By John Baranowski, CIO & Co-Founder, LoveBook LLC
Valentine’s Day is upon us. It’s time for candlelight dinners, flowers, chocolates and romance. At LoveBook LLC (LoveCoups.com – from the makers of LoveBookOnline.com), we’re letting lovebirds add a little bit of customization and personalization to their Valentine’s Day gift this year with customized love coupons for their loved ones, and it’s all powered by the cloud.
It works like this: customers go to LoveCoups.com, create avatars that look like them and their loved ones and build a book of 20 coupons including those characters. The full-color coupons can be redeemed for specific activities – i.e. dinner, laundry, massages, or maybe something more romantic in nature – use your imagination!
The big differentiator for us is the customizability – and none of that would be possible without the cloud. A dynamic website is a critical component to the customer experience – lag time won’t be tolerated.
With Rackspace, we can spin servers up and develop and test on them without having to commit to buying expensive hardware and signing long-term contracts. We can test a node cluster then spin it down if we want to. We’ve built out a full cloud environment that is scalable and swift.
We launched LoveCoups.com late October of last year and needed to be ready for the Christmas rush and the upcoming Valentine’s Day season (LoveCoups are for any occasion). We can spin up new servers on demand to accommodate for seasonal spikes, and dial it back for the lulls of the off season. Our webheads scale up and scale down with ease. For example, we can scale up about two to three times from the off-season to the holiday season for our production environment. And if we need to add more for the last-minute Valentine’s crunch, we can increase that even further.
Rackspace gives us access to specialists who can help us tune our environment specifically to what we need. If you build an application like ours properly, you do it in a load-balanced environment. That way you build in (up front) the ability to scale your infrastructure from your front-end all the way to your back-end cluster and database servers. This load-balanced environment will surly hold up to the traffic spikes one encounters in a seasonal business like ours.
When we went live in October, we had built our entire cloud application (webheads, back-end character builder, and database servers) all on the Next Generation Cloud Platform. We took advantage of everything Rackspace has to offer from Cloud Servers to network load balancers.
Roughly a month after our launch day, Rackspace introduced Rackspace Performance Cloud Servers and we were able to migrate our entire infrastructure to the new platform quite easily. This is one of the benefits of using cloud computing technology as opposed to buying all our own servers. When the performance platform came out, we were able to take advantage of it right away without waiting on ROI of exiting hardware. We immediately saw a boost in performance from the front-end servers all the way back to the back-end, especially on CPU intensive processes like our character builder. An added bonus was the Performance Cloud servers allowed us to save 33 percent on our monthly server fees as well!
It boils down to the need for a consistent customer experience. We don’t want customers coming to our site and experiencing latency. Our site should perform the same way whether one or 1,000 people are using it. We gauge our performance by how fast our customers can design their personalized characters and then build a customized 20-page coupon book. It has to load rapidly and perform like it was running client side. As soon as we went to Performance Cloud Servers it was incredible how quickly pages and characters loaded. Our CPU-intensive avatar builder was faster, it was able to maintain higher volumes of users and we could do so without having to scale up our back-end cluster further. It was easily double the speed.
In the end, our customers expect our website to perform like an app. It has to be instant. We don’t want it to be a static website with some generic form to fill out to personalize products. We need a dynamic site that lets our customers build what they want, when they want it so they can wow their significant other this Valentine’s Day.
This is a guest post written and contributed by John Baranowski, CIO and Co-Founder of LoveBook LLC and Co-Founder of LoveCoups.com, a Rackspace customer. LoveCoups.com offers customers the ability to make customized, personalized love coupon books.