Orange Digital, a subsidiary of France Telecom, supplies digital services to Everything Everywhere (EE), the United Kingdom’s largest communications company. Everything Everywhere provides mobile and fixed-broadband communications services to more than 27 million customers through the EE, Orange and T-Mobile brands. Everything Everywhere is backed and owned equally by two of the world’s leading global communications groups, Deutsche Telekom and France Telecom-Orange. Orange Digital maintains the websites for Orange (www.orange.co.uk), Orange World, and the Orange Business site, as well as a number of Everything Everywhere’s digital assets.
Orange Digital designs, develops and hosts web services that have highly variable traffic patterns. For example, Saturday traffic on the Orange sports channel sites are at their peak due to sports fans frequently checking scores and results. Everything Everywhere also runs seasonal campaigns, such as the British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) awards and summer music festivals, which require short-term capacity that can be quickly tested and deployed for the duration of the campaign and then taken down just as easily.
Through mergers and acquisitions, Orange Digital inherited a legacy physical infrastructure that was no longer adequate to meet the needs of the company and its clients. Neil Jennings, Lead Enterprise Architect, describes the situation this way, “Our infrastructure was expensive to run and time consuming to maintain. Our traffic profile is variable in nature, which resulted in an oversized infrastructure 90% of the time. In addition, we had many Everything Everywhere micro sites and applications that needed rapid and temporary hosting. We were also in a period of expansion, and with traffic on our Orange and mobile home pages climbing to 4 billion requests monthly, we became limited by our fixed infrastructure. To scale up a physical infrastructure would present a massive upfront cost and a long time to market for deployment. So we sought alternative solutions.”
The software architecture team at Orange Digital looked at alternatives to their existing infrastructure, including evaluating cloud service providers. “Outside of cost, we chose Amazon Web Services (AWS) for its ability to scale up and down quickly,” states Jennings. “The application programming interfaces (APIs) gave us granular control over the virtual infrastructure, supported with solid documentation.” Futhermore, Jennings estimates that moving from their existing infrastructure to AWS will reduce Orange Digital’s hosting costs by approximately £2 million over the next three years.
Orange Digital uses Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2) for hosting servers in various roles— load balancers (HAProxy), reverse proxies (Nginx), web servers (Apache) and as database servers (MongoDB)—split across three Availability Zones and configured to be self-repairing. The team also uses Amazon Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3) for static content hosting. Figure 1 below illustrates the infrastructure for Orange Digital.
Figure 1. Orange Digital Infrastructure Architecture
“Basically our environment is a resilient standard n-tier architecture built on Amazon EC2,” says Jennings. Orange Digital makes of use Amazon Route 53 for their internal and external Domain Name System (DNS) and uses Puppet for configuration management, primarily to build Amazon Machine Images (AMIs) and for internal scripts to share snapshots and software deployment.
The team uses Amazon Elastic Block Store (EBS) snapshots and AMIs from the production environment in development and test environments. Using Puppet, Orange Digital can replicate a production environment on development laptops, thereby ensuring consistency throughout the development lifecycle. In addition, Orange Digital developed a control server, which is responsible for maintaining the state of the infrastructure, taking on tasks such as replacing Amazon EC2 instances and moving Elastic IP addresses.
Using the AWS Cloud allows Orange Digital to allocate staff more productively. As Matt Dean, Lead Infrastructure Architect explains, “Our infrastructure and support team has gone from nine people to four, freeing up the other five to spend their time on developing software and adding value, not just operational maintenance.”
For the future, Jennings notes that the team is evaluating Amazon CloudFront for reverse proxies and Amazon CloudWatch for monitoring. Orange Digital is also evaluating moving to Amazon CloudSearch for search and is investigating the networking flexibility that Amazon Virtual Private Cloud (Amazon VPC) offers.
“Moving to AWS has reduced the time to market for new products,” says Jennings. “Previously, this process took at least three months. AWS has removed a barrier, so time to market is dependent almost entirely on developing software and deciding what we want to do.”
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Added December 5, 2012