Our time-to-market for new services or upgrades has been cut from days to 15 minutes, maximum. We’ve basically jumped from the Stone Age to microservices with AWS.

 

Enrico Pesce DevOps Team Leader

Founded in 1994, Pixartprinting offers a range of online print services: from small-format items, such as magazines, catalogues, labels, and flyers, to large-format objects like high-resolution prints, indoor and outdoor posters, and banners. Today, the firm employs almost 700 people, has more than 600,000 active customers across Europe, processes an average of 10,000 jobs a day, and provides fast shipping with guaranteed delivery dates in Italy and abroad. Pixartprinting is part of Cimpress, a global mass customization company.

Pixartprinting was using a local web-hosting provider, but quickly found it had outgrown the service. The infrastructure wasn’t scalable enough to support the brand’s 15 percent average annual growth rate, nor did it allow for flexible, seamless iterations of applications that would help Pixartprinting improve its services. “We were limited by our infrastructure,” says Enrico Pesce, DevOps team leader at Pixartprinting. “We couldn’t evolve our business because our technology was holding us back.”
The shortcomings of the IT environment were most evident during peak traffic events such as Black Friday, when sales increase sharply. “The bottom line was we couldn’t handle these spikes. We realized we had to make some changes fast,” says Pesce.

Prior to its acquisition by Cimpress, Pixartprinting moved its infrastructure to Amazon Web Services (AWS) because it was the only cloud provider that could help the business overcome its challenges. The first step was to migrate its e-commerce portal. To achieve this, the company moved its VMware virtual machine images to Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2), which provides highly secure, resizable compute capacity. Amazon EC2 made web-scale cloud computing easier for Pixartprinting’s developers, who previously had to create virtual machines manually over 48 hours.

The second stage of the migration involved moving from Memcached data storage to Amazon ElastiCache, using Amazon Relational Database Service (Amazon RDS) to smooth the process of setting up and operating a database in the cloud. After this successful migration, Pixartprinting sought out new AWS technologies to accelerate innovation, using Amazon CloudWatch to manage and provision its growing suite of AWS resources and AWS CloudFormation to provide the single language on which to base this monitoring. These phases were completed in six months, using the Docker software platform to build and deploy applications quickly by packaging them into bitesize containers that have everything the software needs to run.

The AWS Cloud platform supports a microservices strategy with integrated building blocks for compute, storage, and networking applications. In this way, Pixartprinting’s move to the cloud also facilitated an adoption of a more agile and resilient environment.

To help evolve from its monolithic architecture, Pixartprinting engaged with XPeppers, an Advanced Consulting Partner in the AWS Partner Network (APN). The partner provided DevOps engineering training after the migration to Amazon EC2, and Pixartprinting now runs 16 other microservices in Amazon Elastic Container Services (Amazon ECS) clusters. XPeppers recommended an immutable infrastructure setup. In this approach, servers aren’t continually updated in place but instead are replaced with new servers built from a common image as needed. This improves the consistency and reliability in an infrastructure, and it provides a more simple, predictable deployment process. It then implemented AWS CodePipeline, a continuous delivery service, for rapid application of these infrastructure updates.

“With immutable infrastructure, all changes are tracked by AWS CodeCommit and software development processes like continuous integration and continuous deployment are implemented by AWS CodePipeline and AWS CodeBuild,” says Paolo Latella, principal solutions architect at XPeppers. “The Amazon ECS clusters are built from scratch every time, reducing configuration drift.”

Pixartprinting’s test-and-adopt phase evolved once more with its acquisition by Cimpress. The parent company already had a relationship with Amazon and required the Italian printing house to integrate with its system. “Each business unit has an AWS account and they all must be able to communicate with one another,” says Pesce. “It was a radical change, but it meant we could implement even more features.” The Cimpress platform runs in the US and Ireland AWS Availability Zones.

Pixartprinting can now handle variable user loads across the year and cope with even the busiest of days. “We’re now ready for any Black Friday event, whereas before we spent days and nights fixing things to cope with high demand,” says Pesce. The brand is now maximizing its revenue growth potential, grossing more than €1 million ($1.2 million) a day in sales. It has also freed up developer time. The resulting innovative culture is impressive. “Our time-to-market for new services or upgrades has been cut from days to 15 minutes, maximum,” says Pesce. “We’ve basically jumped from the Stone Age to microservices with AWS.”

Pixartprinting can thank the microservices structure it adopted, and subsequently expanded under Cimpress, for its leaner approach to consumer spending. The company has divided its customer base into target audiences using microservices to build sales portals dedicated to specific products and therefore specific audiences. It’s this type of agility that the organization was seeking when it broke away from its monolithic structure. “We will be able to group people by country, age, niche, and more. We just can’t wait,” says Pesce.

While the microservices structure has had a tangible effect on productivity and innovation, it has also lowered costs. “We’re spending less overall and we’re able to achieve far more today than was possible before. It’s all down to the fact we’ve changed so much with AWS,” Pesce explains. “In fact, it has been such a dramatic change we can’t even measure it!”

Learn more about evolving from a monolithic structure to microservices.

Pixartprinting, part of Cimpress, is an Italian printing services company that serves more than 600,000 European clients.

  • An Advanced Consulting Partner of the AWS Partner Network (APN). XPeppers focuses on accelerating the migration to the AWS Cloud and optimizing existing IT environments.
  • For more information about how XPeppers can help your company build and manage your AWS environment, see the XPeppers listing in the AWS Partner Directory.