We have achieved 99.999 percent infrastructure availability with AWS, and an average page loading time of around 1.5 seconds. This ensures our online store is constantly available for customers, limiting the risk of a poor experience.
The Aditya Birla Online Fashion (abof) store is Indian conglomerate Aditya Birla’s initial venture into e-commerce. Founded in 2014, abof provides apparel, footwear, and accessories for men and women, with delivery and customer care services established for 500 cities across India. The business has designed the abof web store to display attractively on mobile devices, and provides a 3D “trial room” that enables customers to input body dimension data and see how clothing items look on them. The website also provides a style quiz to help personalize the service it provides to customers.
Aditya Birla ruled out running the abof online fashion store in an infrastructure comprising physical servers, storage, and networks in an on-premises or collocated datacenter because of the scalability it needed. The business anticipated that demand for apparel, footwear, and accessories would grow quickly and would spike during sales and other promotional events. Purchasing the compute, storage, and associated resources required to support these peaks would impose a sizable cost burden on the fledgling business, and risk these resources being underused during non-peak periods. In addition, Aditya Birla wanted to avoid dedicating valuable technical resources to maintain servers, storage, networks, and associated datacenter facilities for abof. The business then decided to implement the abof store—including the supporting IBM web-based e-commerce system—on a cloud infrastructure. A trial of abof in a selected cloud service proved unsuccessful. “We placed the IBM e-commerce application stack in the cloud but found we had to complete a range of maintenance tasks, including managing the networking, load balancing, and security manually. Due to these issues, we then looked for alternative options,” says Mahesh Tiyyagura, chief technology officer at abof.
Why Amazon Web Services
With assistance from Minjar Cloud Solutions, a Premier Consulting Partner with Amazon Web Services (AWS), Aditya Birla chose AWS due to the cloud provider’s ease of use and rich array of services that could be adopted to optimize the performance of its online store. The abof online store launched in late 2015, with the IBM technology stack powering the e-commerce service all-in on AWS. The store infrastructure operates in the AWS Asia-Pacific (Singapore) Region and uses multiple Availability Zones for redundancy. Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2) instances run the IBM WebSphere Commerce Suite that enables customers to shop on an ABOF website compatible with fixed or mobile devices, or using an ABOF mobile application. An IBM DB2 relational database that runs e-commerce store-related datasets also runs in Amazon EC2, while a MySQL database that manages datasets for an in-house-developed logistics management system runs in Amazon Relational Database Service (Amazon RDS). Amazon Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3) stores content such as product images and videos, while Amazon CloudFront improves the website’s performance by distributing content to users with low latency and high data transfer speeds. Aditya Birla also uses Amazon Elastic Block Store (Amazon EBS) to store Amazon EC2 instance and web server logs.
The business is reaping the rewards of using AWS Support and has an Enterprise support plan to address any issues that arise with its infrastructure. “We haven’t experienced any major problems, but if we do we know we can be confident that AWS will provide a fast, technically skilled response,” says Tiyyagura.
The figure below illustrates abof’s environment in AWS:
Running the tools and infrastructure in AWS has delivered a range of benefits to abof. Developers’ ability to create instances “on the fly” to update and create new software has given the online fashion store the agility to innovate quickly and compete effectively in the crowded online shopping marketplace. “We deploy a full release of instances every one and a half weeks for our front-end environments. For quality assurance and staging in our back-end environments, we deploy new instances nearly every day,” says Tiyyagura.
The business has also automated much of the process of scaling its infrastructure to support demand peaks generated by campaigns that encourage customers to visit the website and purchase products. “We have run television and print campaigns that caused traffic levels spike up to five times above normal. Our AWS infrastructure has supported these peaks without manual intervention and with no reduction in performance or availability to our customers,” says Tiyyagura.
Tiyyagura acknowledges that good performance and availability is key to the success of abof. “We have achieved 99.999 percent infrastructure availability with AWS, and an average page loading time of around 1.5 seconds. This ensures our online store is constantly available for customers, limiting the risk of a poor experience that could push them to purchase from rival stores instead,” he says. The proof of this success lies in the extent that customers have embraced shopping with abofthe service achieved an annual gross merchandise value of Rs 100 crore (approximately US$14.8 million) within 90 days of launch, and recorded repeat orders by more than 20 percent of customers within the same period.
Tiyyagura says that the total cost of running abof on AWS is “much lower” compared to a physical infrastructure in an on-premises or hosted datacenter.
“AWS products and services, combined with our Enterprise support plan, have been a powerful enabler for abof to meet customer requirements and help us grow into new markets. We are now looking to deploy Docker to build, run, test, and deploy applications based on Linux containers. This will reduce the number of touchpoints required to make changes to our applications, further increasing the agility and speed of new deployments,” says Tiyyagura.