Founded in 2007, PropertyGuru operates websites in Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, and Thailand that enable agents to list available real estate and users to search for properties to rent or purchase. The organization also provides services such as property guides and real estate market news. PropertyGuru complements its wholly owned websites by partnering with similar online property ventures in Australia, China, Hong Kong, India, and Vietnam.

PropertyGuru’s flagship is the Singapore-based PropertyGuru.com.sg website and portal, which attracts more than 5 million visitors and over 50 million page views per month. Other PropertyGuru websites include online mortgage brokerage LoanGuru.com.sg, PropertyGuru.com.my, (a joint venture between PropertyGuru International (Malaysia) and Malaysian media company Redberry), and Indonesian property website Rumah.com.

PropertyGuru realized from the beginning that an on-premises datacenter infrastructure would be too expensive and management-intensive to meet its needs. The organization initially opted to lease dedicated servers from a mid-sized hosting provider. However, this arrangement only allowed PropertyGuru to change server capacity at twelve-month intervals, which did not suit the company’s ambitious growth plans.

“From 2010 on, we expect to double our web traffic each year for at least two years as we expand into new markets in Malaysia, Thailand, and Indonesia,” says PropertyGuru managing director Jani Rautiainen. “Under these circumstances, we found locking in resources against a twelve-month plan too restrictive.”

PropertyGuru also wanted to eliminate single points of infrastructure failure that could cripple its websites and dissuade potential users in new markets. The company was already experiencing minor outages on average twice a month, and could not tolerate continued outages during a period of rapid expansion.

Over 2010 and 2011, PropertyGuru started searching for an infrastructure services provider that could deliver the reliability, flexibility, and scalability necessary to support its expansion plans. At the same time, the organization was in the process of acquiring property portals in Southeast Asia, including Fullhouse in North Malaysia, Rumah.com in Indonesia, and DDProperty in Thailand. The company needed a partner with the ability to support planned operations in those markets.

After reviewing a range of alternatives, PropertyGuru decided to migrate its web environments to Amazon Web Services (AWS). “From our earliest discussions, it was clear that AWS understood our scalability and flexibility requirements,” says Rautiainen. “We could trust AWS to provide a reliable infrastructure to support our business.” Additionally, residing data in the Asia Pacific (Singapore) Region would allow PropertyGuru to take advantage of local support and minimize the risk of web page latency.

PropertyGuru consolidated all web properties to a single platform running on AWS. PropertyGuru used PHP5 scripting language to build its own online properties—including PropertyGuru.com.sg, LoanGuru.com.sg and the commercial property portal CommercialGuru.com.sg—and runs them in an Ubuntu Linux back-end.

The company uses approximately 100 Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2) instances of various sizes for its test, development and production environments. Most of these instances operate with Amazon Elastic Block Store (Amazon EBS) storage volumes to retain file system, database and application data. PropertyGuru’s application and database resources reside in an Amazon Virtual Private Cloud (Amazon VPC) for extra protection from unauthorized access over the Internet. Figure 1 demonstrates PropertyGuru’s environment on AWS.

PropertyGuru-arch-diag

Figure 1: PropertyGuru Architecture Diagram

Amazon Relational Database Service (Amazon RDS) runs a MySQL database used to capture data such as user activity, while Amazon Simple Queue Service (Amazon SQS) helps ensure that property listing data changes are queued and processed across Amazon EC2 instances.

Elastic Load Balancing optimizes performance across the PropertyGuru environment. Amazon Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3) provides scalable data storage to support rising demand for the company’s websites; PropertyGuru expects data volumes to grow 50 percent per year from about 5TB initially.

“AWS removes the burden of trying to predict our computing needs for a twelve-month period,” says Rautiainen. “Now we can simply add new instances on demand to support the rapid growth of our websites. We can bring up new servers in 10 minutes rather than wait several weeks to order and install new machines in a hosting center. As a result, we greatly reduced our time-to-market for new services and features.”

Since 2011, the number of users to PropertyGuru’s websites has increased by 60 percent and the company has recorded 99.9 percent availability for all of its websites running on AWS. Traffic to PropertyGuru.com.sg climbed 83 percent within two years to more than 5.6 million visitors viewing 57.5 million pages per month, while CommercialGuru.com.sg experienced a 50 percent increase in visitor numbers. Web pages for the company’s Southeast Asia properties typically load at what the company views as an acceptable 400 to 500 milliseconds per page.

PropertyGuru engaged AWS Support, Business level, to troubleshoot any server or network issues. “They’ve always responded quickly and professionally when we’ve needed them,” says Rautiainen. PropertyGuru also worked with other AWS teams to meet its needs. “Our account manager has organized ad-hoc sessions with AWS architects to help us change our environment to support our expansion plans,” says Rautiainen.

Rautiainen and PropertyGuru are extremely optimistic about AWS as the company continues to expand. “Because we are growing so quickly, we need the ability to quickly increase our processing and storage resources,” he says. “AWS allows us to do this with ease.”

Meanwhile, isolating sensitive components of its architecture in an Amazon VPC has enabled PropertyGuru to apply multiple levels of security, minimizing the risk of a breach that could compromise sensitive information or cripple its service. “We’ve not yet had a security concern, and with AWS, we don’t expect to,” says Rautiainen.

“We also have plans to automate the ongoing management of the platform and our applications more completely,” Rautiainen continues. “This will maintain our flexibility while we keep management costs down. With AWS, I am confident we will be able to continue to meet the ever-increasing demands of our customers.”

To learn more about how AWS can help your web application business needs, visit our Web, Mobile, and Social details page: http://aws.amazon.com/web-mobile-social/.