Comic Relief prepares IT for Red Nose Day 2011


Comic Relief prepares IT for Red Nose Day 2011

Bryan Glick

The organisers of this year's Red Nose Day have released the first details of the IT infrastructure that will support the enormous peaks of web traffic expected on the Comic Relief fundraising day on 18 March.

For Red Nose Day 2009, Comic Relief processed 116 payment transactions a second - almost five times Amazon's peak traffic at Christmas - as it raised more than £83m.

For 2011, the charity has teamed up with a number of technology partners to build the IT systems it needs, working with Carrenza, Oracle, Cisco, HP, PayPal, VMware, WorldPay and Zeus Technology. For the first time this year, Comic Relief is using cloud technologies to cope with its peak processing requirements.

Comic Relief uses two core platforms from Carrenza, one for donations and one for its websites.

The donation platform uses a Java application running in an Oracle Real Application Clusters environment across two data centres, processing hundreds of thousands of donations via web and call centres.

The and websites use open source content management system Drupal - one of the largest such installations in the UK - built with so-called LAMP technology - Linux, Apache, MySQL and PHP.

VMware's vSphere 4 software is used for virtualisation, and both platforms run on a HP ProLiant BL460 blade server with HP 3PAR storage. Cisco provides its 6500-series networking system, while Zeus Technology supports security, switching and traffic management.

Comic Relief's head of new media and technology, Marcus East, told Computer Weekly in an interview last year that the unique nature of the charity's fundraising day presents big challenges for its IT operation.

"People in the IT industry know that projects don't always go according to time or to budget, but that is not possible for us. Red Nose Day takes place on a particular day and that won't change, so if any core system isn't working, then it is a disaster," he said.

"That means we work to deadlines that can't be shifted and are also looking at what we are doing on an ongoing basis to ensure we are ready for the events, which are getting bigger each time."

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