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News Corp rolls out cloud to Harper Collins, Dow Jones and WSJ after News UK success

Archana Venkatraman

After seeing News UK yield benefits from public cloud services, News Corp is looking to roll out public cloud across its other brands, including Harper Collins, Dow Jones and Wall Street Journal Europe.

News UK adopted public cloud computing services in 2011 as part of its cloud-first strategy developed by then-CIO Paul Cheesbrough in 2010. News UK uses Amazon Web services' (AWS) infrastructure as a service (IaaS), Salesforce's platform as a service (PaaS) and Google Apps ' software as a service (SaaS), as part of its public cloud infrastructure.

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The organisation reported benefits in IT efficiency, quick IT response time and cost savings, and News Corp now plans to implement the technology across seven other titles. These include Harper Collins, Dow Jones and Wall Street Journal Europe, said Chris Birch, News UK IT director.

News Corp started its cloud project in September 2013 but the programme remains in its initial phases. “I will not be personally implementing public cloud in News Corp’s other brands, but I will be co-ordinating the project and working closely with public suppliers, such as AWS for the project,” said Birch.

He aims to get as much as 80% of News Corp’s IT services hosted on AWS cloud platform. “We aim to have moved at least 75% of this planned IT services on to the cloud in the next three years,” he said.

Datacentre consolidation

As part of News Corp’s project to adopt more public cloud computing services, the organisation will consolidate its datacentre infrastructure.

“At its peak in 2010, News Corp had 65 datacentres spread across globally,” Birch said. Today, with virtualisation and cloud adoption, that figure is down to 46.

“Our aim is to exit the datacentre business completely. Datacentres are expensive and don’t provide us with the agility our business needs and it is not our core competency,” he said.

But datacentres can be consolidated and transformed into a private cloud infrastructure yielding cloud benefits. “I don’t buy into private cloud. It is essentially a datacentre – maybe a better one, but still a datacentre with hardware infrastructure,” Birch said.

Cloud progress

The IT team started using AWS platforms since February 2011, starting with just Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2) – the service that provides organisations with unlimited set of virtual machines.

News UK has since adopted AWS’s other services, including Amazon Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3) for storage, RDS for databaseELB for load-balancingCloudWatch for monitoring and Elastic MapReduce for data analysis.

It uses Salesforce.com cloud products and Google’s public cloud services for email and collaboration.

“Public cloud has given us huge power and the agility to meet changing business requirements in News UK,” Birch said.

Revenue strategy

The cloud infrastructure allowed News UK to focus on time-bound revenue-generating projects. For instance, it bought exclusive content rights for English Premier League and Scottish Premier League seasons and exploited this exclusive content to increase revenue.

“In four months, we built sophisticated access control systems to manage this exclusive content – sports video clips – for our subscribers and we even built mobile apps around them,” he said.

“If we had to use our legacy infrastructure and traditional datacentre for this project, it would have taken me four months to just procure the infrastructure to provide it to the apps team.”

After the premier league season, the organisation will scale down the infrastructure to save costs. But because of a ready-made platform, News UK will also be able to buy exclusive rights to cricket video clips and follow the same revenue-generating strategy.

“AWS’s auto-scaling capabilities even enabled us to build a timely app for the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee,” he said. 

IT aligned with business

Cloud allowed the organisation to become the first UK publisher to build a successful paywall for its content and develop tablet device editions. 

“When we built the content access control, we had about 30,000 subscribers. In a year it increased to over 100,000 and our datacentre would have been incapable to handle such a load,” said Birch.

“With the cloud, IT is no more a necessary evil. It is easier for us to drive the point of technology investment in the board.”


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