Nautilus Delivers Peak Performance and Scalability with AWS

Executive Summary

Nautilus, Inc. planned to modernize its legacy Microsoft .NET architecture to improve application performance when it experienced a surge in demand for home fitness solutions. Nautilus looked to Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Axian to develop an enterprise-class architecture for rapid scale and enhanced customer experience.

Modernizing the Customer Experience during Unprecedented Demand

As technology evolved since the 15-year period when Nautilus first built its gateway architecture, the fitness company recognized the value that modernizing to a cloud infrastructure could bring to their thriving business. The original architecture, developed by AWS Select Consulting Partner Axian, was prime for modernization given recent cloud technology developments. The system itself was robust, and although it had been continuously updated as the associated application portfolio evolved, it was increasingly more challenging to scale to accommodate peak business volumes. Although the application could initiate multiple services, each service was constrained to process a single document per pass. Over time, as Nautilus’ online order volumes and related digital customer interactions increased, the system was struggling to keep pace, forcing transactions into a ‘single file’ queue that created eCommerce backlogs and customer communication delays. It also became increasingly more complex to maintain.

In 2020, Nautilus set a vision for transforming its mission-critical eCommerce transaction gateway to take full advantage of the AWS cloud-native, serverless architecture. Allowing the technologies to reach the point where they were mature enough enabled the company to realize all the benefits needed to upgrade the legacy system. The journey began by re-partnering with Axian to leverage its significant experience with AWS and knowledge of the originating architecture, and set an ambitious vision for a more scalable, resilient architecture. The modernization and migration efforts were already in process when the pandemic hit, forcing massive shifts in the way people consume fitness and creating even greater demand for home fitness almost overnight.

“The success of the core architecture was in part due to the reliability of AWS services, but also the tremendous depth of the Axian implementation. They made the most effective use of the AWS services in our road map."

- Jared Smith, Senior Director, Application and Data Services, Nautilus

“As 2020 progressed, we understood the need to build out what was on our roadmaps to effectively maintain the customer experience throughout the pandemic. As this critical touchpoint shifted quickly, we accelerated the engagement with Axian, present those architectural views, and get their expertise on how to modernize the architecture in place to support what we anticipated to be a higher-than-normal peak season,” said Jared Smith, Senior Director, Application and Data Services, Nautilus. “No one really knew at the time what was going to occur because the pandemic was so dynamic and unusual, but we knew we had an opportunity, and this needed to be a priority. So that's where Axian engaged and ultimately delivered against in an increasingly dynamic schedule as we knew more about the footprint of the demand.”

“Nautilus was in a unique position to provide a social service during the pandemic – giving customers access to health equipment and services when they needed it most,” said Brian Hranka, President, Axian. “Even though the company happened to be in an ultra-peak demand scenario, it was the perfect time to deploy AWS services, helping improve the experience for customers who were trying to live better, healthier lives.”

Serverless Creates Scale Through Step Functions

Nautilus’ legacy system consisted of a combination of Windows Services (.NET), SQL Server instances, and Webforms UI, whose function was to queue orders, leads, and quote records from various sources and import them into the backend systems. By distributing the load of an ETL process of this nature across many small, serverless applications, orchestrated by AWS Step Functions, Axian was able to horizontally scale Nautilus’ load demands without the usual constraints inherent with typical server-based solutions approaching maximum capacity. The system allows Nautilus to throttle throughput and scale as necessary via the AWS Step Functions to accommodate priority and seasonal demand.

Nautilus launched its new architecture during the peak retail season, just a few days shy of Thanksgiving. The system performed flawlessly, sending customer order confirmations in near real-time and processing orders within a day. Nautilus went from a linear queue that would become backed up to successfully processing huge volumes quickly and efficiently. The new system allowed processes to run in parallel, relieving the bottleneck from their previous information gateway. The AWS-based system achieved performance of 10-20x compared to the legacy system, without hitting maximum capacity. “It was akin to going from a country road to the autobahn,” said Hranka. “Not only did the system meet and exceed expectations for the highest order load of the year, but it gave every indication it will be able to do even more as the company continues to grow for years to come.

Freeing Internal Teams to Deliver Success

Prior to launching the new system, Nautilus agents were accustomed to reviewing multiple service areas in order to piece together the information they needed for customer inquiries. During times of high demand, this environment could prove challenging. With the new system in place, it made the process exponentially easier. Now, agents have access to everything they need in one location, enabling them to provide faster service while dramatically enhancing the customer experience with near real-time confirmations and order status communications.

What’s more, the launch of the new architecture proved so successful, it decreased the demand on the internal technical team to maintain and troubleshoot the infrastructure. Nautilus was able to deploy staff to focus on other important projects for the company, saving them time and money while improving their ability to proactively innovate.

“The success of the core architecture was in part due to the reliability of AWS services, but also the tremendous depth of the Axian implementation. They made the most effective use of the AWS services in our road map. In working with Amazon and Axian, there was a depth of implementation that was thoughtful in terms of what was needed, and robust enough to allow our resources to move on and concentrate on other needed areas,” said Smith.

Nautilus, Inc.

About Nautilus, Inc.

Nautilus, Inc. (NYSE:NLS) is a global technology-driven fitness solutions company that believes everyone deserves a fit and healthy life. With a brand portfolio including Bowflex®, Schwinn®, JRNY®, and Nautilus®. Nautilus, Inc. is committed to building a healthier world, one person at a time.

About Axian

Axian’s experienced teams of architects, interface designers, and engineers assist customers with transforming data into beneficial information, delivering collaborative web experiences, and building custom business applications. Axian’s software and data solutions help customers educate kids, transform healthcare, clean the environment, promote energy efficiency, and encourage healthy lifestyles.

Published July 2021