Research from the Capgemini e-Retail Sales Index shows that online retail sales are set to rise by 17% this year, breaking through the £100 billion barrier. Although this is great news for business, we have to consider how servers will cope with the inevitable increase in traffic when infrastructure is pushed to its limits.
It’s the stuff of nightmares. After months of hard work and preparation, the launch day arrives for your much-anticipated new web store, product or service. The “Go” button is pressed and your creation is released for everyone to see.
However, the excitement wears off shortly after when your website starts failing: too many people are trying to log on and the site can’t cope with the traffic, meaning that they are presented with error messages rather than tempting shopping deals. The knock-on effect is a loss of revenue and consumer trust.
Whether it’s a consumer electronics company announcing its latest smartphone or tablet, a band streaming its new album or an online retailer announcing a sale, spikes in traffic and usage can cause all sorts of problems. UK broadcaster ITV, for example, has suffered a couple of times in recent years with streaming content online – there was so much demand for the first episode of the second series of Downton Abbey that ITV’s online player simply couldn’t cope.
When infrastructure is pushed over its capacity it can be frustrating for all involved, but the simple answer of buying more or better infrastructure isn’t always suitable. Traffic spikes are usually rare and don’t justify the cost of additional hardware that would not be used after the traffic spike recedes, particularly as tightening budgets and increased competition are forcing many businesses to sweat the assets and get more from their existing infrastructure.
This is where cloud bursting comes in. During peak periods, an application that is running in a corporate data centre or in a private cloud can “burst” into a public cloud, providing the extra capacity needed to keep services running smoothly. It also means the company will only pay for extra capacity when it is used, keeping costs down.
By being prepared with a cloud bursting strategy, there won’t be any risk when there is a spike in demand: business can carry on as normal. In turn this will have a positive impact on business, as it avoids revenue loss due to applications crashing, while consumers have a more user-friendly experience, building trust in the brand.
Cloud bursting works by abstracting the application delivery requirements from the underlying infrastructure, enabling the applications to span physical and virtual infrastructure in the data centre and the cloud, as demand dictates.
Increasing an application’s available resources by dynamically redirecting workloads as needed results in a more stable and reliable service for end users, benefiting all parties.
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Good cloud bursting technology can also eliminate network bottlenecks, by using metrics of real-time service behaviour to deliver demand-based workflow routing. Doing this over public and private data centres eliminates the restrictions of physical devices, connectivity and capacity experienced within data centre silos.
Cloud bursting also ensures that all relevant security policies are enforced when an application is burst to the cloud, meaning regulatory requirements will still be met.
As well as these benefits, cloud bursting architecture implements a rapid application delivery network provisioning solution, drastically reducing the lead times for expanding application delivery capabilities across data centres, be they private or public.
As a result, organisations can efficiently extend data centers to the cloud, scale applications beyond the data centre when required, secure and accelerate connections to the cloud and make use of PAYG resources.
Cloud bursting is today’s obvious answer for achieving incremental capacity only when it’s needed. The limits of servers and networks can be pushed safely with integration between the management tools and connectivity of public and private environments, creating a seamless experience across the two and delivering a transparent extension of the data centre environment that avoids resource and management silos.
It’s also important that we recognise that these types of traffic spikes don’t just apply to websites. Any application or service is at risk from collapsing if it hits peak capacity. Cloud bursting is a great way to ensure that applications can keep running smoothly through huge spikes in demand without forcing a business to pay for infrastructure that does nothing for long periods at a time.
The business will only pay for the additional capacity it uses and end users will be able to access what they want whenever they want to, even if huge numbers of others are doing exactly the same thing at the same time.
For anyone who might anticipate spikes in activity online or within their network this year, cloud bursting should be front-of-mind as a cost effective, efficient and reliable solution.
Businesses must stay on top of their online and network traffic in order to maintain and attract customers and cloud bursting is an easy and affordable way to do that.
Sourced from Nathan Pearce, F5 Networks