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Redcat Picks AWS over Azure for Strong Scalability and Simple Integration

2020

No company wants to say "no" to its customers. However, by late 2017, this was getting harder for Redcat to avoid. The Redcat Hospitality IT Platform offers integrated point of sale (POS) as well as business-management software and hardware solutions for cafés, bars, restaurants, franchises, and multisite entertainment and dining venues throughout Australia. Redcat was experiencing the limitations of running these solutions in a traditional collocated data center.

"Our previous hosting solution had limited options around scalability and fixed drives, in addition to cumbersome processes for procuring new hardware," says Cameron Allen, technical business analyst at Redcat. "We administer loyalty programs for our customers with millions of members, and those generate extremely heavy traffic during promotions. Our old solution was limited in dealing with that volume of demand, which was choking our growth."

It's been a completely different story ever since Redcat migrated its Windows and Linux workloads onto an Amazon Web Services (AWS) infrastructure in 2018. "Now we can handle online campaigns from some of the largest hospitality companies in Australia without advance notice," says Eranda Udadeni, infrastructure manager at Redcat. "We can process millions of login requests per hour with 100 percent uptime and no prep."

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If you’re running Windows with other workloads or are thinking about future integrations with advanced analytics or machine learning, you’d be crazy not to consider AWS."

Phillip Frantz
Special Projects, Redcat

AWS Better Suited for Hybrid Environments Than Azure

Redcat selected AWS after evaluating Microsoft Azure. "Azure worked well enough for Windows but was not where we needed it to be for Linux," says Phillip Frantz, who is in charge of special projects at Redcat. "At the time of evaluation, we found AWS to be much better suited to mixed Windows/Linux environments like ours. AWS also offered more of the capabilities we needed right out of the box, handled scaling in a preferable manner, and didn't lock us in regarding what AWS or non-AWS services we could integrate down the road. We really valued the extensive Linux support offered, simple approach to load balancing and auto-scaling, and availability of managed databases."

After a successful proof of concept, Redcat launched a yearlong project to migrate its Linux servers onto AWS, including re-architecting its applications to make maximum use of AWS scaling features. Next, the company engaged Rackspace, an AWS Partner Network (APN) Premier Consulting Partner, to help move its Windows infrastructure onto AWS.

"Rackspace did a great job with what was a really big project involving lots of machines and customer migrations," says Udadeni. "It helped us maintain 100 percent uptime during the whole migration and has remained a strong partner ever since. We have a lot of internal knowledge about our systems, but it's great to be able to call the experts at Rackspace for help with issues outside of our usual realm."

Redcat’s AWS infrastructure includes Amazon Elastic Block Store (Amazon EBS) for high-performance block storage and AWS Lambda to orchestrate its Amazon Simple Queue Service (Amazon SQS) message queues. The company uses AWS Directory Service for Microsoft Active Directory to enable its directory-aware workloads and resources to access managed Active Directory in the cloud.

Ever since moving to AWS, Redcat has experienced smooth sailing with its Windows/Linux architecture. "We have a lot of innovation that straddles the Windows/Linux fence, and we are finding that AWS handles that back-and-forth really well," says Frantz.

Redcat uses its Linux environment on AWS for its loyalty, ordering, and analytics solutions. The company then uses Microsoft Remote Desktop Services to publish remote apps where customers can access Redcat. "On AWS, adding resources to our Windows machines is much easier than it used to be," says Udadeni. "With our old provider, we used to have to go through an approval process if we wanted to add a single CPU, which held up operations. This process is now self-managed and happens on demand."

One AWS service Redcat finds especially valuable is Amazon CloudWatch, a monitoring and observability service. "In addition to using Amazon CloudWatch for logging, we use it to help pinpoint the causes of slowdowns and other hiccups," says Udadeni. "Given that we integrate with so many customer-built and third-party systems, the tracking capabilities of CloudWatch are really invaluable for that sort of troubleshooting."

Saying “Yes” on AWS

Most crucially, the AWS architecture that Redcat is using enables the company to be much more responsive to customer requests. "We might have a customer who wants to send a coupon to, say, 60,000 loyalty members as fast as possible," says Phoebe Peck, product manager at Redcat. "When we were running in our data center, we had to spread a campaign like that across 24 hours to keep our servers from collapsing under the load. With AWS Auto Scaling, those messages can go out in about 10 minutes without any special planning."

In addition to satisfying customer demand for large-scale loyalty campaigns and other resource-intensive events, Redcat is now able to add value for its customers in other ways. "On AWS, we can architect solutions for customers who want to analyze point-of-sale data in real time, even customers seeing millions of dollars a day in food and drink sales," says Frantz. "With the ease of integrating services on AWS, it's fairly simple to connect customers' point-of-sale systems to our entry points and push that data to their analytics platform—whether that analytics platform is running on AWS or not. This is one of many integrations we just couldn't offer using our old provider's infrastructure."

The new AWS architecture is helping Redcat cultivate the mutually beneficial relationship it wants with its customers. "Our goal is to lead in our space by enabling our customers to be leaders in theirs," says Louie Scarpari, marketing manager at Redcat. "By running our platform on AWS, we can innovate and simultaneously enable our customers to innovate."

This partnership between Redcat and its customers is already showing results. "One testament to the power of the solutions we can provide on AWS is the fact that we have customers winning awards for innovative digital marketing campaigns," says Scarpari. "We love the fact that running on AWS enables us to help our customers establish themselves as leaders in their fields."

The fact that Redcat runs on AWS further strengthens the company's ability to retain existing customers and win new ones. "Our existing customers love hearing what we're doing on AWS, because it shows them they are betting on the right horse with Redcat," says Lawrence Pelletier, sales and marketing director at Redcat. "We're also finding it's a strong selling point for prospective customers when we point to the impressive work our current customers are doing on our AWS-based platform.”

Frantz emphasizes that AWS can be an excellent fit for Microsoft workloads—especially for organizations that want open architectures to avoid lock-in. “If you’re running Windows with other workloads or are thinking about future integrations with advanced analytics or machine learning, you’d be crazy not to consider AWS.”

To learn more, visit aws.amazon.com/windows.


About Redcat

The Redcat Hospitality IT Platform provides a point-of-sale solution, including kitchen management and reporting, for cafés, restaurants, and multisite franchises. Redcat also enables loyalty campaigns, online ordering, and business intelligence.

Benefits of AWS

  • Processes millions of logins an hour with 100% uptime
  • Strong support for its Windows/Linux environment
  • Can add resources to Windows machines much faster than in a data center
  • Integrates third-party solutions easily for expanded customer offerings
  • Helps retain existing customers and win new ones

AWS Services Used

Amazon CloudWatch

Amazon CloudWatch is a monitoring and observability service built for DevOps engineers, developers, site reliability engineers (SREs), and IT managers.

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AWS Auto Scaling

AWS Auto Scaling monitors your applications and automatically adjusts capacity to maintain steady, predictable performance at the lowest possible cost.

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Amazon Elastic Block Store

Amazon Elastic Block Store (EBS) is an easy to use, high performance block storage service designed for use with Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) for both throughput and transaction intensive workloads at any scale.

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AWS Lambda

AWS Lambda lets you run code without provisioning or managing servers. You pay only for the compute time you consume.

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