Founded by Andre Eikmeier and Justin Dry in Adelaide, Australia in 2011, Vinomofo is an online retailer that specializes in sourcing quality wines and providing discount wine deals to consumers. Eikmeier describes Vinomo as “much more than an e-commerce site. Vinomofo is a tribe of people who want to drink wine delivered to their doorsteps with love.” By late 2015, the business was closing in on an AU$60 million (US$43 million) revenue run-rate and its founders were expanding the business into new markets. A dedicated team was establishing a distribution network and business in China, and plans were in development for a launch in the United States.
With only limited capital backing the venture, Vinomofo’s founders needed to set up the company’s website quickly and cost-effectively. The website and e-commerce functionality had to be highly available to provide an excellent experience and minimize the risk of customers defecting to rival services due to outages or service slowdowns. The infrastructure supporting the website had to handle growth to several hundred thousand members and support demand peaks during special events. In addition, to compete effectively with competitors and fulfill plans to expand internationally a few years after inception, Vinomofo needed to focus its lean team on business growth and development rather than infrastructure management. Finally, the company needed a secure network to prevent malicious individuals from accessing customer data, disrupting the service, or stealing sensitive business information such as revenue and pricing margins.
Vinomofo evaluated the infrastructure as a services marketplace and concluded that Amazon Web Services (AWS) was the only provider that could meet its needs. “In 2011, it was a question of using AWS or running our own servers, storage, networking, and associated infrastructure,” says Cameron Price-Austin, development manager at Vinomofo. “As a cost-sensitive startup, this was the difference between a few dollars per month to rent server instances in the cloud that we can scale according to demand, or tens of thousands of dollars in up-front capital expenditure. It was a pretty easy decision.” Vinomofo then developed a simple website in two months, featuring one wine deal per page per day, and deployed it on an AWS infrastructure.
The business has engaged platform-as-a-service provider Engine Yard to undertake support and management of an infrastructure comprising Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2) instances to provide server capacity, Amazon Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3) to store static website images, Amazon CloudFront to provide fast access for users to the website from a range of locations worldwide, and Amazon Route 53 to route users to appropriate web resources to meet requirements. Amazon Relational Database Service (Amazon RDS) runs a MySQL database that stores all Vinomofo user and transaction data, audit trails, logs, and warehousing and fulfillment data including package tracking. This infrastructure operates in the Amazon Asia-Pacific (Sydney) region.
The figure below illustrates Vinomofo’s environment in AWS:
Running in an AWS infrastructure has enabled Vinomofo to focus on its core business and leave non-core activities such as server configuration and management, monitoring, backups, security, and updates to external experts. The business is also delivering more than 99.999 percent infrastructure availability, ensuring Vinomofo users can be confident that the website will be available when they want to take advantage of discount wine deals. “The cloud simply allows what we create to be enjoyed by our customers. If there are crashes and time lags, the user experience is affected. AWS enables us to ensure these do not happen, “says Eikmeier.
AWS has also enabled Vinomofo to support growth to more than 400,000 members, and adjust its infrastructure usage in line with demand. During non-peak periods, the business has about 100 visitors to its website and this number grows to about 500 visitors after a daily wine-deal email is sent to subscribers. “When special online sales events such as Click Frenzy occur, visitor numbers can climb to about 12,000. In these cases, we double our server capacity about an hour in advance of the event and scale back down about two hours after it finishes. This approach manages the additional demand well,” says Price-Austin.
While Vinomofo has not calculated the cost of running its website in the cloud relative to an on-premises data center, Price-Austin has no doubt that the AWS service is considerably less expensive once data center power, cooling, and real estate is factored into the equation. Running its website in AWS also enables Vinomofo to cut weeks from the time required for development, testing, and staging activities, with Price-Austin noting that the business was able to clone its database in only five minutes to support a recent application development project. “In an on-premises environment, it would take me up to three hours to download a database snapshot, set up, and configure a virtual machine with MySQL from scratch, and load in the snapshot,” Price-Austin says. Vinomofo also has had no major security events with customer and business data is protected within the AWS architecture. “This has helped build customer confidence that they can use our service with minimal risk,” he adds.
Price-Austin and Eikmeier plan to leverage AWS resources in regions such as Beijing, China, to help the business grow internationally. Vinomofo is also considering using services such as Amazon CloudWatch to monitor its infrastructure and Amazon Machine Learning to develop predictive analytics, as well as AWS OpsWorks for configuration and Amazon Elastic MapReduce (Amazon EMR) to process big data for analysis. “As we grew and came onto the AWS radar, the first call we received was from an AWS representative who wanted to help us reduce our cost of using the service,” says Eikmeier. “That support from AWS is what we need to achieve our global ambitions.”
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