With 64 percent of the U.S. population shopping online, e-commerce is a vital revenue stream across all business verticals, especially those organizations which only sell their goods and services online.
But setting up a website with a shopping cart is just simply not enough to be a successful e-commerce company. Today, it’s all about the shopping experience for customers — and they will quickly seek a replacement if their expectations are not met.
E-commerce retailers must deliver secure, seamless solutions across all channels, on a platform that behaves the same no matter the volume of traffic, while also delivering up-to-date features — which are themselves always evolving.
A popular U.S. retailer recently looked to Rackspace Private Cloud powered by OpenStack to meet those ever-growing customer needs. In particular, this retailer sought to accomplish two goals: create an agile platform with built-in customer focused features, and designed to easily scale horizontally under increased user load.
Delivery and platform
After choosing the right e-commerce platform, the next step was to decide how the application would run on the company’s infrastructure. The company had been running its e-commerce applications on virtualization, but IT leaders wanted to move into the cloud, in order to meet the second goal, scale.
Since all the components of the new e-commerce application (except for the data store) were open source, the IT team was inspired to look at open source infrastructure management platforms.
Platform requirements included:
- No single-points-of-failure, with core system uptime of no less than 99.9 percent.
- Multiple geo-located regions.
- Ability to operate in a hybrid cloud format — in this case, public and private clouds.
- Ability to deliver on-demand scalable instances.
- Dedicated firewalls and load balancers by environment.
- Capable of handling vertical partitioning on each tier (layer 7 routing).
- Inline network based application security (ie DDOS detection/protection).
- VLAN segmentation for each tier (DMZ, app, data, etc).
- Self-service IaaS with an API capable of facilitating automation and role-based security.
- Physical servers for dedicated resources.
- Ability to host physical devices on segmented VLAN required for PCI and SOX compliance.
After further evaluation, the company decided it also needed a vendor which could not only supply the platform but also provide support and management, given a lack of internal skills and available resources to operate this new type of infrastructure platform. After putting out an RFI for the infrastructure platform, the company chose Rackspace’s Private Cloud powered by OpenStack as the infrastructure-as-a-service product.
Rackspace’s OpenStack private cloud not only delivered the base platform requirements the retailer mandated, it also opened the door for a faster software development lifecycle. This meant the retailer could quickly launch product features, such as a cross-channel shopping cart, and more densely consume the available computing resources by leveraging Rackspace’s included cloud capacity tools. That led to reduced costs — by almost 30 percent.
Rackspace private cloud design
The retailer chose to deploy two private cloud regions in geographically separate locations. From an OpenStack standpoint, each region was aware of the other while still having separate compute and storage resources.
The purpose was to perform A/B rollouts and simplify the e-commerce platform deployments. New features or updates could be pushed to the secondary region and traffic could be solely diverted to it, while updates were installed on the primary region; then traffic could be diverted back, or evenly distributed across both regions.
The ability to actively use both regions not only spread out the user load but also kept users in a region closer to their locale, improving customer experience.
With Rackspace’s OpenStack private cloud plus our industry-leading Fanatical Support and operations, the retailer received the new e-commerce platform on time, with all the project’s goals met.
Immediate benefits included a boost in application performance. Product availability query timing to its backend external inventory partner was reduced by roughly 50 percent, from an average of 45 milliseconds to 22 milliseconds. While milliseconds may not matter in our everyday lives, they add up quickly when queuing hundreds of thousands of rows of data that must be returned back to a customer’s browser.
The retailer also found heightened interest from other parts of the business interested in leveraging the new infrastructure platform. Word began to spread about how quickly new e-commerce-focused features could be deployed, leading other business development teams to seek this capability.
Rackspace Private Cloud powered by OpenStack met all the platform requirements right out of the box, meaning the retailer did not have to wait for us to deliver features it wanted. Importantly, the team always had someone to call when facing platform issues — a bat phone of sorts. Finally, Rackspace provided a complete cloud design with a strategy for future resource expansion.
In our next use case post, we’ll describe how a growing big data provider is using Rackspace private cloud to deliver advanced data analysis features for its customers. You can also check out our first use case, on a financial services firm using our OpenStack Private Cloud to securely solve its ever-growing integration demand.