News International aims to put 100% of its infrastructure in the cloud

Publishing giant News International aims to move 100% of its IT infrastructure into the cloud, the company's CIO said this morning in London.

And it aims to have achieved 75% cloud infrastructure within the next two years.

News International launched its digital transformation programme back in 2010, CIO Chris Taylor explained at the Amazon Web Services Summit 2013 this morning.

"Three years ago, News International was a great newspaper company," he said. "That wasn't good enough for the 21st Century – we needed to be a great multimedia company."

"A programme of innovation began, which has cloud computing at its heart."

The first stage of that programme was to virtualise NI's internal IT infrastructure. So far, it has virtualise 90% of its own infrastructure, which has allowed it to shrink its data centre footprint by 25%.

But the company also need to accelerate the speed with which it could adopt new digital platforms. "If we are selling products on the iPad, our journalists need to have iPads," said Taylor. "If our readers are using Twitter, our journalists need to be using Twitter."

NI saw cloud computing as the key to adopting new digital technologies quickly. "We believe that cloud computing is a key part of transforming an organisation."

Not all cloud services are created equal, however, Taylor warned.

"When cloud computing became de rigeur a few years ago, every technology provider rebranded their hosted service as cloud, and only a few players stood out."

In Taylor's view, for a service to constitute "true" cloud computing, it must have the following characteristics: utility pricing; instant scalability; 'almost' infinite scaling; and the ability to access it from anywhere.

He added that NI wanted to use cloud service that was the supplier's core product, not a secondary offering to its main hosting service.

"When we were looking for infrastructure-as-a-service provider, Amazon Web Services stood out," Taylor said.

NI has used AWS to support its "pay wall" strategy. In 2010, News International decided to introduce a payment wall for The Times and The Sunday Times (and recently announced plans to do the same for The Sun).

"We've made all of our digital content for Times and Sunday Times available only to our digital subscribers," Taylore explained. "But we want to vary that on a piece of content basis. For example, we want our readers to be able to share articles with their friends."

"So we needed to build a powerful access control system," he recalled.

NI talked to AWS about its requirements, and was given early access to DynamoDB, the company's hosted NoSQL database product. Using DynamoDB means the access control system has some impressive performance statistics, Taylor said.

"Access time is 40ms, which means four requests can be served in blink of a human eye."

News International will be working to achieve 75% cloud infrastructure over the next two years. One of the major milestones within that will be to move its SAP ERP implementation onto AWS.

"We are working with AWS and SAP to see if we can get that fully migrated to the cloud."

Pete Swabey

Pete Swabey

Pete was Editor of Information Age and head of technology research for Vitesse Media plc from 2005 to 2013, before moving on to be Senior Editor and then Editorial Director at The Economist Intelligence...

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