Ddanzi Group, well-known for one of its services, The Ddanzi Ilbo, transferred all of its services to Windows Azure early in 2013 to secure IT competitiveness to a degree comparable to that of mainstream media outlets. The Group’s decision to adopt the cloud
solution came from its ever increasing numbers of listeners and emerging security threats. In the first half of 2011, its podcast gained so much popularity that some dubbed it a social phenomenon. Such popularity, however, came at a price in terms of the risk
from security threats such as DDoS attacks. The Group was unfortunately unable to handle either the increasing traffic loads or the threats. The result was a service interruption that lasted nearly one month. Having learned valuable lessons from the incident,
the Group chose Windows Azure as a way to deal with both the traffic and security attacks effectively. It began the transition with its online shopping mall DdanG Mall by relocating it to Azure in the latter half 2012. Having concluded that cloud was more
advantageous in many respects, including stability, scalability and reliability, the Group decided to transfer the rest of its services to Windows Azure Cloud, a Paas offered by Microsoft. Following its decision to adopt Windows Azure as its new business platform,
the Group changed its services from MAMP-based (Linux, Apache, My SQL, and PHP) to one based on WIMP (Windows Server, IIS, Microsoft SQL Server, PHP). In early 2013 it started to offer all of its services via Windows Azure Cloud, which eliminated much of its
worries over security and, at the same time, brought it service stability and reliability, as well as 30 percent in cost reductions over regular hosting.
||Cost savings per year will be 30 percent or so compared to regular hosting service. One benefit that we see as more important than cost savings, though, is in fact stability. We can respond promptly to any situation since server expansion
and network bandwidth extensions are just a few clicks away via the Windows Azure portal.
| Kim Yong-seok
Editor in Chief
The Ddanzi Ilbo
The most critical factor behind its decision to change the foundation of its digital media business to Windows Azure Cloud was its concerns over security. The Group drew tremendous public interest through the launch of its podcast, the Ddanzi Radio, in 2011.
Over time traffic reached a level no small online newspaper could handle easily. Unfortunately, it was not only regular listeners that took interest in the service. The problem was that, as well as the public interest that spiked to such an extent it became
a subject for discussion in the mainstream media, it was also a favorite target for hackers.
In fact, security threats including DDoS attacks on the podcast started to grow not long after it was launched. Such threats culminated in the interruption of all services offered by the Group. For one month after the breakout of the interruption, the Group
did nothing but work on bringing its system back to normal. Even after the service was restored, though, accessing the Group’s website required more than a little patience as the podcast was still very popular and, at the same time, remained under continued
In order to break the vicious spiral of hacking attempts and counter-efforts to deal with them, the Group started to look around for a solution. Each month, it was already shelling out tens of millions of won – equivalent to tens of thousands of dollars
- using a hosting service, but it was not able to expand the bandwidth and resources required to fight against attacks forever. A wait-and-see attitude was not an option either. Under such circumstances, the ‘cloud’ came to its attention as a realistic alternative
that would be able to help the Group reduce its costs and improve its security level, with Windows Azure, more than other cloud services, stealing its heart.
Before the transfer to Azure, the Group’s entire services - the online newspaper The Ddanzi Ilbo, the cultural space Bunker 1, the online shopping mall DdanG Mall, and the podcast Ddanzi Radio - were based on LAMP (Linux, Apache, My SQL, and PHP) and offered
via Linux server.
It sat on the fence for some time over the transfer of its system to Windows Azure, as all of its services had been configured and developed based on open-source solutions. Transferring its existing LAMP environment by merely uploading its Linux virtual
machine onto Windows Azure was far from what it wanted.
What it was looking at was going beyond simple web hosting to the utilization of PaaS (Platform as a Service) that would be able to ensure scalability and stability, even in exceptional situations such as under heavy traffic loads of security breaches. For
this reason, there were concerns over possible trial-and-error risks associated with additional development or modification. The Group decided to address this issue by migrating its website first, which would have a marginal impact on it should things not
go as planned, with DdanG Mall the natural choice.
The first thing the Group did was to upload the mall into the Windows Azure Virtual Machine environment, which was completed without any major issues arising as the work was largely about uploading web pages onto the Linux virtual machine that was already
on Windows Azure. The real challenge, though, was still ahead. That challenge lay in uploading what had been developed based on PHP onto the Windows Azure Cloud environment, which would entail platform transformation.
Ddanzi Group set about a shift from LAMP to WIMP (Windows Server, IIS, Microsoft SQL Server, and PHP) under carefully laid out strategies and plans. A module was created that would facilitate access by PHP applications to Windows Azure Blob and SQL Azure.
It eventually became a packaging-like task that was designed to migrate PHP based services onto the PaaS environment, rather than being a full-scale development.
The Groups services, if they had been typical LAMP services, would have been readily able to be migrated through Windows Azure’s migration tools without requiring additional packaging. Such extra tweaks, though, were required because of the scale and nature
of its services. A wide range of factors had to be taken into account, including everything from load distribution across virtual machines and caching to the upload and download of large volume files and payment processing, through to securing the capacity
to deal with a huge amount of traffic.
In fact, the Group configured a PaaS environment optimized for its services migrating from LAMP to WIMP as well as adding CDN using Windows Azure Blob.
Meanwhile, packing the PHP applications according to the cloud environment and deploying them after testing required no separate development server or test server for the Group. The whole process was carried out in a way that the WIMP environment was in
fact implemented on the Windows Azure Virtual Machine environment in which the applications were actually developed and tested before being deployed to Windows Azure Cloud. What needs to be noted here is that development and testing were performed on the cloud.
The Group, after making all technical preparations required to make all of its services available from Windows Azure Cloud, successfully migrated the DanziG Mall and Ddanzi Radio first, which it followed up with The Ddanzi Ilbo and the Bunker 1 website in
early 2013, onto a single PaaS environment.
High service availability without security worries
One of the most notable changes after the migration to Windows Azure Cloud Service is that interruptions no longer arise in providing the Group’s services. When security attacks had been an every-day occurrence, the Group was fighting an uphill battle to
keep its websites from crashing. After the services became available from Windows Azure Cloud, though, it no longer had to worry about service interruptions, which could previously drag on for days, weeks or even months, and this new-found ability remained
even in the event of an unexpected traffic surge.
In fact, there was an attack of a malicious nature on the Group on a day when a feature program was planned, resulting in inaccessibility to its website. If it had taken place prior to the migration to Windows Azure, it would have wrought a huge amount of
damage, with the server crashing and data being lost, and would have taken days to fix and recover. With Windows Azure’s administration portal available, though, instances were able rapidly be deployed to distribute the load. The customer service center was
also available to identify which part of the system was under the heaviest attack in real-time. All these solutions made it possible for the Group to offer its services without any major disruption.
Ideal for the operation of a talent donation system
Windows Azure proved ideal for Ddanzi Group’s service operation and management system. The Group has continued to rely on a team of talent donors with IT expertise to manage its servers, platforms and other components required to offer its services. They
particularly welcome the Group’s decision to use Windows Azure.
One reason is that they now have to take care of much fewer things for maintenance as the Group’s services are available from Windows Azure Cloud, which is a single PaaS, rather than from individual and separate environments. Leaving platform related, basic
maintenance work in the hands of Microsoft, they can now focus on more significant tasks such as service quality enhancement and performance optimization for a better user experience.
Another reason is monitoring. Prior to the migration, it was not easy for them to identify the cause of any sign of abnormal traffic or actual server failure due to a traffic surge. In contrast, Windows Azure can provide them with log data from various sources,
including the server and the network, as well as analysis data from any abnormal traffic observed.
The operational and managerial convenience can also be felt by the Group’s employees. They are no longer concerned about job takeover which can happen amongst talent donors more than with regular employees. With a single source of support available from
Microsoft, Windows Azure can address most of the job takeover issues expected from any changes in an organization that consists of talent donors only.
Cost savings of 30 percent expected relative to hosting
Ddanzi Group uses Windows Azure on a pay-as-you-use basis. Under this method, it agrees on a certain level of usage based on its volume and performance requirements and pays additional charges if the usage level is exceeded. This billing system is expected
to help the Group reap considerable cost savings each year compared to conventional hosting.
“Cost savings per year will be 30 percent or so compared to regular hosting service,” said Kim Yong-seok, Editor in Chief, The Ddanzi Ilbo. “One benefit that we see as more important than cost savings, though, is in fact stability. We can respond promptly
to any situation since server expansion and network bandwidth extensions are just a few clicks away via the Windows Azure portal.”
Less investment burden even with various digital media experiments
Ddanzi Group sees cloud computing as providing an opportunity for small and medium sized digital media businesses to carry out new experiments. If any content or service offered through digital media becomes a mega hit, leaving it only to direct investment
in IT to handle the rampant demand is often a non-starter.
By turning to Windows Azure, though, Ddanzi Group realized that it can make diverse experiments without having to worry about initial investment. Now it can test just the same kind of rich portfolio of diverse business ideas that mainstream media outlets
are able to do thanks to their financial clout.
The Group regularly invites speakers from every walk of society to deliver lectures on various topics, which are then made available via its podcast. It is also considering offering a visible-radio type of service in the mid-to-long run. An experimental
media service using social media is also included in the Group’s business plan. It will be active in using cloud computing in the planning and implementation of its new business ideas. Cloud will help the Group overcome the barriers of capital expenses and
operating expenses associated with making IT resources available and allow it to carry on with its experiments in digital media.
Microsoft Windows Azure
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For more information about Ddanzi Group visit the website at: www.ddanzi.com
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