Blossoming in the Cloud

Ferns N Petals is thriving in AWS Cloud, which offers a rich and fertile ground for catering to the needs of large numbers of customers. By Jasmine Desai

Powered by innovative solutions from the areas of mobility, social networking and cloud, e-commerce is now attracting new customers by the droves. Today the e-commerce organisations are seeing vast improvements in conversions and the size of average order values. Ferns N Petals, an online portal for flowers and other gift items, is no exception to this trend. The website is active in 156 countries and operates in geographies such as Europe, USA, Middle East and South East Asia. The website runs entirely on AWS platform. But the development of the appropriate cloud strategy has taken a lot planning on part of Ferns N Petals.

Why cloud!
Ferns N Petals was initially using the traditional data centre model; its data centre was located in Mumbai. In course of time there was a significant rise in the number of customers visiting their website. Today Ferns N Petals has around 500,000 customers across the world who visit their website every month. 90% of their traffic comes from India. On special occasions like Valentine’s  Day, Mother’s  Day or any other festive occasion, they have close to 1000 concurrent visitors on the website per second.

On any normal day, there are around 300 concurrent users per second, and the highest traffic is at around 10 AM in the morning or 8 PM in the evening. Explains Manish Saini, Vice-President, Online Business, Ferns N Petals,?s the web traffic increased, it became difficult for us to predict the infrastructure capacity that would be needed when we are using the traditional data centre. Installing another data centre would incur large upfront capital cost and it would require substantial effort and resources. Hence we decided to opt for a cloud-based model.

The organisation conducted a comprehensive comparison between traditional data centre providers and the AWS model. The criteria used for the comparison considered the aspects of scalability, cost efficiency, monitoring and automation features, and flexibility. It was also considered the factor that the new system should have credibility across the globe.  According to Saini, AWS was leading in every criteria and its rapid pace of innovation made it obvious that this was the solution that could remain viable for the long term.

The path to transformation

Any migration to cloud-based set-up requires lot of planning. Ferns N Petals carried out multiple checks and preparation activities prior to the migration process . These included:
-Testing various types of workloads to understand the capacity needed and its associated cost.
-Application architecture review with disaster recovery and contingency planning.
-Deriving the peak performance throughput based on load testing.

Based on the outcomes of their result, the organisation developed the cloud architecture for implementation which was followed by a data centre migration plan. The migration plan included a range of high-tech activities that had to be executed in perfect order. ?rom our side we did a perfect planning to ensure that the migration was foolproof and seamless,says Saini.

Security is a key area of concern in the cloud. This too had to be taken care of thoroughly. AWS offers some extremely robust security features, according to Saini. These include the setting up of secured servers with security keys, having strong ACL layer to manage the traffic restrictions as well as security groups, and the setting up of micro instance to control inbound and outbound access to the servers.

These features ensure that the data has been restricted to a limited and controlled user group. Another key strength of AWS, which is beneficial for companies like Ferns N Petals, is the Amazon CloudWatch solution. It provided Ferns N Petals with the ability of managing the servers remotely. The monitoring and support team can easily access the alarms and key statistics.

Testing the new system
It took Ferns N Petals around 4-5 days to set up the environment and initiate a thorough testing. This also included failover planning and load testing. The implementation process was quite smooth, thanks to the detailed implementation plan. They also did a thorough analysis of AWS so that they could be aware of all the capabilities of the system, as well as the key activities that needed to be handled.

Now the infrastructure of Ferns N Petalsruns on AWS Cloud. They are utilising Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2), Elastic Load Balancing, Amazon Simple Email Service (Amazon SES), Amazon CloudWatch, AWS APIs, Amazon CloudFront and Amazon Route53.  “We find the Amazon Route53 to be an extremely reliable and cost effective way to route end-users to our website. Amazon Route53 helps us in seamless DNS management,says Saini. The company is running applications like Content Management System, Call Centre CRM, Vendor Extranet, Websites (for desktop and Mobile), Email SMTP (Amazon SES) and Content delivery on AWS.

Benefits of being on cloud
The benefits of the implementation are crystal clear to everyone. Says Saini, “We wanted to ensure a great customer experience whenever they visit our websites so that we can retain our customers and thereby ensure repeat business.Installing hardware servers would have entailed a huge rise in the expenditure, it would have brought in complications in the way that IT is managed.

The infrastructure from a traditional hosting provider can lead to a monthly maintenance cost, which is not ideal for businesses. With AWS, Ferns N Petals does not have to worry about maintaining or upgrading the infrastructure. By using the AWS Cloud Platform, the company can add several new features to their website for enhancing customer experience. The Cloud Infrastructure can be scaled as per the business dynamics. The best thing is that they are only paying AWS for the services that they use, so there is no extra expenditure.

“This is far more convenient and flexible as compared to the traditional data centre model,asserts Saini.  The AWS platform helps in maintaining high level of traffic, while keeping the IT infrastructure in working condition with minimum efforts. They are now free to focus on their core business. Through AWS they get alerts or notifications in case there is a glitch. Already AWS has suggested certain autoscaling and optimisation, which they are now in the process of implementing. The future plans of the company include the aspect of Cloud. The company is now planning to expand in UAE, where it will have the web address – This endeavour will require require one more server.

cloud computingcloud security
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