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The Internet Software Linux Apache

BBC News Under The Bonnet 284

diodesign writes "BBC News has revealed that Linux and Apache power its popular news website, along with a modified DNS server and machine farms in New York and London. At peak times, the site serves over 4 million users and 50 million page impressions a day. It's a pretty well explained guide to producing a regularly updated content based website that scales well." From the article: "The technology which serves the site is designed to be as simple as possible. The simpler the site, the cheaper it is to run. There are fewer elements which can malfunction on big days; and there are fewer parts which can be compromised by someone trying to gain unauthorised access."
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BBC News Under The Bonnet

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  • whoops (Score:2, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward
    Did anyone else read that as "BBC under the botnet" ?
  • by Malc ( 1751 ) on Friday June 03, 2005 @02:57PM (#12716635)
    According to Netcraft, they're the 9th most popular site on the web [netcraft.com]. That's after several variations of Google, and toolbar.netcraft.com... so take with heaps of NaCl.
  • by awhelan ( 781773 ) on Friday June 03, 2005 @03:04PM (#12716695) Homepage
    Yeah, that looks pretty good, but just in case... here's a mirror [mirrordot.net]
  • Ah, if I could only watch BBC news at my local bar without someone asking why I hate America!
    • by Anonymous Coward

      Ah, if I could only watch BBC news at my local bar without someone asking why I hate America!

      Why do you hate America?

    • Come on mods, flamebait? This comment is very off topic, but I really doubt it's intended to start a flame war. I'm a libertarian from Boston (Boston= quite liberal) and when I mention watching the BBC I do occasionally get responses suggesting I am anti-Bush/USA/whatever. The parent isn't saying that the BBC is anti-American propaganda, just that when he tries to watch it, other Americans tell him that it is.
      • I'm astounded. Theres been a long debate about the BBC over its history that will probably never go away. Both Labour and the Conservatives have decided its against them and for their foes at different times. As have the Liberals, the Greens, the Scots Nationalists, the parties in Ulster and obviously the socialists and the fascists harbour their own grievances.

        I can't think of a more compelling proof that the BBC does its best to put out the truth; after all its the only type of news that could be equipot
        • But I must say I'm amazed that the Beeb is selected as "anti-Bush" and the "anti-USA" thing is outrageous. What possible grounds could one have for thinking that?

          You must understand that we have a very fragmented news market in America. For cable news each side has it own plus some, so to a Bush fan not being Fox News is strike one against anything else.

          Secondly it is not American, and anyone around here that would spout such jingoistic BS also probably dislikes it because it is not from America. Stike

          • Heh, well thanks for clearing that up. Bizarre indeed. If you get the chance, treat yourself to watching a current affairs show the BBC do called "Newsnight [bbc.co.uk]". I have no idea if its broadcast overseas but I imagine it might. Put it this way, remember George Galloway gave some American politicians a bloody nose recently [abc.net.au]? He, like every other politician on hte face of the plant, is scared of Paxman as you can see from this transcript [bbc.co.uk] (Note the trademark determination that his question is answered fully whateve
      • Part of the article discussed the security reasons why they do this. What I'm saying is you can't even watch the Beeb in some places here without finding your own security threatened, so I'm not surprised they're trying to protect their systems.

        US news is pretty useless these days unless you're interested in Michael Jackson and runaway brides - witness the non-coverage of the pre-war meeting where the Brits realized they were going to war no matter what the intelligence said.

  • server locations? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by jabella ( 91754 ) * on Friday June 03, 2005 @03:08PM (#12716727) Journal
    maybe it's just me, but i'm never putting physical addresses on ANY network map with any company i work for, especially maps that will be posted publicly.

    • maybe it's just me, but i'm never putting physical addresses on ANY network map with any company i work for, especially maps that will be posted publicly.

      I had exactly the same thought. Those are street addresses for crying out loud... Perhaps the author never intended for the network map to be made public? Some suit 'prolly thought it looked pretty...
      • by ruud ( 7631 )
        What's wrong with it? The addresses are all major data centers / carrier hotels, so it's not really a surprise that they are located there. It's not like you can just walk into any of these and get access to the servers.
        • What's wrong with it? The addresses are all major data centers / carrier hotels, so it's not realhurts...ly a surprise that they are located there. It's not like you can just walk into any of these and get access to the servers.

          So what happened to the servers in the World Trade center? Or the Federal building in Oklahoma? I don't live by "security through obscurity" but a little obscurity never hurts...
          • Why, because the WTC or Oklahoma City incedents were targeting someones datacenter? I think not. Hell MAE East's location was known for years where it was literally almost half the internet, one truck bomb could have disrupted the whole thing, but it was never a problem. Some IT folks like to think that their little corner of the world is way more important than it is.

            p.s.
            Speaking of 9/11, the Linux/Apache powered BBC site was the only one that was consistantly up for me on 9/11.
            • Why, because the WTC or Oklahoma City incedents were targeting someones datacenter?

              No, I agree the data centers were not the target in those cases (AFAIK). But if you were to target the Beeb, knowing where they operate would relieve you of figuring it out for yourself...

              Speaking of 9/11, the Linux/Apache powered BBC site was the only one that was consistantly up for me on 9/11.

              I had a similar experience. I thought, "Now who would have updated info but no one would actually go there..." Answer?
    • maybe it's just me, but i'm never putting physical addresses on ANY network map with any company i work for, especially maps that will be posted publicly.

      I hear that the BBC even put great big 'BBC' logos on their offices! Imagine the risks! Think of the terrorists!

      (On the other hand I suspect that unlike the BBC [cnn.com] you've never been attacked by terrorists, so you might just be a bit paranoid).
  • Do we know what distro the Linux servers run? Just interested...
  • Hardly news (Score:3, Interesting)

    by claes ( 25551 ) on Friday June 03, 2005 @03:17PM (#12716804)
    Apache is the most common web server around. But Apache on its own does not deliver content. Apache + Linus is not news any more. Apache and web servers in general are commodities today. On top of Apache a content management system runs for sure. It would be more intresting to read how this system works, if it is proprietary or free, etc.
  • they (London and New York) are far enough apart so that if there were a major disaster in either city we could continue serving web pages from the other location.

    I wonder if they'll ever shake their heads and say - how did we ever think we could put all our eggs in those two high-profile terrorist target cities. I'll set up a mirror for them on my ADSL line.

    • Actually the amount of redundancy they appear to have allowed for is stunning - the implication of the statement you quote is that not only could they survive a disaster that takes out a whole city, but they could also survive a disaster that takes out two nearby cities.

      London and New York are far enough apart...

      About the only disaster on that scale I can imagine is a major asteroid strike. And it appears they plan to continue serving webpages after it happens.

      Wow.
  • Response Headers (from Firefox's Web developer toolbar) - http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/magazine/46067 1 9.stm [bbc.co.uk]

    Date: Fri, 03 Jun 2005 19:20:12 GMT
    Server: Zeus/4.2
    Accept-Ranges: bytes
    Cache-Control: max-age=0
    Expires: Fri, 03 Jun 2005 19:20:12 GMT
    Keep-Alive: timeout=10, max=186
    Connection: Keep-Alive
    Transfer-Encoding: chunked
    Content-Type: text/html

    200 OK

    • [(me)@localhost security]$ wget -S http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/magazine/46067 1 9.stm
      --13:23:36-- http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/magazine/460671 9.stm
      => `4606719.stm'
      Resolving news.bbc.co.uk... done.
      Connecting to news.bbc.co.uk[212.58.240.41]:80... connected.
      HTTP request sent, awaiting response...
      1 HTTP/1.1 200 OK
      2 Date: Fri, 03 Jun 2005 20:23:36 GMT
      3 Server: Apache
      4 Cache-Control: max-age=0
      5 Expires: Fri, 03 Jun 2005 20:23:36 GMT
      6 Set-Cookie: BBC-UID=1472caf04b1c04e8e9678f1ef1604a
    • Me too. However, I'm a Blueyonder customer and I know that Blueyonder uses Zeus a lot - and I also know that they run an invisible proxy.

      Can Zeus be used as an invisible proxy?
  • The simpler the site, the cheaper it is to run. There are fewer elements which can malfunction on big days; and there are fewer parts which can be compromised by someone trying to gain unauthorised access."

    They obviously subscribe to the "Keep It Simple Guv'ner" methodology at the BBC.
  • Thanks to this article, now I can make a content based website, too! Maybe now people will come to my site. All I had before were blank pages.
  • The Beeb are heavy users of Perl, too. Back when I decided to make the move from Perl programming to info security (around the time of Code Red and Nimda, also around the time our supposedly solid & profitable employer went tits-up) several of my ex-colleagues ended up hacking Perl at the Beeb. Apparently that chunk of their IT was just out-sourced to Siemens (German conglomerate) who are hardly ever referred to as "semens". Apparently.
  • I guess this is a good time to link to Open Tech 2005 [ukuug.org] again - it's sponsored by backstage.bbc.co.uk. And the Need To Know peeps are involved as well as the UKUUG. Call for papers [ntk.net].

    Here's the blurb from the NTK link above:

    Sponsored by backstage.bbc.co.uk, Open Tech 2005 is an informal one-day conference about technologies that anyone can have a go at, from "Open Source"-style ways of working to repurposing everyday electronics hardware. So far, the line-up features: * Ted Nelson, inventor

  • "BBC News has revealed that Linux and Apache power its popular news website ... "

    And Solaris.

    The servers themselves are running Apache web server software on either the Linux or Solaris operating system.
  • 'The servers themselves are running Apache web server software on either the Linux or Solaris operating system'

  • Beeb text site (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Skiron ( 735617 )
    I have always used the text site as it loads almost instantly - any interesting story that requires pictures I then head over to the 'graphic' site.

    BBC text news [bbc.co.uk]

    The next step is to get them to report the news unbiasedly (during the last Iraq war, BBC was known here in the UK as the 'Baghdad broadcasting Corp.'); and we all know what their technical expertise is like explaining computer issues.
    • They were labelled that by the tabloids for not towing the government line on Iraq - I don't know anyone who actually called them that.
  • I noticed on the diagram that the location of the London and New York server farms are called "Telehouse". Is this a fancy British word for a telecommunication building or am I just a stupid American? ;)
  • It's a pity they couldn't slip a spell checker (or even better a human being) into the content management pipeline somewhere.

    The BBC television and radio news are both far and away the best in the world, but the errors that routinely find their way into the online version are shocking.

  • $ nmap -sS -p 80 -v -O news.bbc.co.uk

    [snip]

    Running: Sun Solaris 8
    OS details: Sun Solaris 8
    Uptime 251.064 days (since Sat Sep 25 14:50:31 2004)

    [snip]

Make it myself? But I'm a physical organic chemist!

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