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Saturday, 11 July 2020 07:47

Australia's open-source CMS held up well under sustained COVID-19 traffic: claim Featured

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Australia's open-source CMS held up well under sustained COVID-19 traffic: claim Image by Jae Rue from Pixabay

The Australian Government's Drupal-based content management system GovCMS, built by Boston-based open source firm Acquia, has been able to withstand the increase in traffic that has been thrown at it during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Department of Finance claims.

In a statement issued on Thursday, Finance said at the peak of the pandemic the platform handled 100,000 page views a minute, 187,000 concurrent users and two billion hits in a month.

Acquia won the contract to build the CMS for the government in 2014 and the following year it went live. Up to 450 websites are being developed, with the total contract value being up to $24 million over the four-year life of the deal. The developer of GovCMS since 2018 has been Salsa Digital and amazee.io.

The Finance statement said the website of the Department of Health saw a 760% increase in traffic, with up to six million visits a day, while Services Australia saw a 650% increase in traffic.

Other sites like Smart Traveller, Safe Work Australia, Victoria's Department of Health and Human Services and the South Australian Education Department also saw traffic go through the roof.

Services Australia general manager Susie Smith said: "The GovCMS team ensured our website was always available and able to supply information to the public during the pandemic.

"We worked closely with the GovCMS team to increase our database capacity to ensure the Services Australia website could manage heavy traffic.

"In a very tight timeframe, and under significant pressure, they executed a database upscale with no downtime. This greatly improved the performance of the website. This supported real people and their ability to care for themselves and their families."

The Department of Health also expressed satisfaction with the way its website coped.

Danni Marlow, technical product owner for health.gov.au, said: "We typically saw up to 20,000 concurrent users on the Department of Health website. Even under immense traffic, page load time remained under 2.7 seconds.

"GovCMS’ robust tooling allowed us to deploy developments at any time of the day, including during peak times. This allowed us to remain responsive to changing needs.

"We usually deploy IT updates during periods of low traffic which we couldn’t do during the pandemic. We ended up deploying updates whenever we needed to and it was smooth, meaning customers could always access the most up-to-date information."

Finance said the GovCMS community was able to create surge teams during the pandemic to support the publishing of information about the coronavirus and be ready to cover for any team that was hit by the virus.

GovCMS founder and assistant secretary of Online Services at Finance, Sharyn Clarkson, said: "We worked closely with agencies on the front line to ensure publishing activities and announcements likely to cause large spikes in traffic could be delivered without affecting the platform.

"We had website engineers standing by to ensure the platform remained stable. These are unprecedented times, the volumes certainly tested us, but ultimately proved the strength and capability of GovCMS.

"I’m delighted with the reliability and support we’ve been able to provide agencies, it ensured Australians were able to access information to keep themselves safe."

The platform now hosts 327 websites for 96 agencies across all government tiers.

Drupal was developed by Belgian Dries Buytaert who is also the chief technology officer of Acquia. It powers many big websites, with those of the White House, Flight Centre, the City of Los Angeles and Warner Music Group being some of the bigger names that use it.

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Sam Varghese

Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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