In 2011, Outback Steakhouse collaborated with Engauge to design a national digital marketing campaign; and Engauge knew the technology would have to be robust and scalable. Using several AWS products, the technology team at Engauge built a custom engagement portal to support Outback’s unprecedented consumer marketing effort to give away one million steak dinners during a 48 - hour period. The campaign was launched nationally through a one-of-a-kind, Outback-tailored advertising roadblock, running on national and cable television stations across the country.
This highly-coordinated, “flash” campaign leveraged a multi-screen, multichannel marketing strategy where traditional advertising (eg: TV advertisement), social media (eg: Facebook and Twitter) and mobile messaging activated consumers to visit a website powered by a custom application for a chance to reserve one of the one million free Outback steak dinners. Given the “flash” nature of the campaign, the ability to quickly and elastically scale computational and database resources was critical.
Outback utilized multiple AWS services to meet the needs of this campaign including:
- Networking: Amazon Route 53 and Elastic Load Balancing
- Computing: Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2)
- Database: Amazon Relational Database Service (Amazon RDS)
- Content Delivery: Amazon CloudFront
- Storage: Amazon Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3) and Amazon Elastic Block Store (Amazon EBS)
- Monitoring: Amazon CloudWatch
The custom application was primarily written in PHP, a highly popular server side scripting language that is optimized for rapid web application development. Outback and Engauge leveraged the EC2 API for auto-scaling and the RDS Multi-AZ feature to ensure high availability for its databases.
Outback chose AWS and Amazon RDS to manage this time critical and large scale project for five main reasons:
- Time to Market: By utilizing Amazon Web Services, Outback and Engauge met an aggressive timeline by building and deploying an enterprise solution in weeks on temporary infrastructure without requiring Outback to make a significant capital investment.
- Capabilities of the AWS platform: The multiple integrated services offered on the AWS platform eliminated the need for Outback and Engauge to procure and set up web services from multiple 3rd party vendors required for the campaign.
- Ease of use: Amazon RDS simplifies and automates complex database administration tasks like backups, horizontal scaling (through Read Replicas), vertical scaling (by upgrading instance type), and high availability replication– allowing developers such as Engauge to focus on the application logic.
- Scalability: Amazon RDS provides cost efficient and resizable capacity, allowing Outback to scale their database to handle the massive number of requests expected in this flash campaign.
- Support: Amazon Premium Support allowed Outback and Engauge to tap into the experience of the AWS Solution Architects and the Amazon RDS engineering team to optimize the application to ensure high performance throughput both prior to and during the campaign.
The application was powered by 500+ EC2 instances and 2 quadruple extra large RDS instances, running in the Multi-AZ mode. During the promotion, the application flawlessly handled a considerable peak of 250,000 requests per minute.
“Outback was thrilled with the performance of how this was set up” said Michael Kappitt, CMO for Outback Steakhouse. “The collaboration between Engauge, AWS, and our other agency partners to pull this off was tremendous and was key to the launch of our 1 million steak giveway. The systems and processes that AWS and Engauge provided allowed us to create and launch this campaign in a matter of weeks.”
“With a heavy load of over 250,000 requests a minute in our 'flash' campaign, Amazon Web Services made sure our website was always available,” said Raghu Kakarala, CTO of Engauge. “Without AWS, it would have taken us 2 months to set up and configure our servers and infrastructure for a campaign that would last only 1 week. With the AWS Cloud, we were able to save 90% over using our old, on-premises design."