True Alliance is home to some of the world’s most famous “must have” brands including: Ben Sherman, Coach, Lacoste, Leejeans, Nautica, Reebok, Riders, Rockport, Speedo, Teva, The North Face, UGG Australia, Kipling, Sanuk and Wrangler. True Alliance is focused on investing in the long term success of all of their brands – many of which are market leaders in their field.
With headquarters in Sydney, True Alliance has offices and showrooms in all other major cities in the region – including Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide and Auckland.
Faster more reliable environment. The environment had to scale to cope with peaks in traffic at any time for sales.
Migration of current applications from an inhouse system to AWS using VPC’s with Autoscaling and Elastic Load Balancing
Increased uptime across the platforms which has helped to increase sales and improve the customer experience.
Post Implementation Review with Michael Rossi – Snr Network Administrator at True Alliance.
What were some pain points being experienced that prompted a search for a cloud services provider?
Our initial platform was hosted internally and we were seeing limitations with our ability to scale and manage our environments. We could see that continuing to manage our hardware in house was going to become expensive and impractical so we began to look for a cloud solution.
What was the engagement process like? How was PolarSeven found?
AWS were brought in after we undertook a review of other providers.
We selected AWS as best of breed due to their feature set and several other factors, including the fact that they had a good presence in Australia.
Because we did not have any AWS experience internally PolarSeven were suggested by AWS as a best of breed partner to help us with the transition.
A POC was outlined with PolarSeven and then implemented through cloud formation across one of our brands for internal review to see how it would work.
Once we had tested this, approval was then given to move that out as the environment standard across all our brands.
What due diligence process was undertaken to minimise risk and ensure the best provider was successfully engaged?
Our own investigation into cloud providers brought us to AWS and then their recommendation to use PolarSeven took it from there.
The Proof Of Concept was our starter point and having PolarSeven onsite helped us to understand how this could all be put together.
The knowledge that PolarSeven provided through their workshop really helped us to understand the best way that we could proceed and having their engineers onsite helped us to increase our teams knowledge at the same time.
What solution was implemented within the business?
The solution is deployed in a virtual private cloud (VPC) across multiple availability zones (AZ) for availability and redundancy.
We utilised the following components:
- VPC – Amazon Virtual Private Cloud (Amazon VPC) lets you provision a logically isolated section of the Amazon Web Services (AWS) Cloud where you can launch AWS resources in a virtual network that you define.
- AZ – Regions are separate geographic areas. Within them are AZ’s which are isolated locations. We deploy infrastructure across multiple AZ’s to ensure high availability (HA) for high value stacks and redundancy for others.
- ELB – Elastic Load Balancing automatically distributes incoming application traffic across multiple Amazon EC2 instances in the cloud.
- Route53 – A test brand domain hosted on route53 was used to prove the solution
- Auto Scaling – Auto Scaling helps to maintain application availability and allows us to scale our Amazon EC2 capacity up or down automatically according to conditions we define.
- SNS – Amazon Simple Notification Service (Amazon SNS) is a fast, flexible, fully managed push messaging service
- S3 – Amazon Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3), provides developers and IT teams with secure, durable, highly-scalable object storage.
- CloudWatch – Amazon CloudWatch is a monitoring service for AWS cloud resources and the applications run on AWS.
- NAT – Network Address Translation instance is required within a VPC to enable instance on a private subnet to access the internet. The solution dictates two NAT servers that are able to monitor and heal each other providing a highly available NAT architecture.
- VPN – Virtual Private Network device will enable secure and controlled access to the environment for development and admin purposes.
- APP – The application layer will be deployed across multiple availability zones for redundancy. The app layer consists of iis web servers.
- Database – MS SQL RDS Amazon RDS for Microsoft SQL Server® makes it easy to set up, operate, and scale SQL Server deployments in the cloud.
- Image Storage – image storage for each application are stored in S3.
What specifications needed to be adhered to?
We had to be connected to our internal corporate network as well so that orders could get into our SAP system with a VPN.
Auto scaling of our environments was critical.
There can be big spikes in short periods of time to sales messaging for email campaigns so we had to be able to quickly scale up for a flexible & dynamic environment in a proactive manner to ensure that stacks could handle load increases.
This was key to keeping sites up and maintain a good brand experience for our customers, rather than having them hit the site only to find it had been overloaded and they could not reach a particular offer.
What were some of the alternative options proposed, that were not undertaken and why?
We did do a review of some of the competitor options obviously but AWS came out on top in everything that we looked at.
Also AWS had a presence within Australia and as our customers are all in AU and NZ it made sense that we host here as well.
How would you describe the project in terms of success? Was business value realised?
Our move to AWS helped to reduce a potential loss of sales from not having uptime by providing ability to scale our environments automatically in response to EDM messaging that gets sent out for sales offers.
As you can imagine customers that click through for an offer sent to their inbox only to be met with a page that either won’t load, or loads very slowly, are very likely to leave and not return for that offer.
Our December and January sales we scaled up RDS services for those times and scaled EC2 instances throughout the period.
We have also made savings in upfront costs from having to build new environments for hardware and software as the business grows. Or even if we just need to spin up a server for production testing we can set it up and shut it down without needing to have that cost of hardware,
This allows us to build state of the art solutions for minimum up front costs
All of this has allowed us to grow our promotional sales and customer database.
What were some KPIs used to measure the success of the project?
Our main KPI at the start of the project was driven by technical team for uptime requirements.
As the uptime improved it improved other factors across the business as well.
What changed culturally within the business and the workflow once you had moved to the cloud?
We had to be more aware of what was being done within our AWS environment and look at the financial implications to understand what our applications were doing and look at inefficiencies within our databases and application performances.
This made us be more critical of programming and optimise code rather than just relying on compute to upgrade ram etc as this would cost more to run on AWS.
This stopped us just throwing more resources at things to make stuff better, like increasing RAM or storage capacity.
In turn this gives us better applications and system performance by being smart about the way we use AWS services.
Were there any unexpected benefits that arose once the project had been completed?
Now that we are running our databases using RDS our administration overhead has been reduced. We no longer need to worry about the operating system, patching or software upgrades as this is a fully managed service.
Using a base AMI image for our web servers has also reduced administration. Rather than manage each individual server we just keep the base image up to date. As new servers spin up they have the most up to date software by default.
We have also been impressed with S3 and it’s simplicity. We regularly upload files to S3 when we want to share content or make things available outside of our corporate network.
Do you see yourselves expanding to utilise more AWS services into the future?
Yes, AWS has more products and services that we can use when required which we hadn’t initially conceived of.
We are now looking at archiving requirements for our media storage gateway and also deploying SAP HANA on AWS.