Condé Nast is one of the most well-recognized media brands in the world, with a range of stand-out titles that include “Wired,” “The New Yorker” and “Vanity Fair.” The publishing giant also represents a case study of how a large multinational company was able to shift its entire international web and data operations to a homogeneous Kubernetes infrastructure it built and now manages with open source tools.
During the past five years, Condé Nast has built a single underlying platform consisting of several dozen websites spread out around the world, including Russia, China, the U.S. and Europe. Its web presence now hosts more than 300 million unique users per month and 570 article views every second.
In this last episode of The New Stack Analysts podcast, Jennifer Strejevitch, site reliability engineer for Condé Nast, speaks about her experiences and observations at the front lines of the publishing company’s infrastructure-related challenges and successes. This show was hosted by Alex Williams, founder and editor-in-chief of The New Stack, and Ken Owens, vice president, cloud native engineering, Mastercard, our guest.
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As mentioned above, Condé Nast’s network infrastructure was previously highly decentralized. As Strejevitch described it, the state of Condé Nast’s operations meant each country around the world, for example, ran separate stacks. They would run on WordPress, complex Amazon Web Services (AWS) infrastructures and on-premises operations, Strejevitch said.
“There was little synchronicity between the market technologies. When a fashion brand decided to advertise with us, they would need to deal with each country, and provide material in different formats individually on a per-market basis,” Strejevitch said. “We thought that we would benefit much more by working together, and unifying our technology stacks.”
It was determined that the solution to unify all the different infrastructures in the various markets would be an all-encompassing multi-tenant infrastructure “serving content from multiple brands and countries,” Strejevitch said. “This would allow for much more rapid growth in that case. That way, everyone could benefit from new features and encourage more collaboration.”
The adoption of Kubernetes was seen as playing a key role in making the shift, as well as relying on open source tools. Behind Condé Nast’s decision was its plans to meet challenges associated with extending its data and network infrastructure in countries where there were many restrictions, for example, with the use of third-party tools, Strejevitch said.
This is one of the reasons the multinational company manages its own Kubernetes clusters and uses open source tools for that, including provisioning its clusters with Tectonic using infrastructure as code (IaC). The adoption and use of Terraform for provisioning and managing IaC is also core in Condé Nast’s strategy to adopt IaC “for everything and be able to reproduce it and make it portable globally,” Strejevitch said.
Condé Nast’s shift to Kubernetes has been heavily reliant on open source tools, while using the Cloud Native Computing Foundation (CNCF) as a filter and guide for different projects’ trustworthiness, Strejevitch said.
“We first look at the requirements and then look at the different options and vendors, and give preference to open source, to make sure [a particular tool] fits the safety requirements,” Strejevitch said.
Ultimately, the test is to make sure the user experience — whether that means buying media space in 20 different countries through a single interface or just reading a “New Yorker” article in Hong Kong — is successful. Tool selection processes to improve network infrastructure does not mean much if the user experience is not impacted in a positive way.
As an example, Strejevitch said, relying on observability to “focus on customer value first, and then leverage your tooling for that.”
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Photo by Dan LeFebvre on Unsplash.