Like many organisations BBC News Online, which is facing growing competition from other news providers, needed to move its processes to the cloud in order to become more agile and to cut costs.
New features are able to be deployed more frequently and more reliably, while BBC staff are now empowered, able to keep their independence, but maintain deployment best practices across the wider group, delivering easily and cost effectively, helping to stay ahead of competition.
Results that matter:
6point6 created a Software Factory. This framework produces a consistent approach to fully automated CI/CD at scale. It is able to adapt to multiple teams and a diverse range of technologies.
Like many organisations BBC News Online, which is facing growing competition from other news providers, needed to move its processes to the cloud in order to become more agile and to cut costs. Converting this vast and complex site with its myriad legacy applications required a complete rethink of its structure and processes and so the Corporation approached 6point6 for help. To do this 6point6 created a unique Software Factory to standardise and automate application deployments.
As a news provider BBC News Online is facing growing competition from social media and online aggregators. In addition, this vast, complex site comprises various legacy systems.
When the BBC News website was launched in 1997 there were fewer than eight million people online in the UK. By 2017 that number had risen to around 60 million. Although BBC News Online continued to pull 30 million browsers on average a week in 2017 in the UK, today more and more people get their news from other sources.
According to recent research from the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism at the University of Oxford people increasingly look for news through search engines (accounting for 20 per cent of those asked) and social media (25 per cent). Today viewers expect news to be delivered more quickly than ever, be that journalistic reporting itself, or page performance and they want it to be relevant to them. In this increasingly competitive and fast changing market with new entrants and disruptors, people are also increasingly consuming news on their phones or even via voice technology such as Alexa. Meanwhile, Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) are also having a profound effect on the way in which news is gathered, processed and published.
To overcome the challenges faced by BBC News Online 6point6 created what it calls a “Software Factory”. This simple but revolutionary new working practice industrialises and standardised the way in which software is released for end users. It fully automates CI/CD at scale and is adaptable to multiple teams and a diverse range of technologies.
Each pipeline follows five stages: provision, build, test, deploy and destroy. The technical methodology might vary from team to team but these principal steps are consistent. The actual pipeline code is simple but the logic controlling each step is contained and run within a specific docker container created for that particular step or technology.
The logic can not only vary but also be versioned – a team can track exactly what they are building or deploying against a specific version of the tools that they are using. This means tools can be upgraded easily, without fear of compromising other teams’ deployment methods. Additional features and steps to improve the process can also be included.
Deployment methods have been improved thanks to a blue/green deployment and deployments in multiple Amazon Web Services (AWS) regions around the world are now possible. Tracking and visualisations of what is installed where, by what and when have been improved as is scheduling downtime for test and development environments.
Each team now has its own infrastructure and applications pipelines that enable them to start from nothing and to build their application and deploy it onto the infrastructure. This allows them to put the code they write into production as fast as possible. In addition, 6point6 reduced the need for a dedicated DevOps department and encouraged BBC teams to manage the lifecycle of the code they create from deployment through provisioning, infrastructure to testing, usage and monitoring.
New features are able to be deployed more frequently and more reliably, while BBC staff are now empowered, able to keep their independence, but maintain deployment best practices across the wider group, delivering easily and cost effectively.
The Software Factory offers a standard package that can be tailored to meet the needs of any large organisation. “What we’ve created and tested here is not only a way to empower development teams to build, test and release software with speed, frequency and agility but allow them to do so without the need for dedicated DevOps resources embedded in every team,” says Debney. “It’s an approach we can readily repeat and share.”