Established by the Keating family in 2001, the Marie Keating Foundation is one of the leading voices in Ireland for cancer prevention, awareness, and support. Their services are committed to being there for people diagnosed with cancer, and their families at every step of this cancer journey. Through their information and support services, they reach thousands of people a year, giving education, information and advice focused on cancer prevention and early detection, as well as providing support services and financial assistance to those living with and beyond cancer.
DNA IT provides a comprehensive IT managed service for the Marie Keating Foundation and runs their day-to-day IT management.
As their traditional fundraising was shut down by COVID-19, in August 2020 the Marie Keating Foundation introduced a televised event to help raise funds to continue to provide their support services. This was the first “Concert4 Cancer” and although well received, the first 2hour telethon event was impacted by technical issues on the crucial night when the concert was live on TV and the public were trying to donate to the organisation via a donate page on the web site. The volume of traffic hitting the site was simply far too much for the underlying infrastructure to cope with and so there was prolonged downtime for several minutes at a time, when people were trying to donate – they got a web page hanging and couldn’t contribute. This really affected the level of donations received on the night and had the knock-on effect of reducing the amount of badly needed donations that the foundation receives.
So, when planning the 2021 Concert4Cancer, the issue of how well the web site’s infrastructure could cope with a very high spike in visitors over a couple of hours had to be addressed. However, due to a combination of factors and the impact of the COVID crisis – the team planning the event had less time to plan the fine detail of the technical aspects of this year’s events. As a result – the website provider realised their hosted web servers would not be adequate to run the website for the televised event and the risk of the site crashing was too high, with a bigger TV audience anticipated this year, over the original one in 2020.
DNA IT got a call from the Marie Keating Foundation to see if we could help and provide a high-performance website infrastructure for the event; the problem was there was only seven days to go the live event!
When the technical architect in DNA looked at the requirement and talked to the website providers, he quickly realised what was being asked was going to be impossible to do within the time frame allowed using a conventional IT Solution.
Using the traditional IT infrastructure model, we would have had to design the architecture to run in the Marie Keating Foundation’s existing IT environment. To spell out the basics of what this would have involved:
- We would have to decide on all the technical elements involved – the servers / compute power needed, storage, the networking required – switches, routers, additional firewall capacity, cabling etc.
- Then we would have to order all these components from distributors and wait for them to arrive.
- When they all arrive – rack them and install them (assuming the space was available in the existing rack, otherwise we would have to buy a new rack!
- Then we would have to send technical engineers on site to physically set up the new environment; build the servers, test everything and then go live. This would have taken at least 7-8 weeks, assuming no delays in the supply chain and no networking problems.
DNA IT are a strategic partner of IBM in Ireland and we are one of their primary Cloud partners between Ireland and the UK. We provide a full managed Cloud infrastructure service to many of our customers who now run all or part of their IT systems in our IBM Cloud environment. We provide both multi-tenant and dedicated bare metal environments for our customers, as well as IBM public Cloud services where required.
So, we had to design and build a high performance, highly available clustered web server environment in our IBM Cloud, complete with load balancing and enterprise grade networking and firewalls for security. This had to be able to withstand an extraordinary number of hits on the web site and deliver a seamless performance, or consumers will leave the page and not come back.
One of the main challenges was trying to assess what level of hits the site needed to be able to withstand. There was very little real site traffic hit telemetry available and besides, what was available was relating to the previous year, and this year we were anticipating a much larger audience – so knowing what level to set this performance at was difficult.
In the end, we opted for a cautious approach, better safe than sorry with a live TV event – and the system that we built could take two million hits over the two hours of the live TV broadcast and we knew that even then we would be comfortable. If the server did encounter a technical problem and failed, the workload would seamlessly fail over to the redundant servers in the cluster to carry on. In the event of a datacentre outage the servers were replicated in real time to a second datacentre, so if required, this redundant datacentre could have been made live within 5 minutes, however this was not required during the event.
Within five days, the technical team in DNA IT had designed, built and thoroughly tested a high-performance web site infrastructure that would be able to handle a TV fundraising event of any scale up to a million hits per hour.
The Concert4Cancer ran successfully on Virgin Media One TV on the night of Friday the 27th of September.
The web site infrastructure worked perfectly and there were no performance issues whatsoever. The average page load time on the night was 1.6 seconds.
The high-performance Cloud infrastructure was stood down following that event weekend and the Marie Keating Foundation website now runs on the normal web hosting servers that are used day to day. It can be re-created again for the 2022 Concert for Cancer and now that we know how well it worked for this year’s event, we have a head start in terms of planning for the 2022 event.
Declan Hussey, MD of DNA IT Solutions said, “This project demonstrates the incredible power and flexibility of the Cloud in a real-life situation. What was achieved in such a short space of time demonstrates very clearly what Cloud technology can deliver to an SME, in combination with a partner like DNA IT, who has the skills and experience to deploy this kind of complex solution, at very short notice,” he said.
Liz Yeates, CEO of the Marie Keating Foundation said, “we are truly grateful to our longstanding IT partners DNA IT Solutions who came to our rescue at our hour in need this August. Given the challenges we faced with COVID 19 with all our traditional fundraising events curtailed, we became very reliant on the Concert4Cancer as a way of raising funds to keep our cancer awareness and support services going. By providing the high-performance cloud infrastructure, we could rest assured that donors coming to our website to donate would not have technical issues despite the heavily increased volume of traffic within the two-hour period. Thank you so much to all the team at DNA, we really appreciate your ongoing support of our Concert4Cancer.”
To make a donation to the Marie Keating Foundation click here: