Interview with Hepstar - Leveraging the cloud to enable innovationBy Ryan Noik 27 February 2020 | Categories: interviews
We have heard it time and again: technology is an enabler. However, it is a truism that is best understood from real world examples. In this interview with Brett Dyason: Co-Founder & CEO at Hepstar, he explains how the company has leveraged Amazon Web Services (AWS) to streamline and empower their business.
TS: What is the function of your business, and in what market/industry do you operate?
Hepstar provides global supply and merchandising for travel ancillaries (travel, accommodation and bus insurance, global Wi-Fi, eSIM, in destination activity content and other similar products) to online travel agencies, traveltech companies and airlines through our B2B based API technology. Hepstar focuses on helping our partners increase their ancillary revenues per booking using our advanced merchandising technology (multi-variate testing, traffic splitting, self-learning recommendation engine, data segmentation). Hepstar works with a range of travel distributors across the globe and is active in the Americas, Europe, Asia, Middle East and Africa.
TS: What technological challenge were you faced with prior to enlisting the help of your current cloud services provider?
Prior to AWS our infrastructure was hosted at another cloud platform. In principle, the design of our infrastructure was to be flexible allowing us to migrate our infrastructure to another hosting environment with ease should it become preferable or a business requirement.
Our plug-and-play technology was also less flexible with the other cloud platform due to their incompatibility with different operating systems, e.g. our system was designed to allow for API to Database messaging in both Windows and Linux operating systems. As a SaaS provider we wanted to align ourselves with a reputable and industry leading cloud hosting provider in order to instil our clients with the confidence that the necessary data security and system reliability controls were in place.
TS: Why did you choose AWS as your service provider, and what sets them apart from their competition?
We did an analysis across the different cloud hosting providers, flexibility, location of data centers (Hosting in different regions), commercial models and services available. AWS made the most sense with our ever-changing infrastructure, hosting and data storage requirements. The on-demand and reserving models have allowed us to manage costs whilst at the same time have sufficient flexibility to subscribe to on-demand requirements.
TS: What services/products do you use from AWS?
Amazon EC2, Amazon Retaional Databses Services, AWS Database Migration Services, Amazon Elasticache, Amazon S3, Amazon Elastic File System, and Amazon Cloudwatch, Amazon Simple Notification System.
TS: What new technologies have you implemented recently?
We recently implemented the Amazon Elastic File System storage to auto-switch over to the infrequent storage class on files that were not used frequently. This is a great feature that allows you to manage your data storage costs, which can become overwhelming if not managed effectively. As part of this process, we migrated the majority of our Amazon S3 storage to the cheaper glacier storage system which is $1 per TB of data – We are a data heavy company so this made absolute sense for us.
TS: How do these products/services enable you to meet your overall strategy?
The speed, flexibility and ease of use of AWS’s infrastructure and services allow us to quickly fire up proof-of-concept system designs enabling us to continually test and innovate on our infrastructure requirements without having to commit to fixed term contacts, saving us costs. The introduction of new services on a continuous basis also has a significant impact on our strategy and how we manage our infrastructure.
For example, we were able to quickly create a few Amazon EC2 instances and direct some of our production data traffic to those instances to validate whether the existing instance is underutilized. This proved quite vital when we purchased a 3-year reserved instance on one of our biggest infrastructures (what we call our app03, i.e. the server that handles our configuration, reporting, email/pdf generation as well as our supplier integrations).
What we noticed is that the server is over-utilized and we ended up purchasing a smaller reserved instance and downscaled that instance by a lower tier, which saved us 50% of the costs.
TS: What is the business impact this enables?
It gives us the flexibility to test new structures or services without having to commit to them. We can pick and choose the structures and services that suit our business requirements.
TS: How have AWS solutions impacted end-users of your services?
The ability to host data in different regions has been extremely important for Hepstar, being a B2B company and having to manage the various data compliance requirements of our different partners.
Since we’re able to host and store our infrastructure in Ireland, this enabled us to activate business with European travel distributors which prefer data to be stored in the EU (Amongst other GDPR requirements) to avoid the red tape associated with foreign processing.
AWS is known for its strong security protocols and has a strong brand of trust. This has provided comfort to our clients and product suppliers.
TS: How does this enable your business to stand out in the market?
The ability to create a copy of our existing infrastructure and replicate it for another client or in another region using AWS CloudFormation saves us so much time and technical resourcing. There has been an increased demand from our clients and suppliers for data isolation in order to protect customer and business interest in such data due to the restrictions on data-sharing and reselling. AWS CloudFormation enables us to set up dedicated, ring-fenced data infrastructure for key clients or partners with very little effort.
AWS’s ability to automatically handle the infrastructure (speed of setting up, handle the backing up of data, automatically scaling the infrastructure when there’s a demand for it) opens up resourcing for us to focus on our technology (software) allowing us to innovate faster and stay ahead of the curve.
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