IlGiornale.it in cloud

How we turned an historical Italian news outlet Cloud Native

Il Giornale

Il Giornale is an historical Italian news outlet with a consistent and popular online presence, that comprehends content dedicated to their online users as well as digital version of their printed newspaper. In addition to the flagship newspaper, thematic blogs are regularly updated.

Il Giornale On Line srl, the company managing ilgiornale.it, chose a cloud solution a long time ago to administrate the world of its digital contents, since serving several millions of pages and users every day requires a flexible infrastructure, ready to take on traffic peaks, and a high-reliability service to allow the editorial staff to release updates at the same frenetic speed of the world’s changes we live each day. The architecture is developed in a multi-cloud that coordinates services from different providers based on specific needs on production and delivery.

Starting from 2019, ilgiornale.it chose SparkFabrik to help them manage their cloud and proceed with the development of their CMS platform, from which their on-line contents are published in a Cloud Native perspective.

Project
Il Giornale Web
Services
Application Modernization, Drupal, AWS Consultancy & Managed services, DevOps & Automation, Data Engineering
Release
From June 2019
Il Giornale

The challenge

The first element of criticality comes from taking charge of a system designed by someone else, based on a non-transferable proprietary provisioning mechanism. Handovers are always delicate moments in the life of applications and of complex infrastructures, caused by inevitable communication ‘glitches’ originating in a system of implicit knowledge that is hardly transmittable.

Once the handover was completed, we faced the most compelling architectural problems first: the reliability of this solution, undermined by the single points of failure of the architecture, and recurrent problems of business continuity of the services offered by the editorial staff.
Lastly, the mapping of the architecture revealed the multiplicity of adopted solutions, consisting in both AWS native products and custom elements for networking and storage, still integrated in the AWS cloud perimeter.

From a software managing standpoint we detected revisionable and optimizable versioning policies of the code base and deployment strategies, and analyzing the existing situation we noted that it was possible to increase productivity while minimising risks caused by manual tasks.

From the assessment to creating a backlog

Once the handover was completed we took care of the creation of a new and updated mapping of the entire infrastructure and services in use, basing it on real data extracted from the API and AWS.

The following step was to conduct an assessment of the CMS application that manages the release of the main digital property: the website ilgiornale.it.

As for the application layer, we evaluated which architecture was implemented in the AWS cloud and its inherent characteristics, making use of our long experience in Drupal. The “satellite” properties were mapped and evaluated as well, in particular regarding the update status of the employed software and the ability to access for administrative tasks.
Lastly we collected data on the traffic generated, both in the AWS cloud and in the external CDN service, and on the operating costs of the platform.

The result of the infrastructural and applicative assessment was the starting point of the first discussion with the staff from ilgiornale.it, where we worked together to define a plan of action and targeted interventions.

We adopted our standard processes for the project management, reason why we transferred the code on our integrated platform which allows us to manage not only the versioning of the code, but also the tracking of the activities and the automation of the integration activities and continuous deployment.
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Development

SETUP, CONTINUOUS INTEGRATION AND DELIVERY

The first step was to provide the customer with efficient development tools and delivery processes as automated as possible:

  • We did the code and infrastructure set-up, importing the previous versioning and creating a build process based on containers that recreates the application’s environment to be used locally by the developers
  • We then configured the pipeline of Continuous Integration in a staging area to integrate the last modifications. We also performed two experiment iterations on automation and Continuous Delivery, based on the needs of the developing teams and on the timing dictated by the editorial job.
INFRASTRUCTURE AND OPTIMIZATION

We immediately confronted the structural problems:

  • We balanced traffic on different Availability Zones on the AWS cloud and efficiently solved the problem of the single point of failure
  • We rationalised the infrastructure in order to optimise the costs and maintainability mitigating the inter-AZ traffic, which makes up a not-insignificant part of the traffic
  • We replaced the obsolete provisioner, introducing “state-of-the-art” tools such as Terraform and Packer
DATA ENGINEERING & PLATFORM

We took care of the marketing demand of disposing of personalized dashboards of datas generated in real time from their assets for marketing purposes, that needed to be accessible from a single point.

In this case the challenge has been managing in an efficient way a huge data stream from Google Analytics and from the application logs.

For this we chose a multi-cloud strategy that involved data, features and services provided by AWS and other providers, with the goal of creating a display dashboard that our client could customise.

    Constant improvement

    A complex architecture requires constant attention towards improvement; for this reason we comply with the client activities that proactively deal with the potential risks and that aim for an optimal balance of costs, performance and reliability keeping up with innovations.

    For this reason it is currently active a complete plan of modernisation and optimisation:

    • Progressive structural implementation and orchestration based on containers
    • Optimisation of the CDN infrastructure
    • New revision of the architecture to remove obsolete services and optimise efficiency (cost-wise too) and safety of the cloud implementation thanks to the guidelines of the ‘AWS Well-Architected Framework’
    • Further extension of the APIs of the CMS application (Drupal) creating an application layer easier to manage and evolve

    The results

    After approximately a year of activities and collaboration with the ilgiornale.it staff we are able to point out the improvements obtained in the client’s multi-cloud environment.

    • The costs for the applications that provide for the redaction and publication of the newspaper contents have been cut
    • The main security problems have been located and solved
    • The declarative configurations for the infrastructure and AMI allows to shorten times on the Disaster Recovery, increasing the reliability of the architecture from an SRE standpoint
    • The multi-area configuration on the AWS cloud has been improved and now guarantees the scalability and resilience required
    • Continuous Integration allows for a better and faster supervision of the applications’ stability
    • The CMS application evolved to allow changes in the front-end and make the user experience more functional and modern
    • Access statistics of the editorial’s digital properties are today under control in a dashboard that allows to analyze them and plan activities
    • The costs for the infrastructure’s domestic traffic have been put under control
    • The implementations in the file storage have been rationalised, obtaining an improvement in performance and reducing costs
    Simone Procopio

    Chief Technology Officer, ilGiornale.it

    The partnership that connects us to SparkFabrik is based on shared values such as passion, professionalism and openness. Doing business to grow together, improve each other and stimulate change is what we do every day, step after step, thanks to the wonderful SparkFabrik team.