Infostrada Sports Group (ISG) produces and publishes sports data and video content and provides consultancy services to partners who want to monetize sports rights. ISG’s partners include sports federations, sports clubs, teams, competitions, and event organizers, sports marketing agencies, broadcasters, publishers, media agencies, rights agencies, advertising agencies, and brands. The Holland-based company grosses more than 20 million euros per year and employs 160 full-time employees, scaling up to 250 employees on event days. ISG currently supports 30 million users.

During large events like the Olympics and the World Cup, ISG experiences a significant increase in traffic on the company’s websites and applications. ISG planned to release new sports statistics products to customers for the 2012 Olympics and the 2012 UEFA European Football Championship (Euro 2012). The company knew there would be significant demand for its products, but Chief Technology Officer Jan-Willem Eshuis and the ISG developers did not know how much immediate demand there would be for the company’s new products.

ISG expected to release about 10 sports-statistics widgets per user, or 300 million widgets, in 2012, and the company wanted to be set up for success. To prepare, ISG needed a solution that could handle massive short-term spikes in traffic—for example, during the two weeks of the Olympic Games. “Amazon Web Services (AWS) was the obvious choice to help us meet those demands,” Eshuis says. “It didn’t make sense to pay for short-term on-premises hosting, not when we could move to the AWS Cloud.”

“From a technical point of view, AWS gives us everything we need to be successful,” Eshuis says. ISG uses two different types of Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2) instances: admin machines and web nodes. The admin machine is connected to the internal API and delivers content to the memcache instances that run on the web nodes. Both machines use Amazon Elastic Block Store (Amazon EBS) for local data storage. The web nodes are started using a specific AMI.

ISG uses Elastic Load Balancing to distribute traffic across Amazon EC2 web nodes running in different Availability Zones. Static content, like images of athletes and flags of countries, are stored on Amazon Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3) and delivered using Amazon CloudFront. ISG uses Amazon CloudWatch and Auto Scaling to start up and shut down web nodes to keep up with the front-end load. Messages are funneled through Amazon Simple Queue Service (Amazon SQS) and Amazon CloudWatch with Auto Scaling. AWS services are integrated with the ISG back end using the ISG API. Usage is monitored via Nimsoft.

Development took about four weeks. The actual AWS migration took about five business days, including testing.


Figure 1. Infostrada Sports Group Architecture on AWS

Development took about four weeks. The actual AWS migration took about five business days, including testing.

SG realized considerable cost savings over on-premises hosting. “AWS was 60 percent cheaper than our own in-house hosting for such a short period with this amount of traffic and servers,” Eshuis says. Using AWS enabled ISG to avoid costly investments in hardware and data centers, and freed IT employees to focus more on managing and developing products.

The organization also saw improvements in its ability to handle sudden large increases of traffic during sporting events, experiencing no latency and more than 99% availability. “The AWS Cloud helped us handle big spikes in traffic during the Olympics and Euro 2012,” Eshuis says. “Without AWS, we couldn’t have released so many products so successfully. And our customers are a lot happier with our capacity these days.”

The ease of working with AWS helped ISG quickly create the solution the company needed to meet customer demand, delivering 320 million sports-statistics widgets in time for the 2012 Olympics and Euro 2012. Eshuis describes a lesson learned by ISG during the development process: “During worldwide sporting events, where everything happens in a short period of time, it’s cost-effective to use several AWS services. Developers should take a look at services like Amazon SQS, Amazon Simple Notification Service (Amazon SNS), and Amazon Simple Email Service (Amazon SES) to make sure they don’t reinvent the wheel.”

AWS will remain part of the organization’s plans. Eshuis says, “We will continue using AWS for several parts of our business, especially for high-performance, short-period events.”

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