AWS scaling best practices for Black Friday

By, Rackspace Onica Team

High-traffic events like Black Friday and Cyber Monday highlight the importance of Amazon Web Services® (AWS) auto-scaling best practices. Online shopping during the four-day window has become an international phenomenon, with traffic increasing by 20 to 25 percent each year. Ensure your e-commerce site is ready for this surge and any unexpected spikes in demand.

The ability to scale based on demand is one of the chief reasons businesses move their infrastructures to the cloud. AWS offers many best practices for building scalability into your infrastructure: vertical scalability (moving to higher-capacity instances) and horizontal scalability (adding more instances) to respond to traffic surges.

Seven AWS auto-scaling best practices to ensure your site is ready for anything

Best practices for preparing for events like Black Friday start with as much automating and scaling as possible. But they don’t stop there. Preparing for mega surges in traffic is about more than turning on a few switches.

Use the following AWS auto-scaling best practices and tools to prepare for high-traffic events:

  1. Measure everything with CloudWatch. Monitor the performance of all critical assets during high-traffic events. Set alarms and notifications for key performance metrics conservatively to alert the right person or automate the right action.
  2. Use Auto Scaling. Put the necessary resources into an auto-scaling group. Groups allow you to treat multiple instances as a single object to scale specific instance types with specific resources together. Auto-scaling performs regular health checks on EC2 instances and automatically replaces instances that fail the health check. Auto-scaling also supports the PCI-compliant processing, storage, and transmission of credit card data.
  3. Leverage Elastic Load Balancing. This can automatically distribute incoming application traffic across multiple instances in your auto-scaling group. Elastic Load Balancing can also balance traffic across multiple regions and Availability Zones.
  4. Use Route 53 to scale your DNS. If you use Amazon Route 53 to route DNS queries to your load balancer, you can also use Route 53 to configure DNS failover for your load balancer. In this configuration, Amazon Route 53 checks the health of the registered EC2 instances for the load balancer to determine whether they are available and routes them to the most available resource.
  5. Improve performance with AWS ElastiCache. This improves the performance of your applications by allowing you to retrieve information from fast, managed, in-memory data stores instead of relying on entirely on slower disk-based databases. ElastiCache automatically detects and replaces failed nodes and reduces the risk of overloaded databases, which includes slow website and application load times.
  6. Test, test, and test some more. Use historical metrics to help forecast and model future traffic and to estimate your resource needs. Create scripts that mimic forecasted behavior and test against them. Hold surprise drills that force the team to react to problems. AWS also offers vulnerability and penetration testing for qualifying businesses.
  7. Think like a customer. Remember, scaling for huge shopping events isn’t just about keeping your network up and running. It’s about delivering a great shopping experience for your customers. If your network is too slow or unavailable, you might lose more than a shopping cart.

Black Friday is one of many events that can cause spikes in traffic. It’s important to prepare for these events year-round, not just when they’re expected. You can train your teams to deploy these tools and best practices on short notice in the event of some unplanned surge.

Need help preparing for Black Friday with auto-scaling?
Rackspace Technology is a top AWS Premier Consulting and audited Managed Service Partner. We’ve migrated 85,000+ servers to AWS, performing everything from basic lift and shift to helping to re-architect and manage services on clients’ infrastructures so that they can take full advantage of cloud resources. If you’d like to learn how working with an AWS Premier Consulting Partner can improve your business, contact us for a quick assessment.

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