Global Blue is a multi-national firm that facilitates millions of transactions business between merchants, banks, and international travelers. The company provides value added tax (VAT)/goods and services tax (GST) refunds in 38 countries and Dynamic Currency Choice for credit card holders shopping internationally. Global Blue not only enables merchants to provide tax refunds, but also offers services for businesses that want to increase their international presence including the Global Blue Academy, Market Intelligence, Direct Promotions and the print and online magazine, SHOP.
Global Blue was faced with rapid growth in their online refund issuing business that led to a capacity issue with their existing infrastructure. Waleed Hanafi, SVP-CTO for Global Blue, explains the situation before the company started using Amazon Web Services (AWS): “We were forced to move our email and business intelligence [BI] applications off our production system in order to create capacity. The BI team investigated using a cloud service provider instead of occupying internal infrastructure. Because we were so successful moving BI to the cloud, we decided to make it permanent and created BI Reporting Factory to handle our merchant reporting, management dashboards, and other scheduled reporting tasks.”
Global Blue’s initial foray into cloud computing had been building over time. According to Hanafi: “We had been watching cloud development, waiting for a service with the appropriate combination of capabilities, reliability, security, and pricing. Our ability to scale in our own environment was limited, and the backlog of projects meant that there was little hope of getting ahead of the curve. The company likes to run ‘asset light,’ so further investment in the data centers was not welcome.
“Because the BI team is located in Singapore, we needed a vendor who could work with us locally, while still providing facilities in our key markets around the world. The BI team was not engineering focused so it was also important that the platform be easy to use and configure by non-engineers. AWS met those criteria.”
In addition to using Amazon Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3), Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2), and European Availability Zones to host its BI Factory Reporting tool, Global Blue uses AWS for hosting their corporate web site, customer-facing vertical websites, and development environments.
Hanafi states that the three major benefits AWS brings to Global Blue are speed, capacity, and cost reduction. He describes Global Blue’s cost savings in particular: “Our initial motivation was to restore BI services in the face of a capacity crunch in our datacenter. The ability to move a key system to the cloud and get back into production was key. Additionally, we avoided significant costs with BI Reporting Factory including $800,000 in CapEx costs and $5,000-8,000 per month in OpEx costs which would have otherwise gone to on-premise infrastructure expenses. Fundamentally, the CapEx would never have been approved if we continued to manage the application internally.”
Global Blue’s next major initiative is to use the cloud to replace their disaster recovery system. Hanafi explains: “We have been virtualized since 2007, so the cloud is an attractive option for the way we operate. We apply a test to any new system proposal that extends the old ‘build versus buy’ to ‘build, buy, or cloud.’ Our move to use the cloud for disaster recovery is currently underway. Longer term, we are working on moving to high availability designs that take advantage of both internal and cloud services.”
The team at Global Blue has appreciated the willingness of AWS to work with them to explore new and innovative uses of the platform. Hanafi says, “Having a vendor’s technical staff available to consult is critical to moving projects forward.”
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