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BurdaForward Automates Scaling, Cuts Infrastructure Costs by up to 65% on AWS


Digital publisher BurdaForward, an arm of Hubert Burda Media, needed to update its infrastructure to increase flexibility and accelerate innovation. At the same time, the company sought to reduce overcommitment and optimize costs by automating capacity scaling. Using Amazon Web Services (AWS) enabled BurdaForward to build the custom microservices architecture it needed. The company engaged another arm of Hubert Burda Media, AWS Select Partner Valiton GmbH (Valiton), to develop a solution that provides scalability, reduces website response times, and lays the groundwork for current and future innovation, all while cutting infrastructure costs.

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We can spin up a search service or database and let it run, and by using AWS Lambda, we can write and test code, which is a real benefit for the team.”

Sebastian Bonholt
Product Owner, CHIP Digital GmbH, BurdaForward

Approaching Industry Challenges through Differentiation

BurdaForward is an online publisher with locations in eight German cities. Its web brands—which include Focus Online, Bunte.de, and Chip Online (run by CHIP Digital GmbH)—deliver free, ad-supported content and reach an estimated 41 million users each month. BurdaForward’s parent company, Hubert Burda Media, is an international media and publishing company founded in 1903, which now supports more than 550 products. 

BurdaForward was beginning to experience the constraints of its legacy infrastructure and needed a technical transformation that would free it to focus on technical innovation rather than infrastructure maintenance. This would help the company differentiate itself from competitors and address key industry imperatives that included building relationships with users and diversifying inbound traffic channels while monetizing through different business models. “We don’t want to focus on provisioning servers, upgrading search engines, and maintaining infrastructure,” says Sebastian Bonholt, product owner at CHIP Digital GmbH, BurdaForward. “But we do want to influence search rankings, increase monetization on the basis of data, and, especially, focus on the reader experience.” 

Scaling and managing capacity were central technical challenges for BurdaForward. Its legacy on-premises system was unable to effectively scale compute power up and down to accommodate peaks and dips in traffic, so meeting demand cost the company more than necessary. Further, BurdaForward could not provision instances as needed, so its staging and production environment ran continually, resulting in additional wasted capacity. BurdaForward needed a technical solution that would help it allocate resources more effectively. 

Though BurdaForward understood its business objectives, it needed support choosing AWS services to accomplish them. It looked to Valiton, a software consultancy and information technology provider, which has used AWS for multiple projects, beginning in 2010. Valiton and BurdaForward’s parent company, Hubert Burda Media, has also used AWS for several smaller projects across the company. BurdaForward and Valiton initially considered a multicloud strategy but ultimately decided to build a solution entirely on AWS to make optimal use of Valiton’s AWS expertise and Bonholt’s small team. This empowers BurdaForward to focus on delivering value to readers, making the most of the available AWS services. “We decided on a microservices architecture so that we could add and switch services one after another,” says Bonholt.

Scaling Infrastructure and Building Knowledge

BurdaForward and Valiton began talks in 2018 and then completed an initial Ops 2020 project to set up an AWS Landing Zone, a solution that helps customers more quickly set up a secure, multiaccount AWS environment based on AWS best practices. Valiton used support from AWS Professional Services—which supplements teams with specialized skills and experience to help them achieve results—to gain a big-picture understanding of processes such as AWS Landing Zone setup and migration workflow. 

Bonholt’s product team, with support from Valiton, led the migration to a scalable architecture that includes Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2), which provides secure, resizable compute capacity in the cloud, and Amazon EC2 Auto Scaling, which helps customers maintain application availability and automatically add or remove Amazon EC2 instances according to conditions they define. BurdaForward launched the new environment quickly and began migrating traffic and databases to AWS. 

Amazon CloudWatch—a monitoring and observability service built for DevOps engineers and information technology professionals—helps BurdaForward visualize the benefits of its automatic scaling. “You can look at Amazon CloudWatch to see traffic hitting and observe the environment spinning up, which provides more observability of the infrastructure,” says Bonholt. The solution prevents overprovisioning, delivers cost transparency, and reduces costs. For one project environment, automatic scaling and automated overnight shutdowns reduced infrastructure costs by 65 percent compared with continual, full-capacity operation. 

BurdaForward’s end users also realized the benefit of the new architecture through faster websites, with portal response times dropping from around 4,000 ms to an average of 800 ms. Additionally, the average response time for Elasticsearch clusters dropped from 25 ms to 10 ms. BurdaForward employed Amazon OpenSearch Service, a fully managed service that makes it simple to perform interactive log analytics, real-time application monitoring, website search, and more, to further streamline infrastructure management. 

The solution also includes AWS Lambda, a serverless compute service that lets customers run code without provisioning or managing servers. For BurdaForward, the flexible infrastructure, with low management requirements, creates new opportunities to innovate. “We can spin up a search service or database and let it run, and by using AWS Lambda, we can write and test code, which is a real benefit for the team,” says Bonholt. By removing the need to request and provision new servers, the team can innovate quickly and flexibly. 

Using AWS and working alongside AWS Partner Valiton have also expanded BurdaForward’s cloud expertise, providing a road map to address organizational pain points and obtain buy-in and supporting a significant knowledge transfer. “We decided that during every sprint, our internal development team should gain the required knowledge, feel confident running the infrastructure, and understand the thinking behind it,” says Bonholt.

Enabling Innovation and Cost Savings

Using AWS, BurdaForward is delivering faster websites to readers and running a more scalable, observable, and cost-optimized infrastructure that empowers the company to devote more resources to solving problems for its users. With support from Valiton colleagues, BurdaForward is continuing its migration to AWS and is now focused on building backend systems, including for data aggregation. The company is currently in the process of optimizing more services using AWS and expects to see further cost savings.

About BurdaForward

BurdaForward publishes solution-oriented digital content and is part of Hubert Burda Media, a company that focuses on social responsibility and has a more-than-100-year history pursuing media innovation.

Benefits of AWS

  • Prevents overprovisioning and delivers cost transparency
  • Increases infrastructure observability
  • Reduced infrastructure costs by up to 65%
  • Reduced portal response times from around 4,000 ms to an 800 ms average
  • Reduced average response time for Elasticsearch clusters from 25 ms to 10 ms
  • Developed technical processes and produced internal expertise
  • Increases agility and supports innovation

AWS Services Used

AWS Lambda

AWS Lambda lets you run code without having to provision or manage servers. Payments will only be required for the used compute time.

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Amazon EC2

Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2) is a web service that provides secure, resizable compute capacity in the cloud. It is designed to make web-scale cloud computing easier for developers.

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Amazon EC2 Auto Scaling

Amazon EC2 Auto Scaling helps you maintain application availability and allows you to automatically add or remove EC2 instances according to conditions you define. 

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Amazon CloudWatch

Amazon CloudWatch is a monitoring and observability service that provides you with data and actionable insights to monitor your applications, respond to system-wide performance changes, optimize resource utilization, and get a unified view of operational health.

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