AWS Case Study: Newsweek
Newsweek provides print and online news coverage for many different topics, including politics, world events, business, arts, education, and entertainment. The media publication is located in New York and currently has 200-250 employees.
In 2009, Newsweek began looking for cost-cutting opportunities. The publication realized that migrating its online presence from its previous co-location facility to a cloud services provider would significantly reduce operating expenses. After exploring various options, Newsweek chose Amazon Web Services (AWS) due to its comprehensive stack of services, which can meet the demands of the widely-read publication.
Why Amazon Web Services
Using a variety of programming languages and tools, including the AWS command-line toolset (Java), Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2) module, and Python’s boto library, Newsweek created its infrastructure completely within AWS. Today, Newsweek’s online presence incorporates Amazon EC2, Amazon Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3), Amazon Relational Database Service (Amazon RDS), and the Amazon CloudFront content delivery service.
Newsweek later expanded its AWS platform to include the Domain Name System (DNS) web service, Amazon Route 53. Nathan Butler of The Newsweek/Daily Beast Company explains, “We were able to reduce our DNS costs by ninety-three percent, which in tandem allowed us to shorten our time-to-live (TTLs) for easier, timelier management of DNS records. In the cloud, IP addresses are largely ephemeral, so we needed a service that would allow us to increase the amount of DNS requests due to a shorter TTL without increasing our spend.”
Butler goes on to say, “The Route 53 team was very responsive and helpful during our zone migration. DNS is the keystone of the Internet and having several points of contact to bounce migration paths off of was quite helpful in easing the transition to Amazon Route 53.”
In addition to the ninety-three percent DNS savings provided by Amazon Route 53, Newsweek’s Butler indicates that AWS-based infrastructure has decreased the publication’s overall monthly operating costs by seventy-five percent. The publication has also been able to streamline its system administration personnel by approximately fifty percent.
Beyond the considerable cost savings, Newsweek has adopted AWS as its sole cloud services provider because AWS allows the publication to provide the highest level of customer service to a news-hungry public. Since migrating to AWS, Newsweek has sustained over 1 million page views per hour using only seven production-level virtual machines. During high-traffic events, the publication is able to quickly scale out to eleven virtual machines, which can easily handle over 5 million page views per hour.
However, Newsweek isn’t done fine-tuning its AWS architecture for additional cost benefits and enhanced performance. Butler notes, “We are always looking to implement new AWS solutions. We are exploring migrating to a new bootstrapping method that will allow us to more efficiently use automation features such as Auto Scaling. We are also looking into using Amazon Mechanical Turk for some projects.”
For Newsweek, the true value of Amazon Web Services is the fact that it is an environment for both customization and experimentation. Butler says it best when he declares, “AWS is the cat’s pajamas—the flexibility of the service is amazing, and the toolset is robust. AWS takes its customers seriously by constantly seeking feedback and rewards its customers with new features and enhancements based upon direct feedback.”
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