Thinking Outside the Box with Hybrid Cloud, New Technologies

By Suraj Sanchit, Creative Director, Gracious Studios

When you’re a digital agency working for ecommerce customers, you have to stay nimble and on top of the latest technologies. At Gracious Studios, we’re a cross-media agency that serves clients in a number of verticals. We offer digital marketing, application development and design and full-service packages to unburden our customers.

To serve our customers, we rely heavily on open source and open standards. We’re a Magento Community Edition user, we’re leveraging Facebook’s HipHop Virtual Machine for PHP and we rely on an OpenStack-powered Rackspace Hybrid Cloud to marry it together.

Our Rackspace managed cloud footprint comprises a mix of dedicated servers and a dozen or so Performance Cloud Servers connected via RackConnect, Cloud Load Balancers, Cloud Files and the Akamai CDN and DNS. Essentially, we try to use a full-scale cloud environment.

When we first launched our business, we started with a shared hosting environment. But once we started to use real applications, we couldn’t customize the environment how we wanted. We used a local provider, and the saying “what you see is what you get” rang true. We spun up a VPS, but once we needed something we were lost. And when we had questions or needed additional support, we were pretty much left to fate.

We had to find a provider that could accommodate our growth without limitations. We couldn’t be encumbered by lack of scale; we have stringent contracts with our customers to which we must adhere. If they have to scale, we have to scale for them.

Once we turned to Rackspace, it immediately became easier for us to scale up and down. We can spin up servers without hassle. With our previous provider, we could spin up a server on the fly, but once we did we were locked into that server for a month – it was a contract. With Rackspace, we can spin up a Cloud Server, run it for an hour and kill it. It gives us the freedom to test a lot of new services and to be imaginative.

And on the service and support side, we’ve seen a dramatic difference. With previous providers, if a server stopped running on a Friday night or we experienced a software issue, we’d have to wait until Monday to get it fixed. With Rackspace, the right people with the right experience answer our calls and tickets immediately. We need that kind of reliable partner; a team of specialists to help us out.

For example, one of our biggest clients, Body & Fit, a leading ecommerce retailer for sport nutrition and dietary supplements, required the elasticity of a Magento environment. And while Magento is a great framework, it can be slow. We needed the perfect platform for the Magento environment. Rackspace was able to map out and architect the environment based on our needs and make it scalable both for us and for Body & Fit.

That proactive service really helped us know what we could and couldn’t do, and we learned the best way to set up a Magento architecture.

Performance Is Key

What it comes down to most is uptime. For Gracious Studios and our customers, performance and uptime must be at a maximum. Simply put, downtime costs money. Using a hybrid cloud platform lets us serve our customers fully – we need the reliability of dedicated servers to handle the load at any time, for example, for Body & Fit’s database servers and we use a number of Cloud Servers to scale up and to try new configurations. That gives is great flexibility. For example, if we’re launching a new ecommerce project, we need to know how that environment will scale.

Using a Rackspace Hybrid Cloud in concert with HipHop Virtual Machine (HHVM) has let us build a scalable and redundant environment that is always fast and doesn’t fluctuate. It is future proof, can handle all device traffic and integrates with external systems through Magento’s modular design. This has enabled us to cut our platform response times by more than half – they used to be one to three seconds and we’ve gotten them down to between 300 milliseconds and one second. That’s a 50 percent to 80 percent performance boost without reverse proxy caching (example: Varnish).

Using the cutting edge technologies from Rackspace and the open source community helps us stay on top of the latest technologies – that’s a major differentiation for us, and one of the reasons the biggest ecommerce platforms in the Netherlands trust Gracious Studios. It sets us a part from the other agencies and lets us think outside the box.

Our customers want the best experience possible, and our platform and partnership with Rackspace helps us deliver just that.


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