Awaze celebrates a record year of online demand, coping with unprecedented volumes of traffic to its websites through the support of its technological partner, Rackspace Technology, following an Amazon Web Services (AWS) project. James Baird, Technical Operations Director at Awaze, discusses how the company has successfully been able to meet the rising demands of its customers and why working with Rackspace has given it the tools to continue delivering a quality experience through technology.
One of Europe’s leading managed vacation rentals groups, Awaze, says its support from Rackspace Technology, the end-to-end multi-cloud technology services company, is already paying dividends as it celebrates a record year and looks forward to further growth.
The self-catering giant, which offers 90,000 accommodation choices in 36 countries to more than 6 million holidaymakers a year, has seen unprecedented surges in demand over the last 12 months thanks to the rising popularity of domestic breaks in the wake of the global pandemic.
Awaze has only been able to meet the huge volumes of traffic to its Hoseasons and cottages.com websites due to its transition to Amazon Web Services (AWS) cloud from an on-premises environment.
“Our partnership with Rackspace Technology has allowed us to optimise our cloud footprint and make it elastic at every layer and across every point of the customer and owner journey,” said James Baird, Technical Operations Director at Awaze. “This means it seamlessly expands and contracts in line with volatile patterns of demand, maintaining robustly consistent response times and performance while also being highly commercially optimised.”
Tightly aligning compute resources to demand as part of the multi-million-pound investment has led to a 30% reduction in web session costs.
“Prior to this investment, we had to maintain compute resources at peak levels most of the time,” said Baird. “We already had multi-dimensional cycles influencing patterns of demand, including time of day and time of year, but the pandemic completely disrupted these resulting in huge spikes and troughs. Auto-scaling means we no longer have to waste resource to cope with market volatility and can service demand in the most efficient, cost-effective way possible while maintaining performance and delivering a great experience for our guests and owners.”
The system’s operating effectiveness was given one of its toughest tests on February 21 last year when web traffic increased 400% in the minutes after UK Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, announced his route out of lockdown. Traffic peaked at one booking and nearly 100 searches every second, with the number of CPUs powering the company’s guest and owner portals, going from less than 100 to more than 1,200 in less than six hours.
Simon Bennett, CTO, EMEA at Rackspace Technology, said: “Awaze has been a valued customer for over 12 years and we’re proud to have been part of its digital evolution. With auto-scaling and flexibility being key components of public cloud environments, Awaze can benefit from increased innovation and agility in support of its own business objectives.”
Awaze is currently using Rackspace Technology’s flexible and innovative elastic engineering service to migrate all its remaining applications hosted in non-cloud data centres into the AWS cloud. This will deliver unparalleled flexibility, near limitless scalability and performance and enable the company to continue its growth journey, both organically and through M&A activity.
We spoke to James Baird, Technical Operations Director at Awaze, to glean further insight into the project and the business benefits experienced since using the Rackspace solution.
Can you tell us about your role at the company and what this looks like day to day?
I’m the Technical Operations Director for Awaze Vacation Rentals and am responsible for much of our enterprise technology. This includes cloud operations, commercial applications, security operations, networks, contact centre technology, infrastructure engineering and circa 2,000 end-users. A typical day could involve any of the following: design and planning workshops; deploying major changes; negotiating enterprise contracts; driving strategic change and investment plans; and spending time with technology, business and product leaders at our UK and European locations. It’s a home-based role, but there’s lots of travel involved too.
What was behind your decision to work with Rackspace Technology – why did you select it as the technology vendor?
Firstly, because we’d worked with the vendor before, got good results and liked its collaborative culture. And, secondly, because we knew it was well placed to complement our internal talent and help us deliver what we wanted to do in the cloud. Initially, we moved things as they were, but that was never the end game – we were always going to need an engineering solution instead of just a service provider and we knew Rackspacehad great pedigree in that area.
How will migrating your applications to the cloud enable you to achieve outstanding business performance?
There are numerous upsides to this. Migrating has enabled us to scale up and down at pace to meet the significant peaks and troughs in demand that are usual for the travel industry, but which have been massively pronounced as a result of the pandemic. We can also experiment and deliver change at scale and at speed, meaning we deliver solutions to our guests and owners much quicker than we were able to before. We’re also able to absorb acquisitions much quicker and with less risk to the business due to the way cloud architecture works.
Can you tell us more about the effects of the pandemic on the tourism industry and how technology has been an enabler for growth and scalability?
Our investment in customised auto-scaling has enabled us to easily cope with the unprecedented peaks and troughs in demand that have followed every government announcement on COVID and travel over the last 18 months, and therefore make the most of an exceptional year for UK staycations. We’re clearly in the business of moving people around and that’s been very hard to do over the last few years. The variables were fairly black and white during full lockdown – either you could travel, or you couldn’t – it’s the stages in between and all the different shades of grey that have presented the greater technical challenge and complexity. Our investment in digital self-service has made it easier for people to find a solution for their specific set of circumstances when the rules have changed and that’s really helped from a customer service point of view.
As a front-runner in Europe’s tourism industry, what are some of your key priorities for digital innovation?
Guest and owner experience is always our number one priority. That’s why we’re investing heavily in new portal platforms, as well as looking at real innovations in yield management to get the best possible outcomes for our owner partners. It doesn’t matter if they own one property or 1,000 – we always aim to deliver the best owner experience through technology.
What are some of the benefits you’ve experienced since the implementation?
The ability to scale rapidly in response to a TV ad, or a government announcement, when thousands of people head for the website in a matter of minutes, has been a game-changer for us, particularly when we are only now paying for the compute and bandwidth we are using. It’s a much more flexible system and highly cost-effective. Tightly aligning compute resources to demand in this way has already led to a 30% reduction in web session costs.
How do you plan to evolve over the next 12 months?
I don’t think it’s giving too much away to say that we’ll be continuing to invest in new products and features, leveraging cloud technology to continually improve the Awaze guest and owner experience.Click below to share this article