As Egyptians took to the streets and overthrew former President Hosni Mubarak, millions of people throughout the world turned to Al Jazeera for coverage. The global interest in events in the Middle East drove record levels of visitors to the news agency’s Web servers. Traffic to Al Jazeera’s site increased by 1,000% and that to its Drupal-based live blog increased by 2,000% during the crisis in Egypt, according to a blog post by Dreis Buytaert, Drupal creator and the founder of Acquia, which is now providing its elastic service for the international news organization.
Previously, Al Jazeera’s site was hosted by a traditional Web host, but the demands caused by the surge required more resources. That’s where Acquia comes in, commanded by Buytaert, who also serves as lead developer.
In the move, Al Jazeera transferred its live blog to Acquia’s Managed Cloud service. Like other cloud hosts, Acquia offers elastic resources so that sites can scale up – and back down – with ease. Unlike general purpose cloud hosts, Acquia specializes in Drupal, enabling it to fine tune its servers’ performance to the CMS’s particular needs.
“Fast forward a few weeks, and the demands on Al Jazeera’s Web infrastructure have only increased with new crises across the region,” wrote Buytaert. But at some point the traffic level will taper down again. As readwriteweb pointed out recently, the ability to scale-down is one of the unsung advantages of cloud services.
Several other news media companies use Drupal, including The Economist, Fox News and Mother Jones. But regardless of the underlying CMS, news agencies should consider elastic hosting to handle spikes.