The New Patch Bears the Stamp of Its CTO

Abraham Brewster, also a painter, has helped brighten the Patch landscape.

It was a year ago that Abraham Brewster joined Patch as CTO. A good time to hop on board the hyperlocal network, as it turns out; a few months later, majority owner Hale Global Inc. was framing 2014 as a profitable year.

Brewster switched Patch from AOL’s proprietary platform to Pantheon. Co-founded by Zack Rosen and David Strauss, the San Francisco-based tech solutions company has also worked in the media realm with New Republic, the Boston Herald and American Public Media.

This month, Pantheon published a case study about the firm’s work with Patch. The knock against the AOL Patch was always that it expanded too fast. The new Patch is currently working slowly from the much more sustainable number of 900+ sites and in partnership with Pantheon, streamlined the legacy from 2684 domains to one and 96 servers to 15:

“Our front-end site is a Drupal site with no users, no nodes, no views. It has no content in its database – it sits there as a caching, configuration box and a theming box. It captures less volatile information, digests it and caches it locally for display. When you don’t ask Drupal to ‘think,’ it can serve you a page in 200 milliseconds…”

“There would be no way we could serve our content footprint and do the rendering at the same time, while doing all the other things that would have to happen on a service-box—authentication and content relationships. We came to this solution because it seemed to be the best of both worlds. We let the CMS manage content and let the theming layer do the theming, and then put this massively scalable buffer between them called Varnish. The front-end never calls a database. Instead of hitting a database, it’s hitting Varnish.”

At the beginning of this month, Patch launched for the first time in Texas, with a group of sites serving downtown, south, north and east Austin. Installed as Texas bureau chief is Stephanie Gaskell, a veteran journalist who has worked for the New York Post, the New York Daily News and AP.

The resurgence of Patch likely had something to do with a decision by The Spark to also get into the hyperlocal news game. Per the Boston Globe, the Brooklyn-tied outfit has launched in Brockton, Mass. despite being unable to secure its target of grant and bank loan support.