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Al Jazeera: Handling traffic spikes with cloud services and Drupal

The recent Egyptian revolution which saw the overthrow of former President Mubarak garnered world wide publicity with millions of viewers tuning in to Al Jazeera for live broadcasting on the day-to-day events.

The online global interest saw the media conglomerate of the Middle East reach peak records in traffic to its site as the news agency’s web servers were strained to the maximum.

To counter the surge, Al Jazeera transfered its Drupal-based live blog, Al Jazeera Live, to Acquia’s fully managed Cloud Platform which is suited to meet the demands of larger, traffic-intensive sites. The service is specifically tailored towards Drupal and provides all the redundant performance technologies such as http cache, memcache, load balancing and clustered web and database servers all of which plug easily into the popular web CMS. All of the back-end resources are designed to improve scalability, reliability and performance and allow for the scaling-up and down elasticity that we would expect from Cloud services.

The recent events in Egypt saw a 1 000% increase to Al Jazeera’s main site while traffic to Al Jazeera Live doubled at 2 000%. Considering the current crisis occurring in the Middle East, Libya and other regions, Al Jazeera’s web traffic is peaking yet again and its move to a cloud-based hosting service is ideally suited to its web infrastructure.

Drupal creator and Acquia founder, Dries Buytaert, highlights the benefits of cloud computing in a recent blog post: “Throughout the ordeal, Al Jazeera effectively leveraged the power of the cloud to stay on the air and scale its reach and performance. If events of the past few months are any indication, there are lessons here for other content-driven companies to consider for their own online operations.”

A quick peek into Acquia’s customer listing shows a number of popular corporations and media entities which have taken to Drupal: The Economist, Fox News, Sony Music and Red Hat Linux to name but a few. With this number growing and others employing other third party CMS’s such as  Joomla and WordPress to manage their sites, it is worthwhile considering the benefits of cloud services, particularly where web and database servers are under intensive traffic due to spikes.

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