LeMonde.fr is a leading information website in France, created in 1998, “Le Monde Interactif” is dedicated to the development of the Le Monde website. In September 2005, LeMonde.fr registered nearly 20 million visits and 70 million page views. On the Website, the visitor has access to the latest breaking news. There is a subscription edition available for a fee which gives access to a complete news overview and exclusive services: access to archives, electronic edition of the newspaper, feature articles, opinion papers, reference documents, multimedia content, etc.
The Good points
LeMonde.fr experience was very interesting specially that the migration have been done progressively without service interruption. Olivier Grange-Labat, Design & Architecture Pole Manager, have given a presentation of their work at the Forum PHP 2005 in Paris. The migration started since 2002, and the result today is
1- 100% of their website are running with PHP
2- Management of the website is fully in XUL/PHP
3- Few servers only are not running linux
4- 68 000 subscription 70 millions de pages/vues monthly
5- A record registred on July 7, 2005 with 5,6 millions pages/vues and a traffic of 300 Mbps !
Why migrate to PHP ?
The reasons of the migration are mainly the cost of the proprietary solution they were running in addition to the servers costs. What was confusing in that time was the XML support, which was better introduced in PHP5, Oracle model connectivity and no connection pooling available, and interfacing with proprietary technologies which was not a real problem because Zend API support it very well.
In the Forum PHP 2005, Olivier presented the methodology they used for migration from proprietary technology to PHP. The first step was the control of work and control of in-house work, then the development of a framework by their team. The idea of a framework is interesting and we have already talked about it in previous experience, because even with the lack of enterprise framework it is more easy to create a specific framework for the needs of a website. Then classes and templates have been rewritten by a second team. Finally the migration of a first website less complex to aden.lemonde.fr and then the information website lemonde.fr
The management system have been moved in the next step, so in the first step PHP was used just to serve the content to the end users, and the proprietary solution have been used as a backend. Then XUL came to provide a complementary solution in addition to PHP to make the new content management system and move all the system to PHP/XUL.
Certainly the migration of LeMonde.fr from proprietary technology to PHP is an excellent case study to learn from. 100% FREE including PHP and Firefox which are powering the new system. The system is now powerful, using 4 Linux servers at 20% cpu while it was using 4 Sun servers at 70% cpu before. Development time has been divided by 2 and number of bugs by 3, in addition to the excellent documentation and support available in both XUL and PHP Communities.
This have been said, 2006 will be a very busy year for Lemonde.fr, because it will be a continuation of the migration to XUL/PHP, PHP 5.1, CVS will be replaced probably by SVN, and more.