All Blacks rugby migrates to Microsoft’s Azure cloud

Cloud shift allows NZ Rugby Union to manage peaks of up to 15 million visitors a month.

The world champion All Blacks rugby team meet their South African arch-rivals, the Springboks, tomorrow night and that will create a predictable peak in traffic to the team’s website.

Predictable or not, such massive spikes must be managed. The New Zealand Rugby Union has turned to the cloud, Microsoft’s Azure to be precise, to deliver the massive scalability required.

Average monthly traffic has grown to approximately two million page views per month and peaks have pushed monthly page views to over 15 million, said Richard Penny of implementation partner Provoke Solutions.

“The All Blacks have a rapidly growing and increasingly international audience. Key to their mission is engaging with their fans online, and the site is central to this,” he said.

“NZ Rugby identified that the infrastructure behind the website would need to be able to deal with both the ongoing increase in demand, as well as handle the peaks in traffic caused by key events such as team announcements and game days.”

But why, given all the other options, Azure?

“Azure’s scalability and its ability to make additional capacity available instantly to handle demand peaks, without having to pay for it when it is not being used made it a strong contender,” Penny said.

“It was also important that the migration could happen in stages and at pace that worked for NZ Rugby. Choosing Azure meant that Provoke could put Azure over existing NZ Rugby infrastructure and could keep legacy applications in place as they transitioned.”

As part of the migration, is being enhanced using responsive design to cater for an increasing number of fans accessing the site from smartphones. Once complete, the site will enter testing, ready for switchover, Penny said.

"The timeline for testing and production launch is still fluid, however we expect to be in testing in the next two to three weeks."

Penny said integration with legacy systems was not without its challenges. The database that drives the content for was designed in the era before object relational mapping, requiring a different development approach.

“The underlying data model had grown organically over the system’s decade-long lifespan to become quite complex,” he said. “Once the intermediary data layers were created, the remainder of the site was reasonably plain sailing.”

David Barton-Ginger, digital channels manager at the NZ Rugby Union, said the union was moving into a .Net framework which is native to Azure. It was a natural fit.

He said go-live for the new is towards the end of September but a few other sites are also being migrated.

“We should be completely over by the end of October.”

“The only challenges have been porting ColdFusion over, but at the end of the day that has also been relatively easy. It has been a very painless exercise to date,” he said.