Guardian publisher uses Amazon EC2 to power iPhone app content

Publisher Guardian News & Media uses AWS for cloud-based infrastructure to scale content provision on smartphones and tablets

When publisher Guardian News & Media (GNM) launched new online services such as its Content API, it wanted infrastructure scalability to respond to hard-to-predict changes in demand caused by new applications and developers joining the network.

The publisher of The Guardian and The Observer and the Guardian.co.uk website turned to Amazon Web Services (AWS) for a cloud-based infrastructure that can scale up and down quickly.

With its old infrastructure, GNM had limited insight into the scaling issues that new businesses and services bring to its Open Platform – the publisher’s suite of services for developing digital products and applications with the Guardian.

GNM’s Technology Development group used the Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2) for a variety of projects, but most notably for its Apple iPhone application and the Guardian News & Media content API. In both cases, the web operations group used the AWS cloud to provide the front tier of the application.

With the cloud services, GNM’s IT team automated the launching of its servers in the cloud using shell scripts and a tool for configuring new EC2 instances called Puppet. The group has two Amazon Machine Images (AMIs)—32 and 64 bit—and provides user data when creating each instance in order to determine which Puppet manifests to download and apply to create the right type of server.

Among the advantages for the media company are reduced lead times. It takes the IT team less than ten minutes to set up a new instance in Amazon EC2 and another 20 minutes to connect to the infrastructure and build the server type, adding to a total lead time of half an hour.

This compared to a possible three weeks for hardware to be delivered and installed plus additional time for budget approval.

Having deployed multiple applications on AWS, GNM is now exploring Amazon’s Virtual Private Cloud (VPC) service that allows users to isolates Amazon EC2 instances from the internet at large for higher level of security.

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