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Microsoft Azure Hyperscale Webfront Architecture Design/ Migration

//Microsoft Azure Hyperscale Webfront Architecture Design/ Migration

Microsoft Azure Hyperscale Webfront Architecture Design/ Migration

Case Study

Microsoft Azure Hyperscale Webfront Architecture Design/ Migration

Background

“Low fares done right” is more than just a tagline.  At Frontier Airlines, it’s a guiding business principle that drives its business – and especially its e-commerce – model.  Frequent sales – often as low as $15 – drive huge volume to flyfrontier.com.  Such intense, but bursty traffic often overwhelmed the website, preventing Frontier from delivering low fares done right.  The organization needed a site that could scale to the huge spikes, while remaining elastic – specifically without requiring a lot of infrastructure that would go unused most of the time, i.e., between promotion cycles.  The problems with the site compounded as marketing became increasingly aggressive.  Frontier needed a solution, and fast.

Customer Frontier Airlines
Objective Design & implementation of hyperscale cloud architecture and migration of customer-facing Webfront to Microsoft Azure
Solution Microsoft Azure App Service Web Apps, Azure SQ Database, Azure Traffic Manager, Azure CDN
Industry Transporation / Airline
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“We knew Azure had a good scalability story, and based on our relationship with Microsoft, we knew they would be the best partner to help us meet this critical business need. . . Microsoft recommended Lightstream to handle the design and implementation. Lightstream took my call on a Thursday afternoon, they were onsite Friday, and by Monday they had our entire new website up and running in our Azure test environment.”

-Rick Zeni, Chief Information Officer, Frontier Airlines

The Technical Business Case

In summer of 2015, Frontier’s marketing strategy exceeded expectations; customers were inundating the website in response to weekly email promotions.  The rapid increase in demand slowed performance to the point that many customers abandoned sessions, not purchasing tickets due to poor response.  Frontier needed a fix – and fast.

In addition, Frontier’s digital content management model required IT intervention to deploy campaigns demanded by marketing.  As marketing attempted to respond to short-term industry market conditions, the IT bottleneck prevented any kind of rapid response in terms of time-to-market.

By October 2015, the website reached a critical point; it took up to 25 seconds to load a page.  Frontier executives demanded that IT either fix the issues within four weeks or find another job.

Because Frontier’s webfront was .NET-based, Microsoft Azure was a natural candidate for a quick but complete solution.  Frontier and Microsoft engaged Lightstream, whose cloud architects assessed the environment, designed an Azure solution, and developed a migration plan, and deployed a test site using multiple Azure PaaS components: the principal components were deployed in App Service Web Apps and Azure SQL Database to house the front-end user interface and back-end database respectively; Azure Traffic Manager was deployed to allow the system to dynamically scale the platform to meet extreme demand during peak times, and Azure CDN was deployed to bring the content closer to the end-user, further driving down webpage load times, especially during traffic spikes and heavy loads.  

All of this test environment was deployed within two business days, including a weekend.  Frontier’s Q/A team was immediately able to begin testing on the new PaaS environment.  The Frontier team worked on optimizing code for the new infrastructure while simultaneously replicating live data into the new SQL platform.  Simultaneously, the Lightstream team worked on integrating Umbraco, an open-source content management system, into the PaaS environment and integrating it into the Frontier booking engine.  This created a user-friendly interface that allowed marketing, with minimal training to be able to modify key aspects of the site, to go to market with new campaigns almost immediately.  Finally, Lightstream architects simultaneously built the production environment to the same specifications so that everything was ready to roll to production as soon as testing completed.  

Why Lightstream?

Lightstream cloud architects have a wealth of experience not only with the various cloud offerings, but also with the challenges of migrating an existing production environment into the cloud.  Lightstream staff is able to quickly assess an environment, make design recommendations, and even assist in the deployment of the solution, while steering customers through the hidden pitfalls typically associated with a move or deployment of such magnitude.

Results

On December 1, 2015, a few days before the 4-week deadline, the new  www.flyfrontier.com went live on Microsoft Azure.  Page load times were a fraction of the previous metrics, and the new platform easily handled extremely aggressive holiday marketing campaign loads.

Frontier also realized a few unintended but welcome benefits of the project.  First, the Azure environment resulted in a seventy-five percent reduction in web hosting costs compared with the previous on-premises solution.  Second, additional application performance monitoring (APM) tools gave Frontier insight into their code that they had never had before.  Finally, the Azure-based platform integrates with a lot of Frontier’s development and monitoring tools, which enabled automated builds and deployments to the web.  All of this reduced deployment time significantly.

2016-11-28T21:53:04+00:00 November 3rd, 2016|Case Studies|