Saks Fifth Avenue Case Study
Saks Online Presence Drives Need for High Performance and Scalability
Starting off as a chain of independent retail stores at the start of the 20th century, this upscale retailer became renowned for offering the finest quality men’s and women’s fashions throughout the United States. In the summer of 2000, the company launched its customer website, offering an enhanced, personalized, online shopping experience.
With a stellar reputation for providing luxury goods from a wide array of designers, the goal of the company’s website was to offer an extensive variety of in-store categories while delivering the same service and style for which it is legendary.
From the outset, the company’s goal was to ensure a positive customer experience on the customer website. However, the company underestimated the potential success of this sales and service channel, especially since consumers were becoming more comfortable with online purchasing.
Very soon after launching the site, the website experienced a steady increase in traffic and transaction volume. As a result, performance and response time was becoming increasingly unpredictable. In addition, due to the various vendor products installed, the complexity of the native deployment and numerous components made the environment difficult to monitor, troubleshoot, and manage upgrades. Further, the existing server infrastructure was consistently running at over 80% CPU utilization, leaving little headroom for scalability. Even with extensive caching being added to the application, it made little difference to the overall user experience.
Pilot Program Reveals Performance Bottlenecks
These performance issues jeopardized the success of the website, a vital and expanding sales and service channel. Moving quickly to address these concerns, the company engaged Azul Systems to design a pilot program to benchmark an Azul-based solution versus the native deployment. The original website was based on an infrastructure consisting of WebLogic, Blue Martini, Tangosol and Endeca products.
The goal of the pilot was to build a proof-of-concept system, which when deployed in production, could eliminate the performance problems, while demonstrating at least the same level of redundancy as the current production environment.
The pilot was designed with two tests: a Product Array and Web Checkout application. The Product Array test performed random user navigation on the website and selects random items to view. This test applied concurrency pressure on the underlying cache layers and the database. The Web Checkout simulated gift card purchases, requiring users to sign into the application and validate address information.
The pilot was an overwhelming success, demonstrating that an Azul-enabled single, larger elastic WebLogic instance could perform approximately twice the number of transactions as all nine of the existing smaller Weblogic instances combined.
Azul Solution Offers Simplicity and Predictable Response Times
The Azul JVM provides a unique solution that enables applications to achieve orders of magnitude improvements in scalability and throughput with consistent response times, regardless of load. This breakthrough scalability is achieved with unique capabilities such as Pauseless Garbage Collection, which eliminates the impact of garbage collection-related application pauses. This scalability also enables the company to contain datacenter costs while ensuring quality customer experiences, especially during unpredictable peak loading such as seasonal periods, a common concern for online retailers.
Saks achieved immediate benefits from implementing Azul. First, the Azul JVM enabled the company to greatly simplify their deployment by reducing the number of instances while providing better performance. Secondly, end user response time improved by an average of 66%. In addition, the issue of unpredictable performance was completely eliminated.
The Azul JVM allowed Saks to meet its goals for an outstanding user experience regardless of load and a greatly simplified deployment. With Azul, Saks will be able to support continued growth of their online channel while consistently providing their legendary service levels.
“Azul’s unique approach to application scalability is unmatched. With the Azul Java solution we saw tremendous improvements in application performance and response time consistency in our production website.” - Ron Cavallo, Director of Infrastructure for Saks Fifth Avenue
Retail and Ecommerce
Deliver a continued positive experience for customers despite rapid growth and highly variable workloads
Offload Java processing using the Azul JVM and Compute Appliance
Improve end-user response times by 66% with outstanding consistency
Greatly simplified deployment