TCL Communication Technology Holdings Ltd. (TCL Communication) manufactures and markets TCL and Alcatel One Touch mobile phones and Internet devices. TCL Communication is headquartered in Guangdong, China, and is part of the multinational TCL Corporation. TCL Communication’s products are available in over 100 countries worldwide.

In 2008, TCL Communication developed a new service, dubbed Firmware over the Air (FOTA), which allows users to upgrade the firmware in their mobile phone handsets using the Internet. The company has worldwide operations and needed a service provider that would be able to help TCL Communication deliver the FOTA service in several regions. “Updating firmware can require a user to download 200 megabytes of data in 15 minutes,” says Raffi Semerciyan, IS/IT Department Manager, TCL Communication. “To achieve the performance levels that we require, we need good coverage around the world.” The hosting service had to meet TCL Communication’s performance and security requirements and provide easy access to the infrastructure, all without required minimum usage commitments. Additionally, the company wanted to deliver FOTA as cost-effectively as possible.

Initially, TCL Communication investigated leasing equipment with a traditional service provider. However, the company discovered that many data center providers didn’t bundle Internet connectivity with hosting services. This meant that TCL Communication would have to manage both the Internet service provider and the data center hosting company, adding both complexity and cost to the arrangement.

TCL Communication then considered cloud computing. The IT team at TCL Communication evaluated cloud service providers based on compute, storage and networking capacity. “We chose Amazon Web Services (AWS) because of the functionality and flexibility of AWS products,” says Semerciyan.

TCL Communication uses Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2) to run application servers for FOTA and for the MySQL database. The company’s IT team uses Elastic Load Balancing to distribute traffic across approximately 20 Amazon EC2 instances and help ensure that there is no single point of failure. Semerciyan says, “Elastic Load Balancing helps us ensure that the FOTA service keeps running.”

By using AWS, TCL Communication has been able to achieve near 100 percent availability for FOTA. “The availability increases user confidence in our ability to provide services,” says Semerciyan. The availability of AWS Regions around the world helps TCL Communication deliver FOTA from locations close to the service’s users.

“We calculated that using AWS to deliver FOTA costs us about 10 times less than using a traditional datacenter with physical equipment,” says Semerciyan. Using AWS also allows TCL Communication’s IT team to set up a new service in minutes. Before using AWS, it often took several weeks to get a contract signed and procure the hardware for a new service.

TCL Communication is so satisfied using AWS for its FOTA service that the company began to use AWS to host its customer-facing website. The website runs on roughly 10 Amazon EC2 instances, and uses Amazon Route 53 and Elastic Load Balancing to distribute traffic across Amazon EC2 instances. “Using AWS has allowed us to enhance the security and performance of the website,” comments Semerciyan. “We initially used a traditional web server located in Hong Kong. The website had a series of distributed denial of service attacks that caused our daily page views to fall from 30,000 per day to about 1,000. After migrating to AWS, the website can now support more than 1 million page views per day without difficulty.”

TCL Communication has also engaged AWS Support. “We believe the cost is worthwhile as we expand our use of Amazon Web Services,” says Semerciyan. The company is exploring using Amazon Route 53 and Amazon CloudFront for the FOTA service to improve download speeds for its global users.

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