets, such as its move into product reviews through acquisition of the site Wirecutter.
But its success story has been powered by an outdated infrastructure backend, which Rockwell recently described as a “jumbled mess.” He joined near the end of 2015 after 10 months as CTO at Condé Nast, and since then his team has been working to bring that jumbled mess up to today’s standards.
And that usually means shifting as many applications as you possibly can to the cloud. The Times already uses a virtual private cloud in AWS and a variety of Amazon’s public cloud services in addition to running some apps in the Google cloud. In addition, however, it has cages of equipment in leased data centers in Newark, Boston, and Seattle, as well as its own internal data center at The New York Times building in Times Square.
Rockwell’s plan is to shut down the three leased sites, keeping only the internal facility in New York, which primarily hosts infrastructure for video editing, network equipment, and a few older applications that are hard to move to the cloud.
All applications that depend on Oracle databases will be deployed on AWS, while most of everything else will run in containers on GCP, orchestrated by Kubernetes. “Plus, some other apps that we prefer to run on [virtual machine] instances will probably remain in AWS, mainly packaged enterprise IT apps,” he wrote in an email.
A critical piece of the publisher’s modernized infrastructure is a CDN (Content Delivery Network) operated by the San Francisco-based startup called Fastly. It caches clients’ content on SSD drives in edge data centers located in major metros around the world and provides an unusually high level of visibility into the way their traffic flows through its network – a key differentiator from the big traditional CDNs.
Using Fastly further reduces the amount of infrastructure The Times needs to deploy, in the cloud or otherwise.
The service that provides the primary API for mobile push notifications for its app, for example, sends out 25 million to 30 million notifications per minute when news breaks. AWS cloud infrastructure to support this service had to be scaled roughly 40 times typical load, costing the company about $25,000 per month, Rockwell said.
His team is working to switch that service to GCP in combination with Fastly (the startup is a GCP partner). He expects the new setup to bring the price tag for delivering the service down to about $5,000 per month, the cost of Fastly’s service in this particular instance being “immaterial.”