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Red Hat Enterprise Linux Provides a Rock-Solid Platform for Lonely Planet’s Web Success
June 3, 2011
Customer: Lonely Planet
To update its production environment platform and supported libraries to keep up with its developers’ needs
Red Hat® Enterprise Linux® 6, Ruby on Rails, Java, Apache Tomcat, Apache httpd, MySQL, PostgreSQL, GIT, and many other open source and commercial applications
Enabled an agile and flexible IT operation with an underlying platform that is reliable, stable, and secure, and that delivers optimum performance
For close to 40 years, the Australian company Lonely Planet has inspired and guided independent travelers to explore the world around them. With offices in Melbourne, London, and Oakland, Lonely Planet has about 400 employees and over 200 authors; however, the Melbourne office is the base for its global management and planning team, including editors, designers, and cartographers. The majority of titles are published in Melbourne, which also has responsibility for sales, marketing, and distribution in the Australia, Asia, and Pacific region. Lonely Planet was originally founded by Tony and Maureen Wheeler, but in 2007, BBC Worldwide acquired a 75 percent share in the company, pledging to uphold Lonely Planet’s commitment to independent travel, trustworthy advice, and editorial independence. In 2011, full ownership was transferred to BBC Worldwide. Recognising that the market for printed books is shrinking and consumers are using a broad range of sources to support them while traveling, Lonely Planet has transformed its business from a book publisher to a content company, and has redirected its focus towards growing its digital business through its website and the development of mobile applications. This has placed increased emphasis on streamlining the way the company, and its freelancers produce, deliver, and publish content online in eBooks and through data feeds.
Lonely Planet is a seasoned Red Hat user, having had Red Hat Enterprise Linux deployed in areas of the organisation for more than a decade. In addition to being an early enterprise open source adopter, Lonely Planet has also engaged audiences on the Internet for over 15 years, starting out with an online forum “the Thorn Tree” in the very first days of mainstream Internet usage.
The Internet, and indeed Lonely Planet’s web presence, has changed and evolved a lot since then, and today that presence has surpassed its famous book titles as a popular reference tool. In fact, Lonely Planet had one of the busiest websites in Australia and has won several travel and technology awards.
Every three years, Lonely Planet’s IT team runs a system update cycle based on refreshing hardware and software components concurrently.
“We run a tight system update cycle, but when it comes to our website, we don’t even have a six-month plan, because we move faster than that. Our developers seem to have a new favourite piece of software to use every six to 12 months, so in our development and production environments, we always need to operate in an agile way,” said David Lutz, Linux team manager, Lonely Planet.
“This also makes it even more critical that we have a very stable, underlying infrastructure to support it and ensure its optimum performance,” said Lutz.
With the majority of Lonely Planet’s Red Hat servers running Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5, the organisation needed to update its production environment platform to keep up with its developers. It had also reached a point where it required new functionality.
In order to meet the needs of both its website and the skilled team of developers behind it, Lonely Planet commenced deployment of Red Hat Enterprise Linux 6 into its production environment, updating the required libraries and ensuring its platform would maintain the level of rock-solid stability, reliability, and performance Lonely Planet’s IT operation demanded.
“We are now 50 percent through migrating our servers over to Red Hat Enterprise Linux 6 and expect to complete the rollout in another month or so. Once it’s complete, we’ll be confident in knowing that the majority of our production environment servers will all be running the latest and greatest version of Red Hat Enterprise Linux,” said Lutz.
With its strong commitment to using only the best tools available, Lonely Planet is introducing open source in as many areas as it can, from its databases to its development tools.
“In my nine years working at Lonely Planet, we have regularly changed software programs and applications, but our Red Hat platform remains at the core of our operations. Red Hat has seen our website move from a static site with some e-commerce and forum capabilities to using Adobe ColdFusion, Microsoft SQL Server, and now it is helping us with a stronger push towards a more open source environment,” said Lutz.
“Huge parts of the Internet are based on open source, and there’s a very good reason for that,” said Lutz.
Lonely Planet is secure in its knowledge that Red Hat is the most enterprise-friendly and stable Linux provider, and the continued success of its digital operation is proof.
According to Lutz, “Red Hat Enterprise Linux is the perfect fit for our infrastructure because it enables us to be agile and flexible enough to keep pace with our developers and adapt to the changing needs for our digital business, all while maintaining a stable, secure, and efficient environment. With the upgrade to Red Hat Enterprise Linux 6, we are benefiting from up-to-date applications, packages, and libraries we know have passed Red Hat’s quality control processes.”
Importantly, Red Hat Enterprise Linux 6 has also provided Lonely Planet with the confidence that if any issues arise, there is a comprehensive support network immediately available, along with an entire pool of open source talent within the international open source community. Lutz believes that sort of insurance just makes good business sense.
Lonely Planet has extracted further benefit from Red Hat Enterprise Linux by making extensive use of Red Hat’s certification training program.
“Each of our team members is a Red Hat Certified Engineer (RHCE), and if we are interviewing for new staff, we highly value RHCEs, because we feel confident those candidates have the skills to make a valuable contribution to our team,” said Lutz.
Lonely Planet looks forward to continued benefits from Red Hat and from working with open source in general. After success incorporating Red Hat clustering for its high-availability database clusters MySQL and PostgreSQL back in 2004, Lutz and his team plan to re-architect the cluster, and as part of the move to Red Hat Enterprise Linux 6, will split it into two clusters to help in reducing single points of failure.
In the longer term, the company hopes to extend its adoption of open source into the virtualization space and is examining Red Hat Enterprise Virtualization to achieve cost savings.