AWS Case Study: Ice.com
Ice.com, an e-commerce jewelry retailer, was founded in 1999. Since its launch, Ice.com has been voted best of the web by Internet Retailer magazine. Ice.com was also voted into the Hot 100 e-commerce companies by Internet Retailer in both 2012 and 2013. Based in Champlain, New York, Ice.com was one of the first companies to offer jewelry online.
Ice.com’s IT needs were changing. The company was growing fast and its legacy hardware and e-commerce system were not keeping pace with the growing demand. Ice.com was running two separate data centers in Montreal, Canada, at a cost of $26,000 a month. The company lacked a comprehensive disaster recovery program and, while it had a strong network of fans on Facebook, it needed to expand its social media reach with a mobile site, better e-commerce tools, and a new enterprise resource planning (ERP) system.
The leadership team went looking for a chief information officer who could bring some solutions to bear. They found Jason Ordway, ICE Chief Information Officer, former CTO of SureSource, LLC where he lead the Development, IT/OPs, Quality Assurance and Project Management teams in support of their direct-to-consumer e-commerce model for clients such as Budweiser, Coca-Cola, Casio, Hershey's, and Crayola.
Ordway, no stranger to the needs of e-commerce, recommended moving to the cloud. He outlined a plan for developing a primary hosting platform for an entire e-commerce system, including a new web store application, an enterprise resource planning (ERP) system, a content management system (CMS), and a business intelligence (BI) platform.
Under Ordway’s leadership, Ice.com partnered with Brandorr Group LLC, an Advanced Consulting Partner member of the AWS Partner Network, that offers system development, remote administration, automation, deployment and scalability of web-applications on Amazon Web Services (AWS) infrastructure.
Why Amazon Web Services
The AWS Cloud provided Ice.com with the flexibility to architect a solution that met the company’s needs while being compliant with Payment Card Industry (PCI) standards. Ice.com met PCI DSS requirements, in part, by leveraging AWS’ PCI Service Provider status.
“We had to make sure that every customer-facing service we used was PCI-compliant,” Ordway says. “AWS did a great job of displaying the lengths they’d gone to in order to become PCI-compliant.” Ice.com now runs all of the following on the AWS Cloud: their e-commerce site, their mobile site, their ERP, CMS, and BI systems, and their social loyalty program.
Brandorr helped set up the Ice.com Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2) instances, backed up on the Amazon Elastic Block Store (Amazon EBS), and advised on best practices. “The Brandorr team helped us to bootstrap quicker,” Ordway says. “There’s a lot of simplicity to AWS, but there is some complexity behind the scenes. They helped us troubleshoot that.”
Some services are also running on the Amazon Elastic Load Balancing (Amazon ELB). Ice.com is using Amazon CloudWatch to deliver detailed information on the company’s servers and data, and the Amazon Virtual Private Cloud (Amazon VPC) to host the ERP and BI platforms. Amazon Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3) is being used to store static HTML, images, and backups, and Ice.com staff accesses all of those services with AWS Identity and Access Management (IAM). Ice.com is using multiple Availability Zones, one on the U.S. East Coast and another on the U.S. West Coast. Ice.com also has a comprehensive disaster recovery plan in place.
Behind the scenes, AWS security and regulatory controls helped Ice.com to achieve targeted security and compliance goals quickly and efficiently. AWS’ independent Qualified Security Assessor validated PCI DSS 2.0-compliant infrastructure and select services simplified and expedited Ice.com’s PCI compliance process. By moving the entire cardholder environment to AWS, Ice.com met all requirements as defined by PCI DSS for physical infrastructure. In addition to physical infrastructure controls, by leveraging some of the PCI DSS compliant services like Amazon ELB, Ice.com accelerated the steps to meet PCI DSS requirements for systems that process, store or transmit cardholder data.
Ice.com can now spend more of their high-value development hours focusing on PCI DSS requirements 6.3 and 6.5. These code reviews improve overall code quality and allow the Ice.com team to spend time on business-critical software features instead of commodity networking and data center security.
Time to market also improved. “The migration of the new application alone would have taken twice as much time if we’d needed to buy the hardware and then install server software,” Ordway says. “That’s a good thing for our software developers—they’d much rather code than wait on hardware.”
Ordway estimates that he’s been able to cut his IT staffing costs in half, thanks to the AWS Cloud. With the old system, the team required two database administrators and three IT professionals. They’ve reduced that to one database administrator and one IT professional. “We’re looking at a yearly savings of around $250,000,” Ordway says. “Moving to the cloud saved us time and money.”
Better yet, the Ice.com and Brandorr teams were able to architect a system that met the needs of its customers. “Choice is a big thing with AWS,” Ordway says. “You don’t necessarily have to use a specific set of services—you can build a solution that will work for your business. With AWS, you can do it your way.”