News sites boost content and capacity for war

As the US-led attack on Iraq began in the early hours of this morning, online news providers were ready for the spike in traffic...

As the US-led attack on Iraq began in the early hours of this morning, online news providers were ready for the spike in traffic after having bolstered their IT infrastructure and streamlined content.

CNN.com, has performed load balancing among its servers and changed the appearance of its site, adding a special report section as traffic to the site doubled in recent weeks.

CNN.com and other sites had already taken steps to increase their network capacity and make contingency plans following the 11 September terrorist attacks in the US, when news providers were caught off guard by the sudden surge in internet traffic.

As the events of 11 September unfolded, CNN.com was forced to strip its graphics and quickly boost its bandwidth. Since then, the site has added to its server capacity and implemented load balancing.

"We learned a lot about demand. It changed our approach drastically," said CNN Internet Technologies senior vice president Monty Mullig said, adding that CNN.com had been gearing up for another event of that scale.

"We think we have more than enough capacity," he added. "But it's like buying a car they say can go 130 miles per hour. You don't actually know if it can go that fast until you try it out."

Reuters.com has plugged in an extra web server and application server. "We are preparing for additional traffic, assuming it will peak into tonight and tomorrow," development director Christopher Gruber said yesterday, before the bombing began.

Gruber added that Reuters.com has had some 2.5 million pageviews a day so far this week, compared to 1 million pageviews a day that the news provider's US site had a month ago. 

Reuters' wartime preparations also include an expansion of content, as the site rolled out a new streaming video feature Wednesday, that allows users to view raw war-related footage on the Iraq crisis.

"This is the first time that Reuters has gone to market with a consumer video product over the net," said Rich Sabreen, executive vice president and global head of Reuters Media.

"Reuters Raw Video: Conflict in Iraq", is free at present but Sabreen said that Reuters would make it available only through paid subscription within a week.

"We want people to sample it and preview it because it's not what they are used to seeing," Sabreen added, noting that the footage is not packaged with anchor commentary, and is streamed with "natural sound" from the scene.

The video is streamed via The FeedRoom.com, which powers more than 100 media streaming destinations on the web, according to FeedRoom chief executive officer Jon Klein.

Klein said the video offering was important because "a majority" of US workers have broadband in their office and much of this conflict will take place while people are at work.

Harald Prokop, director of Network Intelligence at content delivery provider Akamai Technologies, which has a handful of news sites and government agencies as customers, said business had been booming.

"People have come to us about provisioning capacity, securing sites against attack, limiting streaming and preparing lightweight versions of their sites," he added.

"Most companies have contingency plans and have budget teams focused on preparing," he said.

Still, news providers do not expect to see a traffic jump as severe as during 11 September given that the conflict in Iraq had been widely anticipated.

Web news keeps pace with fast-moving Iraq situation >>

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