M-Dot built their entire platform, including processing engine, from scratch on top of Amazon Web Services (AWS), using several Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2) XL instances for the database and application servers behind multiple Amazon Elastic Load Balancing (Amazon ELB) instances spread across zones in the US-East region. M-Dot uses Amazon CloudWatch for autoscaling within and across zones, with a unique backup and logging strategy which constantly takes database snapshots and log files, then drops them on Amazon Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3) for fast storage and retrieval.
M-Dot chose AWS because, according to Chief Technology Officer Mike Kavis, “AWS offers the most mature and proven solution in the marketplace. Amazon is the leader and innovator in this space.” Kavis also cites cost-effectiveness, a mild learning curve, and ease-of-use as key benefits of AWS.
When researching potential cloud services, M-Dot “did a quick and dirty demo on Hostmonster” to show visually what the M-Dot platform could do, says Mike Kavis, M-Dot CTO. “It was mostly smoke and mirrors,” says Kavis. By comparison, M-Dot loves AWS because it allows extensive testing and prototyping not even feasible in an on-premise environment, explains Kavis.
Through AWS, M-Dot deployed a fully-redundant platform across multiple zones on a bootstrap budget that never exceeded $3000 per month in infrastructure. AWS enabled freedom from the need for system administrators, various specialists, and datacenters.
Kavis points to another important consideration for M-Dot: the stability of AWS. He makes no bones about the necessity of AWS to his enterprise success. “Most of the pure play cloud vendors that exist today will not exist tomorrow. They will either be bought or go bankrupt.” It is critical for the M-Dot sales process to be able to describe their architecture to retailers with a name they trust as the infrastructure provider. “I always tell customers the M-Dot platform runs on the same world-class infrastructure as Amazon.com,” says Kavis.
Kavis dismisses myths and fears about cloud computing, citing worries that the cloud is not secure or cannot be made compliant with regulatory requirements. In reality, he says, security is the responsibility of the architecture team, not the infrastructure, whether on-premise or off-premise. The only difference Kavis sees in the cloud is slightly different security requirements as services run outside the corporate firewall, and he is confident that issue can be easily addressed through architecting secure solutions and even leveraging Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) security offerings. Because M-Dot does not process any credit card transactions, they are not subject to PCI auditing, but if for any reason M-Dot requirements change, Kavis plans to offload credit-card processing to a PCI-certified SaaS solution provider.
"Our business model would not be economically feasible without cloud computing and AWS,” says Kavis with confidence. “The pay-as-you-go model and low-cost reserved instances allow us to keep our IT costs extremely low. It is a tough market in which to raise money, and investors are excited by our ability to keep IT costs to a minimum.” In the near future, M-Dot plans on virtual datacenters all over the world, expanding to Europe and the Pacific Rim, where federal requirements restrict data to individual countries. M-Dot hopes to use hybrid cloud solutions to leverage Amazon’s low-cost processing power as close to each country as possible and connect to databases hosted in local datacenters.
“We believe our business model and architectural solution on Amazon shatters the myths about cloud computing,” says Kavis. “We are building a secure and compliant extreme transaction-processing engine in the cloud. Many people told us it couldn’t be done, which drove us to prove them wrong. We hope this case study opens many eyes. Cloud computing is the way to go!”
To learn more, visit http://www.mdotnetwork.com/ .
Added April 19, 2011