Lulu.com Relies on Red Hat Enterprise Linux to Deliver a Successful Open Publishing Platform

October 18, 2011

Customer: Lulu.com

"During the last nine years, almost every other aspect of our technology stack has changed, but Red Hat has always been there. It’s been a part of our success from the first day, the first sale, and we’re going to continue to grow with Red Hat.” –Bill Montgomery, Director of IT Operations, Lulu.com

Industry: Tech Online
Geography: North America
Country: United States


Business Challenge:

Staying on top of the dynamic, fast-growing, self/non-traditional publishing market requires a flexible, scalable, rock-solid enterprise operating system as the foundation of Lulu’s business

Software:

Red Hat Enterprise Linux managed by Red Hat Network Satellite

Hardware:

IBM HS22V and HX5 blade servers, NetApp FAS3160 and FAS2040, and EMC Isilon storage, Juniper Networking

Benefits:

Open source flexibility gives Lulu the agility needed to expand the web of business partnerships that enable the publishing of content worldwide in an increasing number of channels; stability and reliability of Red Hat Enterprise Linux operating system helps avoid costly downtime for a website that sees millions of unique visitors a month; streamlined systems administration keeps headcount down and gives IT better control over the security patch reporting required by payment card industry regulations

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Background:

Lulu.com is a pioneer of the open publishing model. Using Lulu’s combination of an Internet retail site, global distribution system, and social content discovery engine, creators of all kinds—individuals, publishers, educators and enterprises—can monetize virtually any kind of publication: eBooks, hardcover books, calendars, and more. Publishing is free and non-exclusive; authors retain the rights to their work and 80 percent of the royalties. Since Lulu’s founding in 2002, 1.1 million creators from more than 200 countries and territories have registered with the company, which adds approximately 20,000 titles to its catalog each month.

Business Challenge:

Lulu is a major force in the self/non-traditional publishing market. The company stands out as a pioneer of “open publishing.” This is the direct result of a business model that places a premium on building—and maintaining—a flexible, reliable, and scalable IT infrastructure, starting with the enterprise operating system.

When Lulu first launched in 2002, its founders knew that the company’s growth would come from opening the platform to more customers by offering a one-stop publishing shop. This would allow creators to upload their content and obtain print distribution across the globe, plus eBook sales through a growing number of platforms and eBook stores, such as the iBookstore℠ and Barnes & Noble. “Self/non-traditional publishing is both one of the fastest growing and most dynamic market segments,” said Bill Montgomery, IT Director at Lulu.com, noting that flexibility is their number one demand. “Our one-stop, open approach required integrating with a lot of different business partner systems, and we had to be able to do it fast.”

When the company began looking for an enterprise operating system to launch its business from, the IT team had three core criteria in mind: flexibility, reliability, and scalability. Flexibility would allow rapid integration with business partner IT systems, reliability would prevent lost sales and customer-acquisition opportunities, and scalability would make Lulu’s rapid growth possible. Since Bob Young, CEO and founder of Lulu, was a co-founder of Red Hat in 1993, Lulu understood from the beginning that an open source operating system was the foundation needed to ensure these three key characteristics.

Solution:

Lulu made the decision to implement Red Hat Enterprise Linux from day one. “We run Red Hat on 90 percent or more of our servers,” said Montgomery. “It’s for everything except for some very specific niche applications that are Windows-only.” Red Hat Enterprise Linux runs on IBM HS22V and HX5 blade servers, in conjunction with NetApp and EMC storage, as well as a network that is largely Juniper-based.

With a solid Linux foundation backing its operation, today Lulu.com sees about 2.5 million unique visitors per month and 83,000 per day. Both traffic and content continue to grow rapidly. “I’m always looking for ways to run our operation as efficiently as possible,” said Montgomery, noting that it has taken only two systems administrators to manage Lulu’s more than 500 Red Hat Enterprise Linux servers so far. “Keeping Lulu’s IT team small is a necessary part of the agility that is one of our competitive advantages,” he said.

To streamline management and provisioning of its Red Hat Enterprise Linux environment, Lulu uses Red Hat Network Satellite. The systems management platform is especially helpful in ensuring compliance regulations are met. The Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS), in particular—fundamental for online payment systems—has stringent reporting requirements for security patches. “Red Hat Network Satellite’s reporting capabilities really addressed my PCI compliance concerns,” says Montgomery. “Plus, with the automated patching and updating, systems grouping, and easy provisioning, we can stay on top of management even with a lean team.”

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