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March 13, 2009

Red Nose Day embraces the cloud

Comic Relief goes virtual

By Steve Evans

Comic Relief, organisers of the Red Nose Day charity extravaganza, is using cloud computing firm Carrenza to redevelop its web and donations platform.

Carrenza has designed a scalable, virtualised, hosting and development platform using LAMP (Linux, Apache, MySQL and PHP). The charity is expecting to handle up to 1.4 million transactions on the day of the event, generated through the Red Nose Day website and 12,000-seat call centre.

The company said it worked closely with Comic Relief’s Technical Partners to produce a platform incorporating Cisco Networking, HP blade servers, 3PAR Storage and VMware infrastructure virtualisation software. The whole Comic Relief hosting environment is now virtualised, the company said.

Charlotte Melen, Comic Relief’s web technology manager, said: “Our website is a primary fundraising and donation portal, so it’s really crucial that we can retain full functionality regardless of visitor numbers – to ensure that there is no downtime.

“During the last Red Nose Day in 2007, over 450,000 people donated through the online platform on the night alone – in fact, in just a seven hour period Comic Relief gets 25% of its annual revenue and the vast majority of its website traffic. We have had to increase in scale to support an event that we hope is bigger than ever this year.”

Providing Comic Relief with the necessary processing power is vital if it is to cope with the huge demand, estimated at 55 transactions per second, despite the fact that it will only be needed for a short period during the year.

Melen said: “Our hopes were to scale up accordingly to match our needs – without needing great swathes of hardware sitting there all year. In the run up to the event, Carrenza’s technical team working with other partners have met these needs with continual innovation and experimentation.

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“This has included using Oracle Database 11g for the first time, and collaborating with our developers to flexibly scale the open-source CMS Drupal to make it fit for enterprise-level use on our community site – this is another first.”

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