Yahoo7 finds speed, scale with Docker and Node.js

Media company begins switching sites to Node.js

Yahoo7 has begun the process of relaunching its key consumer sites on a new technology stack, switching out a custom PHP-based framework for Node.js and running on containers instead of VMs.

Twelve months ago, the media company’s chief technology officer, Paul Russell, launched the major effort to rearchitect Yahoo7’s web presence.

“Our current sites are based on an old PHP framework – it’s getting slow and it was time for a refresh,” the CTO told Computerworld. “We did a bit of an evaluation and ended up with a JavaScript-based framework on both the frontend and the backend.”

The company has relaunched its lifestyle and entertainment site Be; Be will be followed by Yahoo7’s News, Sport, Weather, TV Guide, PLUS7 and Prime sites.

The relaunch of Be also marks the shift towards using containers, courtesy of Docker. Previously the company relied on physical servers and more recently virtual machines.

“It was still a fairly heavy environment and you still had significant differences between development, staging and production environments,” Russell said.

“One of the great things about containers is that you can minimise that difference. It’s really streamlined the amount of time spent just on environment issues.

“Where it used to take many, many hours to get an environment up under the old framework, [with Docker] within five minutes the guys can start a brand a new environment and start working on something new. It’s much more productive.”

“Another great benefit of Docker is how easy it is to scale – to add extra containers on relatively short notice, which of course is important for us as a news organisation,” the CTO added.

“When breaking news occurs we need to scale traffic up pretty quickly,” Russell said.

The technology team is working to minimise the amount of time the company will have two tech stacks running at the same time, he said.

“We’ve just released Be and throughout this quarter we need to release pretty much all the rest of [Yahoo7’s consumer sites] so we can minimise that amount of time.”

“We’ve taken a relatively minimal approach in terms of getting out a version of the site which we believe will meet audience and advertiser needs but without too many bells and whistles,” the CTO said.

“From there we have a backlog of really good ideas. One of the advantages of having a much more productive environment is that the teams will be able to spend less time doing day-to-day type work and will have more time to produce great, innovative features.”

The CTO said it is likely that Docker will find wider use within Yahoo7.

“We do still have a fair bit of other infrastructure that runs on virtual machines and we are testing the waters to see whether it makes sense to move them over or not,” he said. “I’d be surprised if it didn’t,” he added.

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