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What you need to know about cloud bursting

By Retail Technology | Thursday February 27 2014

Application networks expert Nathan Pearce explains everything online retailers should know about this new application deployment model to assure e-commerce uptime

Research from the IMRG Capgemini e-Retail Sales Index shows that online retail sales are set to rise by 17% this year, breaking through the £100-billion barrier. 

Although this is great news for sales, Nathan Pearce, technical marketing manager at application networking delivery manager F5 Networks, says online retailers have to consider how servers will cope with this inevitable increase in traffic when infrastructure is pushed to its very limits. 

“Just imagine: After months of hard work and preparation, the launch day arrives for your much anticipated new web store, product or service, the ‘Go’ button is pressed and your creation is released for everyone to see,” he suggested. 

“However, the excitement wears off shortly after when your website starts failing; too many people are trying to log on and the site can’t cope with the traffic meaning that they are presented with error messages rather than tempting shopping deals. The knock-on effect is a loss of revenue and consumers trust.”

Adding cost-effective capacity
Pearce said cost is always a worry, but traffic spikes are usually rare and do not justify the cost of additional hardware that would not be used after the traffic spike recedes, which is particularly important for e-commerce with tight budgets and increased competition forcing many businesses to get the most from their existing infrastructure. “So, buying more or higher capacity infrastructure isn’t always an option or even suitable for every business,” he commented.
“Equally, it’s important to recognise that these traffic spikes don’t just apply to websites. Any application or service is at risk from collapsing if it hits peak capacity; this is where cloud bursting comes in. During peak periods, an application that is running in a corporate data centre or in a private cloud can ‘burst’ into a public cloud, providing the extra capacity needed to keep services running smoothly,” he explained. “It also means the company will only pay for extra capacity when it is used, keeping costs down.” 

By being prepared with a cloud bursting strategy, Pearce said retailers would not be at risk when there is a spike in demand: business can carry on as normal. “In turn this will have a positive impact on your business, you will avoid revenue loss due to applications crashing and consumers will have a more user-friendly experience, building trust in the brand,” he added.

Abstracting delivery requirements
Cloud bursting abstracts the application delivery requirements from the underlying infrastructure, enabling the applications to span physical and virtual infrastructure in the data centre and in the cloud, as demand dictates. “Therefore resulting in a more stable and reliable service for end users, benefiting all parties,” Pearce said.
“It is worth keeping in mind that cloud bursting relies on data centre agility. Sometimes this can be impacted by the network,” he continued. “However, by using metrics of real-time service behaviour to deliver demand-based workflow routing, cloud bursting can also eliminate network bottlenecks. 

"Combining both public and private data centres eliminates the restrictions of physical device, connectivity and capacity experienced within data centre silos and allows you to get on with business.”
Pearce endorsed cloud bursting as a great way for ensuring that applications keep running through spikes in demand, without forcing businesses to pay for infrastructure. “The business will only pay for the additional capacity it uses and end users will be able to access what they want whenever they want to, even if huge numbers of others are doing exactly the same thing at the same time,” he concluded.

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