Microsoft Workloads on AWS

Redcat chooses AWS to run hybrid Windows/Linux workloads

Running in a colocation center was “choking the growth” of Redcat, a specialist provider of an integrated, end-to-end Hospitality management system. When the company looked to move to the cloud, they had to find the best place to run hybrid Linux and Microsoft Windows workloads. After evaluating Microsoft Azure and AWS, Redcat found “AWS to be much better suited to hybrid Windows/Linux environments” than Azure. Redcat’s Phillip Frantz recounts choosing to modernize with AWS because “AWS handles the back-and-forth” between Linux and Windows “really well,” unlike other clouds.

After a successful proof of concept, Redcat launched a yearlong project to migrate their Linux servers onto AWS. The project included rearchitecting applications to maximize use of AWS scaling features, all while maintaining 100 percent uptime during the migration. With AWS, Redcat was able to embrace the open architecture of Linux while improving the way they ran Windows.

Windows or Linux? How about both?

All of the major cloud providers can run Windows and Linux. However, AWS has run Linux and Windows longer than any other cloud provider, and is much more experienced running these operating systems at scale. In Redcat’s case, “Azure worked well enough for Windows but was not where we needed it to be for Linux.” Frantz continued to highlight that AWS was “much better suited to hybrid Windows/Linux environments like ours.” It wasn’t merely a matter of supporting these different operating systems, but also about better functionality with less fuss: “AWS also offered more of the capabilities we needed right out of the box, handled scaling in a preferable manner, and didn’t lock us in regarding what AWS or non-AWS services we could integrate down the road. We really valued the extensive Linux support offered, simple approach to load balancing, auto-scaling, and RDS managed databases.”

Where do Linux and Windows fit within the Redcat environment? Redcat’s Hospitality solution includes integrated point-of-sale (POS) and business-management software and hardware for Australian cafés, bars, restaurants, franchises, and venues for multisite entertainment and dining. Each solution requires a mix of Linux and Windows depending on the application. For example, Redcat uses Linux for their loyalty, ordering, and analytics solutions. They use Microsoft Remote Desktop Services to publish remote applications where customers can access Redcat. Both Windows and Linux are essential in their current make-up, which is why it was so important that AWS offer the best hybrid experience: “We have a lot of innovation that straddles the Windows/Linux fence, and we are finding that AWS handles that back-and-forth really well,” notes Frantz.

With AWS, Frantz says, Redcat got all the benefits of AWS expertise running Microsoft workloads while preserving freedom from lock-in using open architectures like Linux. “If you’re running Windows with other workloads or are thinking about future integrations with advanced analytics or machine learning,” he declares, “You’d be crazy not to consider AWS.”

Shaking free of the colocation center

Moving to AWS helped Redcat in more ways than improving their ability to handle hybrid Windows/Linux workloads. For years, Redcat hosted their infrastructure in a colocation center, but struggled to scale to meet customer demands (login requests, online campaigns, etc.). According to Cameron Allen, Technical Business Analyst at Redcat, their colocation provider “was very old school: no scalability, fixed drives, and cumbersome processes for procuring new hardware.” This didn’t work given Redcat’s capacity requirements: “We administer loyalty programs for our customers with millions of members, and those generate extremely heavy traffic during promotions. Our old provider’s inability to deal with that volume of demand was choking our growth.”

Getting your scale on

Switching to AWS made it easy for Redcat to scale Windows resources according to demand, says Eranda Udadeni, Infrastructure Manager for Redcat. “On AWS, adding resources to our Windows machines is much easier than it used to be [in the colocation environment],” he notes. “With our old provider, we used to have to wait ages for approvals anytime we wanted to add a single CPU – [with AWS] this is now self-managed and happens on demand.”

Previously, Redcat might have a customer that wanted to send a coupon to tens of thousands of loyalty members as quickly as possible. When stuck in their data center, Redcat had to spread such campaigns over 24 hours “to keep our servers from collapsing under the load,” stresses Phoebe Peck, Product Manager at Redcat. “Now with AWS those messages can go out in about 10 minutes without any special planning.”

Supporting this newfound ease-of-scalability is AWS Auto Scaling. This service monitors applications and automatically adjusts capacity to maintain steady, predictable performance at the lowest possible cost. For Redcat, this means they “can handle online campaigns from some of the largest hospitality companies in Australia without advance notice, …process[ing] millions of login requests an hour with 100 percent uptime and no prep,” says Udadeni.

Innovation and integration

As important as scale is to Redcat, they also benefit from the easy integration AWS offers with a range of services, including third-party services. For example, with AWS Redcat has seen a significant increase in their ability to process large quantities of data: “On AWS, we can architect solutions for customers who want to analyze point-of-sale data in real time, even customers seeing millions of dollars a day in food and drink sales,” says Frantz. “With the ease of integrating services on AWS, it’s fairly simple to connect customers’ point-of-sale systems to our entry points and push that data to their analytics platform—whether that analytics platform is running on AWS or not. This is one of many integrations we just couldn’t offer using our old provider’s infrastructure.”

Because of these integrations with disparate AWS and third-party services, Redcat has relied heavily on Amazon CloudWatch, a monitoring and observability service. Redcat uses Amazon CloudWatch for logging, helping to “pinpoint the causes of slowdowns and other hiccups,” suggests Udadeni, “Given that we integrate with so many customer-built and other third-party systems, the tracking capabilities of CloudWatch are really invaluable for that sort of troubleshooting.”

This partnership with AWS has become one of Redcat’s key selling point with their own customers as they seek to enable their customers to innovate. “Our existing customers love hearing what we’re doing on AWS, because it shows them that they are betting on the right horse,” says Lawrence Pelletier, Sales and Marketing Director at Redcat. “We’re also finding it’s a strong selling point for prospective customers when we point to the impressive work our current customers are doing on our AWS-based platform.”

More to come

To see how your organization can , like Redcat, save money while driving innovation, please continue to join me as I highlight companies on their modernization journeys onto AWS. As you do, I hope you’ll also ask the question, what’s your plan for moving off Microsoft Azure? Or off Oracle? Or whatever old-guard technology keeps you from modernizing to better care for your customers?

Please consider letting AWS help you assess how your company can get the most out of cloud. Join all the AWS customers who trust us to run their most important applications in the best cloud. To have us create an assessment for your Microsoft Azure applications (or all your applications), email us at, and please consider joining the conversation using the #WhatsYourModernizationPlan hashtag.

To learn more on modernizing Windows Server, visit Windows on AWS.

Matt Asay

Matt Asay

Matt Asay (pronounced "Ay-see") has been involved in open source and all that it enables (cloud, machine learning, data infrastructure, mobile, etc.) for nearly two decades, working for a variety of open source companies and writing regularly for InfoWorld and TechRepublic. You can follow him on Twitter (@mjasay).