Event Cinemas

EVENT Goes All-In on AWS to Promote Digital Transformation with Reduced Maintenance Burden

2022

Critics and consumers agree that despite recent changes in the film industry, cinema-going will remain a popular pastime. Event Hospitality & Entertainment Limited (EVENT), the parent company of the largest movie exhibitor in Australia and New Zealand—Event Cinemas—began a transformation journey in 2019 to achieve greater business flexibility. And in doing so, continue delivering unique experiences to audiences.

Digital transformation on the backend was key to driving new capabilities for EVENT’s customer-facing operations, which include hotels and ski resorts in Australia and New Zealand. Migration to the public cloud was a cornerstone of its new strategy. Peter Bourke, director of IT at Event Hospitality & Entertainment, explains, “We wanted to expose ourselves to a faster pace of innovation that cloud-native companies like Amazon experience on a daily basis.”

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We can scale in a heartbeat on AWS and have a level of elasticity we never had before, which is especially valuable in times of uncertainty.”

Peter Bourke
Director of IT, Event Hospitality & Management

Consuming Technology at the Highest Possible Level

EVENT was running some compliance workloads on Amazon Web Services (AWS) and decided to migrate from the managed service model on a private cloud to go all-in on AWS. The business considered another cloud provider, but chose AWS based on Amazon’s customer-centric culture. “The conversation with AWS has always been about innovation in the truest sense, including changes in the way we do things to get where we want to be. We reached the conclusion that the impact of working with AWS and its partners would allow our teams to grow and learn more along the way,” says Bourke.

One of the leading principles in EVENT’s cloud migration approach was to consume technology at the highest possible level, with the least amount of manual intervention required. Managed services and as-a-service models were the preference, thereby freeing up the technology team to focus on development.

Migrating 142 Servers in 6 Months

EVENT is a heavy Microsoft SQL Server user, as many of its long-running cinema applications mandate using the system. The business migrated 142 servers to the AWS Cloud, including 105 Windows servers, 21 Linux servers, and 16 Microsoft SQL servers. The SQL servers were migrated to Amazon Relational Database Service (Amazon RDS), a modern managed service for hosting databases in the cloud. EVENT also uses Amazon FSx for Windows File Server as a fully managed shared storage service.

EVENT was driven to complete the project by the time cinemas reopened in Australia post-lockdown in 2021. To assist with and accelerate migration, EVENT worked with Versent, an AWS Partner. The migration was performed in just under six months, starting in September 2020. 

“Versent absolutely committed to not just meeting our timeline but getting us there in a secure and highly available manner. They took a legitimate interest in our business and tailored our migration to deliver the best outcomes,” Bourke says.

Scaling Loyalty Database to Meet 25-Fold Spike in Traffic

Event Cinema’s loyalty database—a key customer information repository that’s involved in every cinema transaction—was one of the largest workloads migrated. Query times for this database have dropped from 600–800 milliseconds to 200 milliseconds with Amazon RDS. This contributes to improved system performance when customers are completing ticket purchases.

Furthermore, the loyalty database requires high availability and scalability to ensure customers can buy cinema tickets and snacks online or at the counter anytime. On popular cinema-going days such as Boxing Day, transaction volumes can rise 25 times. EVENT uses Elastic Load Balancing to facilitate scaling and distribute incoming application traffic. “We can scale in a heartbeat on AWS and have a level of elasticity we never had before, which is especially valuable in times of uncertainty,” says Bourke.

From Firefighting to Frequent Innovation

For Bourke and the IT team, the greatest change since migration is a shift from daily infrastructure “firefighting” to frequent innovation. EVENT can now facilitate increased self-service for its customers, in line with expanding demand for contactless experiences. It recently introduced a serve-to-seat service that allows customers to order food and beverages from their mobiles and have the items delivered directly to their seats.

The IT team is also doing more work around payment gateways to offer new payment methods such as e-wallets. “We’re seeing very positive results from these initiatives. And that’s only possible because we spend far less time worrying about stability and capacity management,” Bourke says.

Preventing Lost Business with Robust Disaster Recovery

Since migrating to AWS, disaster recovery (DR) is likewise one less worry for EVENT’s IT team. “Knowing we have the ability to fail over to another AWS Availability Zone gives us greater confidence in our DR stance,” Bourke explains. EVENT’s recovery time objective (RTO) has dropped from almost 60 minutes to 60 seconds on AWS. If an issue or system threat occurs, the business can bounce back quickly to avoid missed ticket sales or customer frustration.

EVENT is also saving the human and financial resources previously required to maintain and test its logically separated DR environment, now decommissioned since migration. On AWS, DR is accomplished within the production environment through multi-Availability Zone (AZ) architecture. Bourke compares the previous DR scenario with owning two old Buick vehicles, one of them parked in a paid garage across town. Post-migration, he says, they have just one car on-site: a Ferrari.

Cutting Operations Costs for Non-production Workloads

On AWS, EVENT also benefits from costing transparency. Assigning cost to specific activities and business units keeps each vertical accountable for spending. The business can stage or shut down idle non-production environments by leveraging flexible cost controls on the AWS Cloud. This contributed to a server operation cost reduction since going live on AWS of around 30 percent.

With solid cloud foundations laid, EVENT is working with Versent Managed Services to transform its data and insights platform and facilitate new personalized customer experiences. It uses AWS Marketplace to connect with new vendors and integrate products such as Snowflake into its infrastructure. Bourke explains, “Interoperability and integrations with cloud-based vendors are faster when we use AWS Marketplace, as their infrastructure sits on AWS as well. It’s all about the building blocks and consuming technology that others have already developed, to increase momentum and add real value to our operation."  

To Learn More

 To learn more, visit aws.amazon.com/cloud-migration.


About Event Hospitality & Entertainment

Event Hospitality & Entertainment is a leading entertainment, hospitality, and leisure company in Australia. EVENT owns the largest cinema circuits in Australia and New Zealand, and also manages them in Germany. In the leisure and hospitality sectors, EVENT operates Thredbo, an Australian ski resort, and owns, operates, and licenses over 70 hotels.

Benefits of AWS

  • Migrates 142 servers, including 16 Microsoft SQL databases, in 6 months
  • Reduces query time from 600–800 ms to 200 ms
  • Lowers RTO from 60 minutes to 60 seconds
  • Scales to manage 25-fold increase in traffic
  • Facilitates innovation across products and payment gateways
  • Promotes high availability with streamlined DR strategy
  • Cuts operations costs for non-production workloads by 30%
  • Integrates with third-party vendors and products

AWS Services Used

Amazon Relational Database Service

Amazon Relational Database Service (Amazon RDS) makes it easy to set up, operate, and scale a relational database in the cloud.

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Amazon FSx for Windows File Server

Amazon FSx for Windows File Server provides fully managed shared storage built on Windows Server, and delivers a wide range of data access, data management, and administrative capabilities.

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Elastic Load Balancing

Elastic Load Balancing (ELB) automatically distributes incoming application traffic across multiple targets and virtual appliances in one or more Availability Zones (AZs).

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AWS Marketplace

AWS Marketplace provides a new sales channel for ISVs and Consulting Partners to sell their solutions to AWS customers. 

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