Financial Times cuts data warehouse costs by 80% with AWS

The Financial Times is using Amazon Web Service’s Redshift to improve its understanding of its readership, helping to speed query times compared to its legacy data warehouse application.

Like many news publications, the Financial Times is in the process of transforming itself to meet reader demands for digital consumption, with online readers now representing two-thirds of its audience, and mobile driving 45 percent of total traffic.

In order to gain greater insight into its 450,000 online subscribers, the publication, owned by Pearson, has moved from its on-premise data warehouse platform to AWS’ cloud system, Redshift.

This has provided a number of immediate benefits, according to chief technology officer, John O’Donovan, such as lowering costs, reducing the time taken to run queries from 30 minutes to seconds, and helping to move towards the leveraging ‘real-time’ data to drive faster decision-making.

“The decrease in costs was amazing. There was an 80 percent reduction in costs from the service we were running with the same size footprint in terms of the amount of data in Redshift,” said O’Donovan, speaking at AWS Summit in London on Tuesday.

“The queries are running up to 98 percent faster too. It is a huge difference.”

The Financial Times is one of the first large businesses in the UK to implement Redshift, with a handful of others - such as Channel 4 and research firm Kantar Group - also using the technology.

O’Donovan said that the scale offered by a cloud service is a vast improvement on its on-premise system.

“Our previous warehouse had a number of restrictions: it was quite slow, it was quite expensive, and it was inflexible in terms of features in terms of what it could do, and it was inflexible in terms of costs, so there was still a need for investment if you wanted to grow - it wasn’t a pay as you go model.”

O’Donovan, who joined from Press Association last May, believes that the use of Redshift has had a number of benefits for the business as the publication expands its distribution methods from its own mobile apps to third parties such as Flipboard, and even through smart TVs.

“One of the things we are trying to do with data is understanding the audience,” O’Donovan said. “We are trying to find the same person across different platforms, so we know who we are talking to. We need to know: are we giving them the right content, are we giving them the right type of user experience, are we finding out what it is that they want, and doing it in a consistent way?"

He added: “We are really changing the way we use data, and we are moving more towards real-time data in business reports. We are getting information as we need it so that we can make decisions faster.”

Copyright © 2014 IDG Communications, Inc.

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