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News International to collapse six datacentres as part of its cloud strategy

Archana Venkatraman

News International will be collapsing six of its datacentres which includes two in the UK, two in the US and two in Australia as part of its strategy to adopt more cloud-based services.

“We are aiming to have far more of our IT infrastructure on the cloud,” said Ian McDonald, head of infrastructure and cloud at News International.

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News International’s move to the AWS public cloud in 2010 has helped it save between £1m and £1.5m on capital expenditure in two years.

Speaking at the International Datacentre Strategy event, a CIO-focused seminar organised by DatacenterDynamics Intelligence, he said the media organisation currently has more than a third of its server estate running on AWS platforms but it is looking to move the majority into the cloud.

Datacentre providers must become smarter

News International uses TeleCity as its datacentre provider in the UK.

“I want more from datacentre suppliers than just some space to put my servers,” McDonald said. “Datacentre industry should provide customers with cloud-like services. If I need 100 servers on demand, then I should be able to scale up quickly without too much penalty,” he said.

“Rather than just providing us with hosting space, datacentre suppliers should also provide us with pre-populated racks. That would be very useful,” McDonald said.

While there are different levels of services offered by datacentre suppliers ranging from simple hosting to fully managed services, users want more from the basic service providers.

Other experts at the event agreed. Vijay Mistry, the global head of datacentre portfolio management at Morgan Stanley said: “Yes, the IT needs are changing amid these tough financial times and users are expecting to receive more values from their datacentre suppliers.

While Kfir Godrich, managing partner at Godrich Consulting LLC said: “Datacentre providers must not just be a square foot company but be a smart square foot company that can give users what they want when they want.”

“We will migrate 75% of our servers to the public cloud by 2015,” McDonald said. “That is 13,500 servers in total. It is a big change,” he added.

News International's cloud strategy

The publisher began its move to the public cloud in August 2010 when Paul Cheesbrough (former Telegraph Media Group CIO) joined as its CIO. The IT team decided to adopt AWS public cloud over private cloud for its higher scalability and cheaper running costs.

"Our infrastructure was ready for the cloud. In fact, we have a higher ratio of virtualisation in our infrastructure than EMC which is the parent company of virtualisation specialist VMware," McDonald said.

Moving 75% of its server estate to the cloud will also help News International save another £3m in the next three years as it will not have to invest in server refresh to update its internal datacentre, McDonald said. In addition to AWS, the publisher is also a heavy user of Google's cloud-based services.

News International currently operates 17 datacentres, but it wants to rely less on its internal datacentres to bolster resilience. If the facilities stopped working for  24-48 hours, the cost of the downtime would be huge, McDonald said. But if IT services are hosted in the cloud, they can always be migrated to another site easily in the event of downtime, he said.

The cloud will provide it with more flexibility and scalability than internal datacentres. For example, News International won the rights to host near-live footage of the upcoming Premier League football games. It would take at least three or four months for the IT to update our internal datacentre with more servers and make it ready for the video. But AWS public cloud means that it can scale a lot faster at a lower cost, McDonald said.

The in-house datacentre is expensive to run. “There is a cost to do it correctly, there is the cost of the real estate and then there is the cost to upgrade and modify every time there is a new need,” McDonald said.

He said that the IT team has  also struggled with faulty generators and UPS equipment within the datacentre. “The power and energy supplier has never been a problem. It is the datacentre hardware that are the source of our problems,” he said.

In-house infrastructure is less flexible in terms of supporting IT consumerisation, and smartphones. “We have spent millions on our Cisco networks for the internal infrastructure. But now we have all the software-defined networking (SDN) providers telling us that we need to adopt SDN,” he said.


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