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Sleeping better at an Indonesian hotel chain

Zafar Anjum | July 3, 2013
Jules Brookfield, Vice President of Technology at Archipelago International, one of Indonesia’s fastest growing and most technically advanced hotel chains, describes the challenges faced in running their multiple websites.

It's because of initiatives like this it seems we're generally regarded now as the fastest growing, most technically advanced, and easy-to-work-with hotel chain in Indonesia, leading the way in design, advertising, ecommerce, and technology.

Was the implementation difficult? Did you face any issues when the solution was being rolled out for you? Did it happen in phases?

The most difficult part of the transition to AWS was pushing third party software vendors to alter or optimise their software. For one vendor, I had to explain to them that in their code, they were making separate and sequential queries to their database from their rich client to their server for every field on the application or pulling data from the database one by one and then making the calculation on the client instead of on the server - when you go from near zero latency to 15ms or 50ms latency, this makes for a noticeable slowdown in responsiveness. I pushed them to produce code that was generally less chatty - this led to dramatic improvements in responsiveness, and now you usually can't tell the difference between when the server is hosted on premise and when it's hosted on Amazon EC2.

The second major difficulty was dealing with the often unreliable Internet access in Indonesia. Firstly, we spent a lot of time selecting our ISPs, which led to a fairly reliable environment, along with peering with AWS in Singapore. However, it's one thing for Youtube to stop working for a few minutes, it's another thing for our Property Management System to go down when a guest is trying to checkout!

To address this issue, we've pushed most of our hotels to use at least two ISPs, which we plug into an automatic failover/load balancer network appliance - if one connection goes down, the secondary connection takes over automatically.

We began with small hotels and villas that were easy to control and easy to run manually if need be. Since then we've been working our way up to larger and larger hotels, after working out the issues in our vendor software, internal server management software, automatic snapshotting, lots of Amazon CloudWatch alarms, as well as after learning how to do real time replication across Availability Zones, encrypting data over the wire, practising failover scenarios, and other reliability and security related design decisions and procedures.

How did AWS help you in the process?

As I sort of touched on earlier; AWS has removed our past challenges related to procuring server equipment, the time required to set up a hotel and at a much lower cost than ever before:

●        Our hotel owners love the reduction in upfront capital costs;

 

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