Reach Uses Amazon CloudFront to Deliver News to Millions of Customers


Each month, more than 40 million people in the United Kingdom get their news from newspapers and online sites owned by Reach plc. Reach is the largest commercial news publisher in the UK, with more than 150 national and regional news brands including the Mirror, Express, Star, Liverpool Echo, WalesOnline, MyLondon, and BelfastLive.

Reach needed to find a different content delivery network (CDN) solution for its 55 core websites to drive down costs. “New features always cost extra with our previous CDN provider,” says Michael Smith, principal engineer for Reach plc. “First, we’d have to negotiate a trial period and then ultimately commit to using a feature for a certain time, possibly requiring professional services to help set everything up. As a result, it was always a struggle for us to adopt CDN features.”

Reach also wanted the agility to be able to quickly make configuration changes and deliver new features to customers. “Configuration management was a challenge because we had to manually do network changes ourselves,” Smith says. “Doing that caused a development bottleneck, so we couldn’t enhance our websites or create ones easily or quickly.”

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“We’ve been able to move more quickly because a broader range of people have been able to work on the problems that fit at the CDN layer. Relying on Amazon CloudFront, we can iterate faster on features at the CDN layer.”

Michael Smith
Principal Engineer, Reach plc

To address its challenges, Reach chose to migrate its core websites to Amazon CloudFront, a CDN service that securely delivers data and applications to global customers. “We selected Amazon Web Services (AWS) because it has built a reputation for speed of innovation and constantly delivering new services and features,” Smith says. The organization also chose to use Lambda@Edge, an Amazon CloudFront feature that runs code closer to application users in order to reduce latency and boost performance.

Following an initial discovery phase, Reach conducted a trial phase where it ran several smaller websites on Amazon CloudFront. “The majority of our migration time was spent getting the core configuration right,” says Smith. “Our code that holds our deployment pipeline together is very complex, and it’s technically difficult to roll out changes to 55 websites. We were concerned about making a change and doing something wrong, which could bring down all the sites at once.” To solve its migration challenges, Reach engaged AWS Professional Services for technical assistance. “The help we received from AWS solutions architects was invaluable,” says Smith. “After working with the architects, we changed our approach and that helped us ultimately pull off the migration.”

Delivering Scalability and Performance for 55 Websites

Running its websites on Amazon CloudFront, Reach can ensure scalability and strong performance for the customers visiting its 55 sites. “Using Amazon CloudFront, we can deliver low latency to millions of customers every day,” says Smith. “We also know we can scale our environment on AWS to support increasing traffic whenever necessary.”

Reach has also reduced its network transfer costs by migrating to Amazon CloudFront, and the company as a whole has recently closed its two data centers by moving production workloads to AWS.

Simplifying Configuration Management

By using AWS to automate its pipeline, developers can make configuration changes on their own without manual processes and approvals. “Previously, we made manual changes many times when we wanted to make a configuration change,” says Smith. “Moving to Amazon CloudFront solved that problem, because we were able to build fully automated pipelines. Now our developers can submit pull requests, review the changes, and push them into production on their own without asking our platform operations team to do it. This means we can move faster when we make any configuration changes at the CDN layer of our websites.”

Deploying New Features Faster

Using AWS, Reach has the agility to create and deploy features faster than before. For example, the company quickly created and implemented service-side A/B testing using Lambda@Edge. “We’ve been able to move more quickly because a broader range of people have been able to work on the problems that fit at the CDN layer,” says Smith. “Relying on Amazon CloudFront, we can iterate faster on features at the CDN layer and we have more flexibility with Lambda@Edge.”

In addition, Reach is gaining new insights by using Amazon Athena to query Amazon CloudFront access log data. “Because we have insight into access logs, we can more easily analyze how people use our websites,” says Smith. “This is particularly useful for search engine optimization and troubleshooting website problems. Moving forward, we expect to introduce more features to help us better understand our customers and optimize our websites.”

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Reach plc

Reach plc is the UK’s largest commercial news publisher, with more than 150 national and regional news brands including the Mirror, Express, Star, Daily Record, Manchester Evening News, Liverpool Echo, WalesOnline, MyLondon, and BelfastLive, as well as the OK! and New! national magazine brands. Each month, Reach sells over 44.5 million newspapers around the country and reaches a digital audience of over 40 million.

Benefits of AWS

  • Provides scalability and performance on 55 websites
  • Delivers the news to 40 million customers with low latency
  • Simplifies configuration management
  • Reduces network transfer costs
  • Delivers new features faster

AWS Services Used

Amazon CloudFront

Amazon CloudFront is a fast content delivery network (CDN) service that securely delivers data, videos, applications, and APIs to customers globally with low latency, high transfer speeds, all within a developer-friendly environment.

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Lambda@Edge is a feature of Amazon CloudFront that lets you run code closer to users of your application, which improves performance and reduces latency.

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Amazon Athena

Amazon Athena is an interactive query service that makes it easy to analyze data in Amazon S3 using standard SQL. Athena is serverless, so there is no infrastructure to manage, and you pay only for the queries that you run.

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AWS Professional Services

The AWS Professional Services organization is a global team of experts that can help you realize your desired business outcomes when using the AWS Cloud.

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