Media24 is South Africa's leading media company. Its flagship publication, News24, generates over 120 million monthly page views according to GA4.
This level of demand places enormous pressure on the servers and networks that form Media24's digital backbone. Such systems must perform effectively and efficiently, ensuring readers receive content quickly and journalists can file their stories without delay. Then there is Media24's wider strategy, which includes using data effectively, creating new features for readers, and adding technologies that keep its publications at the forefront of the South African and international media world.
24.com, Media24's digital technology division, led a remarkable change into the cloud era. It wasn't a mere lift-and-shift that migrated existing systems into virtual cloud servers. 24.com set its sights on re-engineering 24.com’s technology backbone and establishing a new foundation for a 21st-century news and entertainment organisation.
New systems for a new era
The cloud is a dramatic step up from traditional business systems. It replaces inflexible server designs with highly dynamic alternatives where companies only access the computing power and storage they need, scaling as demand changes. Cloud systems are the building blocks of the modern digital era, interconnected and supported by high-speed networks. Companies such as Google, Apple, Amazon and Meta couldn't exist without them. Practically every modern company uses the cloud in some form.
It was a natural evolution for 24.com, especially when Microsoft's Azure cloud servers established local data centres, says Jannik Richter, Solutions Architect at 24.com:
"A lot of 24.com technology runs on Microsoft systems. So, when Azure became a local option, it made sense to start switching to the cloud."
Yet a cloud migration is not easy. Many organisations fail to do it successfully. The easiest option is moving existing systems into virtual hosting, a tactic called lift-and-shift. But this approach doesn't deliver the real benefits of going cloud.
"The cloud isn't just about getting more computing power," says Eduard de Klerk, Solutions Architect at 24.com. "It's a new way of building and taking advantage of modern technology in the cloud. But then you can't just shift things over. You have to re-engineer how things work."
24.com’s evolving needs echoed this. Its brands required more flexibility, insights from data and ways to test new features. Its readers expected quick response times from Media24 services, including the websites and apps. Yet the traditional systems could not keep up with these needs.
The established servers could not scale effectively and managing them was very difficult. Testing and releasing new features was challenging, especially where servers, applications and databases used different code bases.
"We had a long list of things we wanted to achieve," says Leon Nortje, Head of DevOps and Infrastructure at 24.com. "We wanted to create a faster experience for our users and readers, and make it easier for our developers to work on improvements and new ideas. We wanted better ways to test bleeding-edge technologies, and we needed to keep costs down while improving performance, so we wanted more automation, too."
“At 24.com, we had a vision: to deliver the best online experience for our users and readers. To achieve this vision, we embarked on a journey of transformation and innovation. We made our websites faster, smoother and more responsive by adopting modern web technologies and best practices. We empowered our developers to unleash their creativity and innovation by providing them with the tools and resources they needed. We experimented with cutting-edge technologies and optimised our performance and costs by leveraging cloud services and solutions. We automated everything we could and streamlined our workflows by implementing agile methodologies and continuous delivery. In short, we achieved a lot - and we are proud of it!”
Redefining 24.com’s technology
24.com made that wishlist a reality with a massively successful cloud migration. Much of the credit goes to 24.com's people and their various skills. But the real catalyst is its culture, encouraging collaboration and experimentation.
"You can speak up and bring your ideas to the table," says Eldon Swart, Software Engineering Lead at 24.com. "We're encouraged to think, invent and experiment."
The cloud migration teams also worked closely with the other parts of Media24, ensuring that the changes met the goals of their users: the Media24 news and business people and millions of daily readers.
As any seasoned technologist can confirm, migrating to the cloud—especially in a way that re-engineers and enhances the entire technology environment—is a massive achievement that most companies don't get right. Yet this story has a great ending and bright future.
Today, 24.com’s systems run on a single code base, powered by micro-services to keep standards while allowing developers to roll out changes through modular architecture frequently. Edge computing, regional caching and easy deployment to different data centre locations in SA serve articles and services at high speeds.
The databases that power 24.com’s different publications and features maintain super-fast performance. And this new cloud architecture achieves the holy grail of such migrations: it is highly automated and self-healing, giving time back to the technology teams while reducing Media24's overall cloud costs.
"I'm very proud of what we achieved," says Pieter Gerber, Head of Core Platforms and Architecture at 24.com. "A cloud migration of this size and ambition is statistically likely to fail or fall short of its goals. But we changed the traditional IT estate of a massive media enterprise into a modern cloud environment that has improved everything for the business and readers. And we're not done— we've got even more enhancements in the pipeline."
24.com migrated SA's leading media company from established traditional systems to a cutting-edge Azure cloud architecture, enhancing everything as a result. It's no small feat. But that's what you can expect from the technical solutions powerhouse behind South Africa's most trusted news sources.