A Leader in B2B Commerce Easily Handles Increased Black Friday Traffic at the Push of a Button
Our customer, a leader in B2B and B2C eCommerce for precious stones, metals and jeweler supplies, crafted a home grown digital solution. This custom-built solution was hosted at the company’s own datacenter. While the solution supported this company’s business model over a number of years via online, phone, mobile, and catalog orders, it became apparent that the system could not adapt easily to the changing needs of the business.
XCentium is often called by customers to audit and evaluate legacy solutions and provide advice for improvements. In this specific instance, our customer had concluded the necessary audit already and identified very specific areas of the business process and enterprise software structure needing changes. The most important of these areas were the server infrastructure and the architecture of the legacy application, which proved itself too brittle.
The customer contracted XCentium to create a content driven eCommerce solution. This solution integrated Microsoft Azure, the Sitecore Experience Platform CMS, and Insite Commerce software. XCentium enabled our customer to provide a personalized shopping experience with Sitecore’s award winning CMS. This web front end was connect to the B2B eCommerce backend of Insite and deployed to a high availability secure environment in Microsoft Azure. The XCentium team led a collaborative effort that created a comprehensive, holistic, B2B and B2C Commerce solution enabling our client to grow its business now and in the future.
Design and Architecture Solution Considerations
In selecting the components of this solution, our customer faced a common problem often found in enterprise sized web systems. Namely the need to integrate several disparate, best of breed, products. In this case, Sitecore needed to be integrated with Insite, which in turn had to communicate with SAP.
Utilizing the Sitecore-Insite Connector Created by XCentium
One of the value-added conveniences XCentium brought to this project is the Sitecore “Insite Connector” library. The Insite Connector, created by our team, is a commercially available custom library that makes integration between Sitecore Content Management and Insite Commerce considerably easier and faster.
Deploying on Azure WebApps
Having add-in components to speed up development is nice but more important than components and add-ons are the skills of the systems integration team. XCentium’s team has the distinction of not only releasing the Sitecore-Insite Connector to the marketplace but also creating the first ever instance of a Sitecore application running on Azure WebApps. XCentium has been providing managed services infrastructure on Azure and AWS for a number of years. We recommended to our customer to deploy this new application on Azure. By accepting this recommendation, our customer made a key decision that proved crucial to the business a few months later.
As an online retailer, our customer generates over $100 Million in sales per year. Like any other online retailer, Black Friday is immensely busy. While the normal system load can be several hundred users per hour, during the peak selling hours on Black Friday that number can ratchet up to 70,000 requests per hour – or to put it differently, normal traffic is 10-12 page-views per second, while Black Friday peak can reach 35 page-views per second.
Prior to the holiday peak, our application infrastructure was based on A4-V2 machines for SitecoreCD and D4-V2 machines for Insite. In order to handle the anticipated traffic, XCentium recommended that our customer increase not only the capacity of the existing servers but add additional Sitecore and Insite machines.
XCentium’s Managed Services Team Use Azure to Deliver Record Black Friday Sales
If our customer had ignored XCentium’s earlier recommendation to host the entire eco-system in Azure, the customer would have been hard pressed to scale for peak usage by utilizing legacy data center and hardware. However, by running the entire system in Azure, our customer was able to take advantage of our Managed Services Team who added servers and increased the capacity of existing machines in minutes.
It literally took less than hour to reconfigure the environment for increased traffic. The entire system weathered Black Friday without a hiccup.
After the dust settled our customer reviewed the sales transactions for Black Friday - the results showed a 10% net increase in sales year over year for the five-day period from Nov 24 to Nov 29. This increase was attributed to the scaled-up version of the system. It handled the load beautifully.
In addition to handling the load, our customer was able to execute this strategy at an incremental hardware /hosting cost of less than $1000. That is not a typo. We saw a 10% increase in sales for Black Friday at a cost of less than $1000.
This is one of the reasons XCentium offers a Managed Services Practice to our customers. Our team handles the hardware on Azure and can pivot very quickly to the business needs of our clients.
"The concepts of Microsoft Azure and cloud computing are often abstract and even nebulous to customers who are not directly involved with IT. Even though many vendors tout Microsoft Azure or Amazon AWS, I have found that nothing illustrates the benefits more effectively than numbers in black and white. You cannot argue with the bottom line of increasing holiday sales by a healthy percentage while only paying a pittance for the temporary boost in the infrastructure necessary to handle the peak load that was anticipated. I can’t think of a better cost/benefits analysis to drive home the point.
Thomas Wagner, Commerce Director, XCentium