Kasa.cz Case Study
The KASA.cz online shop offers the whole range of audio-video products, white goods, consumer electronics, photo and computer technology, sporting goods, garden and motor vehicle technology, cosmetics, equipment nad toys for children, furniture as well as accessories for leisure and fun. We are talking about a range containing more than 1000 world’s brands. The infrastructure used by the company till mid-2008 however limited them in their development. Therefore they changed to Master Internet starting from August 2008, where they have been provided with a much higher server availability and with sufficient performance for new functions
The previous state limited the company in their development
In 2008 Kasa.cz was voted the 2nd fastest developing company in the Czech Republic within the Deloitte Technology Fast 50 ranking and also reached position 99 in the same ranking with respect to the Regions Europe, the Middle East and Africa. The company’s growth however started to get limited by a key factor – servers, which Kasa.cz used in the form of Managed Servers. Therefore the company management decided in fall 2007, when the situation started to be critical from the pure view of a low availability of only 80% with respect to some web-applications, to change to different provider. Dropouts of some applications lasting several hours caused by mistakes on the side of the Managed Server operator in consequence of various experiments carried out by the operator without knowledge of Kasa.cz were no exception at their previous provider. It even happened that the operator forgot to carry out backups and the like. Yet limiting was also the available maximum server performance. The lower computing power of the utilized hardware made it practically impossible to use more sophisticated algorithms for order processing and price formations. The company thus had to use a semi-automated price formation system in order to prevent server clogging and to ensure that the customers were able to keep buying unmolested. A large part of work on Kasa.cz thus had to be done manually which cost the company 30 man-hours of work more per month.
The new provider had to offer higher performance and availability
When Kasa.cz was deciding on their new provider of Managed Servers they had a clear vision of what the new solution would have to fulfill. One of the main requirements was an increase of performance, which would have to suffice both the ordinary load caused by unique daily visitors of the order of ten thousand as well as mainly the load generated by operating scripts or seasonal load peaks which traditionally appear before Christmas and before the start of the summer holidays. The new servers also had to enable the company to introduce a fully automated workflow for all the inner processes including that of orders, which is the most important one for the company.
Master Internet offered the best price-performance ratio
From all the offers which Kasa.cz received the company stared to choose during January 2008 when the Christmas shopping peak was over. From all the alternatives Kasa.cz chose Master Internet which offered the best price-performance ratio. Master Internet was moreover able to come with a complex solution for Managed Servers and apart from HW and SW administration of the whole solution also offered around-the-clock monitoring of all the key elements and services. For the purpose of an increase in availability Master Internet came with a solution in the form of a server cluster which allows to distribute the performance to more physical machines (so-called knots) and at the same time handle the dropout of one or even more of these knots by distributing their work among the others. The basis of the Kasa.cz cluster is a load-balancer by Cisco Systems, which distributes the load among the individual knots. These are comprised of 5 blade servers by HP, stocked equipped with Intel Xeon QuadCore processors and 4 GB of RAM. These virtualized servers in fact just ensure the operation of the web server itself and the operating scripts. The database is located on a standalone high-performance DualCore blade server and is replicated to an identical machine in real time. At peak hours it concurrently manages to handle several millions of complex SQL queries per hour.
The most demanding task for Master Internet was to solve the problem of the data storage which usually is the critical aspect of each cluster. Considering that we are talking about a so-called single point of failure of the whole solution the demands on the performance and reliability of this element are extremely high. For the communication with the disk array Kasa.cz formerly used the NFS protocol, the main advantage of which is a relatively simple implementation and broad support by HW and SW manufacturers. However, following the recommendation of Master Internet the company changed to GFS block storage. This step made it possible to achieve both a significant increase in performance as well as a higher scalability in the future. The disk controller is interconnected with the blade chassis through two fiber-channel lines which also ensure the needed redundancy. Moreover both the specialists of Master Internet and Kasa.cz are now immediately and automatically informed in case of any problems via SMS, so that they can instantly react to the situation which is another step on the way to maximum availability.
More powerful servers with higher availability brought progress and advantages for customers
Even the customers could take notice of the server transfer to Master Internet. The new and more powerful hardware solution allowed the programmers of Kasa.cz to fully automate the majority of intern processes. This way more than 70 % of all the orders can be carried out without the need of human intervention which significantly accelerates the whole process and thanks to this the customer receives his goods earlier than before. The system of automatic price formation on the other hand is able to react more flexibly to price changes on the side of the suppliers in each country and immediately reflect them in the prices of the e-shop. When the suppliers’ prices drop Kasa.cz can offer better prices to their customers immediately. When the suppliers’ prices rise they can effectively prevent possible financial losses. Some of the most demanding computational processes which the new server solution for Managed Servers by Master Internet helped to optimize significantly are also XML exports of the product range for various search engines and the import of large data volumes from the suppliers. Thanks to this even customers who are not searching for price information on Kasa.cz directly get to know about the possibility of bargains on Kasa.cz if they are searching for them by the help of search engines and shopping advisors instead and at the same time it is also possible to offer up-to-date and full information on each of the tens of thousands of sorts of offered articles to the visitors of the online shop. This way everyone profits from the change to Master Internet’s Managed Server service – the Kasa.cz company and its customers.