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RedBalloon eyes cloud-based data warehouse

Rohan Pearce | April 22, 2013
Company to use Amazon's Redshift data-warehouse-as-a-service offering

Online gift voucher retailer RedBalloon plans to employ cloud-based data warehousing to store and analyse data generated by its customers.

Sydney-based RedBalloon effectively operates as a booking agent, selling the services of 'experience' providers, as well as a range of boxed gifts.

Technology and development manager Paul Keen said that the company plans to use data warehousing as part of a project dubbed 'Circle the Customer'.

"The idea behind it is to take all the disparate data sources that we have - so whether we have orders from our website, [the customer] creates a review in Bazaarvoice, or they created a support ticket in Zendesk - we can bring all that information down to one central data warehouse, look at that data, analyse it, extract it out then use that," Keen said.

The idea is to transform data from multiple sources into information that can result in a "a much more meaningful conversation with our customers," he said.

Keen said that RedBalloon is only a small business, and conventional data warehousing is not really an option. Instead, the company will employ Amazon Web Service's data-warehouse-as-a-service offering, Redshift.

AWS unveiled Redshift in November.

Keen described it as giving a "small business the capabilities of a big business". "So now we can actually deal with these big terabytes of information effectively which was really, really tough before," he said.

RedBalloon is aiming to increase the personalisation and context-sensitivity of its online services, Keen said. "An example of personalisation would be you on your mobile phone - we now link that up with your desktop experience [and] we now know who you are.

"The context side of it would be, well, if you're on your mobile phone and we know it's the day of your 'experience', you're probably not shopping - you're probably trying to find the number of the supplier or where the actual experience is. So we're actually trying to be more intelligent and much more useful to you."

Using Redshift is a natural fit for the company, which shifted all of its infrastructure to Amazon's cloud about a year ago. Previously, the company ran on about 17 servers managed by a third party.

"The reason we moved [to the cloud] was ... we wanted more control - we wanted control of the servers from the operating system upwards - we wanted more redundancy, because we suffered some pretty heavy downtime, and we needed a way to be able to have more fault tolerance in the system," Keen said.

Having elastic computing resources also made sense for the company, Keen said, which, like most online retailers, has frequent spikes and ebbs in Web traffic and transaction volume.


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