France Telecom subsidiary Orange Digital, which manages digital services for UK mobile operator EE, has moved to Amazon Web Services’ cloud to support traffic spikes and reduce costs by an estimated £2 million over three years.

Orange Digital designs, develops and hosts web services that have highly variable traffic patterns. For example, Saturday traffic on the Orange sports channel sites are at their peak due to sports fans frequently checking scores and results.

EE also runs seasonal campaigns, such as the BAFTA awards and summer music festivals, which require short-term capacity that can be quickly tested and deployed for the duration of the campaign and then shut down.

Through mergers and acquisitions, Orange Digital inherited a legacy physical infrastructure that was no longer adequate to meet the needs of the company and its clients.

“Our infrastructure was expensive to run and time consuming to maintain. Our traffic profile is variable in nature, which resulted in an oversized infrastructure 90% of the time. In addition, we had many EE micro sites and applications that needed rapid and temporary hosting,” said Neil Jennings, lead enterprise architect for Orange Digital.

“We were also in a period of expansion, and with traffic on our Orange and mobile home pages climbing to 4 billion requests monthly, we became limited by our fixed infrastructure. To scale up a physical infrastructure would present a massive upfront cost and a long time to market for deployment. So we sought alternative solutions.”

The software architecture team at Orange Digital chose Amazon Web Services (AWS) for its ability to scale up and down quickly, and because the application programming interfaces (APIs) give Orange Digital granular control over the virtual infrastructure.

Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2) is used for hosting servers in various roles – load balancers (HAProxy), reverse proxies (Nginx), web servers (Apache) and as database servers (MongoDB) – split across three Availability Zones and configured to be self-repairing.

The team also uses Amazon Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3) for static content hosting, and Amazon Elastic Block Store (EBS) snapshots and AMIs from the production environment in development and test environments.

In addition, Orange Digital uses Puppet for configuration management and has developed a control server, which is responsible for maintaining the state of the infrastructure, taking on tasks such as replacing Amazon EC2 instances and moving Elastic IP addresses.

“Moving to AWS has reduced the time to market for new products,” says Jennings. “Previously, this process took at least three months. AWS has removed a barrier, so time to market is dependent almost entirely on developing software and deciding what we want to do.”

Jennings estimates that moving from its existing infrastructure to AWS will reduce Orange Digital’s hosting costs by approximately £2 million over the next three years.

For the future, the team is evaluating Amazon CloudFront for reverse proxies and Amazon CloudWatch for monitoring. Orange Digital is also evaluating moving to Amazon CloudSearch for search and is investigating the networking flexibility that Amazon Virtual Private Cloud offers.