The Riverbed Blog (testing)

A blog in search of a tagline

Bursting Your Way Through the Cloud

Posted by riverbedtest on September 22, 2011

In this post in our series introducing Zeus Technology and ADCs, we’d like to flesh out the meaning of cloud bursting. After all, with autumn officially upon us this week, the holiday season is right around the corner. And with online holiday shopping expected to rival last year’s billion dollar online sales, many retailers are already thinking about how to prepare their websites for this season’s inevitable traffic boom. Cloud bursting is often the answer for dealing with these seasonal traffic upswings, in particular on Black Friday and Cyber Monday. So in this post, we’ll explain the role that ADCs play in enabling cloud bursting and in eliminating problems with demand overload.

Cloud bursting happens when an organization needs to very quickly scale to meet a sudden spike in demand on its website. This might sound like an envious predicament to be in, but in reality, if cloud bursting isn’t handled properly it can create significant problems — most obviously, revenue loss from customers unable to access the site.  

To illustrate this, let’s look at another high-demand area — job posting sites. Given the surge in jobseekers, SnagAJob.com, America’s largest hourly job website, saw double-digit year-on-year growth of visitors to its site. With such rapid growth, the company learned that its hardware traffic manager couldn’t keep up with demand and failed to meet the company’s goal of 99.9 percent uptime. In fact, like many online retailers, the Richmond, Virginia-based company generates all of its revenues from its website. This meant it was absolutely crucial that SnagAJob.com’s growth didn’t disrupt the availability of its online services.

During this time, SnagAJob.com also opted to move into a virtualized environment that would better accommodate its growth trajectory. To do this, SnagAJob.com replaced its hardware traffic manager with Zeus’ softADC solution. So now, if SnagAJob.com suddenly needs to scale from 20 to 100 servers, it can easily “burst” into the cloud and create new virtual machines in a matter of minutes, ensuring that incoming traffic is routed to servers that are ready to handle the capacity.

“The greatest benefit Zeus gives us is the amount of availability it enables for our members and customers,” says Matt Reidy, SnagAJob.com’s Director of IT Operations. “If a server or service is unavailable, Zeus knows about it and will divert traffic seamlessly.”

As a pure-software solution, Zeus plays a critical role in SnagAJob.com’s virtualized infrastructure. When its website experiences an influx of traffic, SnagAJob.com “bursts” into its private cloud at a moment’s notice — but also, at no additional cost to scale its softADC up. Zeus enables SnagAJob.com to absorb and evenly distribute those spikes in traffic, and gives the flexibility to scale on-demand, utilizing more Web servers as needed. Now apply this to the online holiday shopping season, which of course, is ripe with sudden traffic troughs and crests. Wouldn’t it make sense for an online retailer to use cloud bursting to quickly, seamlessly, and efficiently manage ebbs and flows in its Web traffic? 

It’s important to point out that cloud bursting can only occur with 100 percent-software based ADCs. After all, the fluidity and rapid change required for cloud bursting calls for a software solution that can keep up with the cloud’s quick pace. Imagine scaling or distributing applications in the cloud with conventional hardware traffic management solutions.

“If we have 20 servers and need 100, we can easily spin them up,” adds Reidy. “If we still had a physical environment, we couldn’t do that as easily, and it would take days rather than minutes. Speed to change was a big motivation to moving to a virtualized platform, and Zeus is an essential part of that.” 

Last year, demand for e-shopping hit a record high of more than a billion dollars on Cyber Monday — with demand continuing throughout the holiday season. In fact, U.S, online retail sales are expected to undergo a 10 percent compound annual growth rate from 2010 to 2015, with e-retail sales ultimately expected to reach the soaring heights of $279 billion, according to recent predictions by Forrester, a market analyst group. And as Cyber Monday inches closer, wouldn’t you feel better knowing that your favorite e-retailers are cloud bursting this holiday season?

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