Hybrid cloud powers business strategy for Notonthehighstreet.com

Notonthehighstreet.com deploys a hybrid cloud and DevOps strategy to grow, innovate and respond to business needs quickly

From an e-commerce site founded by two entrepreneurs seven years ago, Notonthehighstreet.com has become a multi-million pound online marketplace selling 100,000 products. The business has deployed a hybrid cloud and DevOps strategy to grow, innovate and deliver IT as a service.   

The online retailer has been one of the early adopters of cloud services – it has been using the Rackspace public cloud to handle bursts in site activity at busy times of the year since 2008. The IT team has now picked managed private cloud services from the same provider to develop a hybrid IT model and benefit from workload interoperability features.

The retailer generated transactions of more than £83m last year and wants to take advantage of the private cloud services to run the bulk of its application, allowing the business flexibility to scale.

“We have about 160 staff members, but our online marketplace witnesses 30,000 requests per minute at peak season, such as ahead of Christmas. We have a small server farm processing these requests,” said Yoann Martin, IT director at Notonthehighstreet.com.

The hybrid cloud model will allow the retailer’s IT team to deploy all its internal systems as services for increased scalability, agility and IT responsiveness. Hybrid cloud provides the ideal balance of speed, security and flexibility when scaling operations up or down, without any unwelcome investment in new IT infrastructures, said Martin.

Rackspace will manage the computing, storage, networks and operating systems for the retailer, and will also provide support services for complex tools and application stacks.

“Using the hybrid cloud and having everything managed by Rackspace gives us the flexibility we need to tailor things to suit our business aims – whether that’s in terms of rolling services out internationally or isolating specific areas, such as PCI compliance, to focus on,” he said.

Choosing a hybrid cloud model is critical for the business at a time when customer expectations are rising, internal codebases are getting complex and when it is planning to launch new catalogues and expand the business, Martin explained.

“Time to market is becoming very important to us and managed cloud services will help us meet our business objectives,” he said.

Notonthehighstreet.com offers a marketplace for the UK’s most creative small businesses to sell more than 100,000 original, inspirational lifestyle products. The company’s success is down to its constant focus on investing in the right technology, people and processes, Martin said.

It has been able to do this, and develop impressive internal technical strengths, while relying on Rackspace to provide the infrastructure and support needed at all times.

Bridging the knowledge gap between operations and development

The hybrid cloud strategy is allowing the IT department to rely on Rackspace’s infrastructure and have a greater focus on strategic business activities, such as DevOps and new service deployment, to help manage growth and expansion.

“We have started thinking about DevOps seriously now, but bridging the DevOps gap is not easy,” said Martin.

DevOps is an IT practice of merging the tasks performed by a company's application development team and those performed by the systems operations team. Software-defined infrastructure and cloud computing call for enterprises to tear down the silos between the development and operation teams.

“In the age of cloud, IT is all about value creation,” Tim Crawford, CIO strategic advisor at consulting firm Avoa has said previously. “CIOs need to think and act differently. To truly leverage the cloud, they need to leverage DevOps.” 

According to Martin, having a DevOps strategy is crucial for business success as it helps in implementing and scaling high-availability systems, ensuring apps and services are interacting efficiently with the infrastructure.

He added that bridging the knowledge gap between operations and development helps the business better understand performance and application metrics: “It is important to have the right talent first, culture will follow.”

Managed services and cloud strategies “eliminate the pain of having to do it all ourselves and this means our technical talent can focus on doing what they do best – building our business”, Martin said.

“Rackspace customers don’t need to become cloud computing experts – we manage specialised clouds for our customers to run their business on,” said Jeff Cotten, managing director of Rackspace International.

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