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Telegraph Media Group switches out AWS to go all-in on Google Cloud

Telegraph Media Group CIO Chris Taylor on why the newspaper publisher is switching out AWS to go all-in on the Google Cloud Platform

Telegraph Media Group is switching its public cloud alliance from Amazon to Google to support its goal of getting one million paid subscribers signed up to its digital news products and services.

Work on the 160-plus-year-old newspaper publisher’s public cloud switchover began at the start of 2019, and is on course for completion in the middle of this year, its CIO, Chris Taylor, told Computer Weekly.

“From an infrastructure point of view, we were pretty much, for years, all-in on AWS [Amazon Web Services], and Amazon is a fine organisation and we continue to enjoy a rich and varied partnership with it on lots of different levels,” said Taylor.

“But we felt, in that infrastructure space, it was more advantageous for us to move across to our friends at Google.”

Once the migration is complete, all of the environments used to underpin the firm’s digital publishing systems and its consumer-facing digital products will run on the Google Cloud Platform (GCP), said Taylor, as part of a wider push across the organisation to ramp up the number of digital subscribers to its website.

“It is the primary target to get to a million paid-for digital subscribers [to The Telegraph],” he said.

“To do that, part of my job, and the consumer product-facing aspect of that, is to make sure we have the right platforms and partnerships in place to cope with that ambition and the kind of scale and complexity that will generate.”

The company also plans to draw on the extended Google cloud portfolio to help streamline the story-writing process for its journalists, by giving them access to the firm’s machine learning tools to reduce the time it takes them to source links and find stock photos within The Telegraph’s image libraries. 

It is also using Google’s Apigee application programming interface (API) management platform to underpin a push to provide readers with personalised news content, based on their own interests, through the creation of its My Telegraph service, which is currently in beta. 

Going deeper into Google Cloud

This shift in public cloud strategy is far from The Telegraph’s first foray into using Google’s portfolio of cloud services, as the firm has relied on its G Suite set of online productivity tools for more than 10 years.

In 2016, it also emerged as a reference customer for the search giant’s cloud analytics and data warehousing services, including BigQuery, to support its web advertising ecosystem. 

“When you are the technology organisation within a company, rather than a pure tech business, competing for engineering talent within central London is challenging,” said Taylor.

“One of the things we endeavour to do here is ensure we’re always using the latest technology wherever we can. We’re always trying to be innovative and trying to develop and nurture those [technology] partners, and be an early mover in whatever trends are coming up.”

“We endeavour to ensure we’re always using the latest technology wherever we can”
Chris Taylor, Telegraph Media Group

According to Taylor, the migration is indicative of how The Telegraph’s cloud strategy is maturing, prompting it to look for a provider that could support it on the next step of its journey.

“It is a decision we took based on a couple of factors,” he said. “It [marks a] deepening and broadening of our existing partnership with Google, and the commercials are better than we were previously experiencing. We also felt the technology was – by some degrees – a little better.”

Taylor also credits the positive and proactive attitude of the GCP team to working with the firm as another notable factor in its decision to go all-in on the Google Cloud.

“The attitude of the GCP team made all the difference. They were very interested, very engaged, very hungry and very happy to work with us and support us in understanding and planning out the detail, before we actually settled on the deal,” he said.

Boost to morale and productivity

While the migration is still very much in progress, Taylor said the firm has already seen some benefits, particularly where the morale and engagement of its in-house software engineering team is concerned.

“While it is not a huge leap from working with AWS, it’s an opportunity for the guys to get their hands on some new technology, new training and try something new, which is all great for their engagement. And that aspect of it is what we’re already seeing the benefits of, and long may it continue,” he said.

In the longer term, Taylor anticipates the enthusiasm of The Telegraph’s technology team for GCP will translate into productivity gains too.

“The guys do a great job here – we operate a DevOps culture, but the move to GCP gives us the opportunity to cement that even further,” he said.

“The more invested the engineers feel in the full lifecycle of the product they are working on, the more benefit we see at every level in the work they are doing, [and] that will carry through to our consumers and the experience they have.”

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