The current state of e-commerce is highly dynamic and it has never been the same; riding on the great strides that technology has taken and provided impetus to innovations in the domain such as online payments and social networking thus spurring online consumer retail behaviour. The entrepreneurs see this as a great opportunity and obviously, they want to be a part of this exciting and hopefully fruitful journey. The dynamism of the online retail industry has excited not just the entrepreneurs but also the investors, brands, and service providers who want to start early and ride on the early bird advantage. Although there is still a lot of space for everyone to grow, the sheer scale of the industry and sense of immediate involvement lead to the crowding of the still-growing space and everyone seems to be jostling for putting their foot in. When push comes to shove, it is important that the businesses employ those strategies that leverage the best technology to attract new customers and retain the existing ones.
As the business improves, platforms that host customers grow in size putting enormous pressures on the IT infrastructure. IT teams seldom realize the exponential nature of these demands and face challenges further on. It is thus imperative that the teams supporting the e-commerce and online SAAS, PAAS platforms must wisely choose the components and plan their infrastructure in such as way that the experience for the customer not just stabilises but also improves with the growing business. All this is required to be done without an increase in the rate of the share of the expenses in the overall business.
E-commerce on an ever aggressive growth trajectory
The last decade has been a very exciting one for the e-commerce industry. The growth of the socially connected millennials has driven the e-commerce industry in totally unexpected ways. This influx of new and large consumer base has fuelled unexpected growth in the e-commerce industry. Millennials have at the same time spurred the earlier generation to embrace technology and e-commerce much faster. This new mega wave of demand has further facilitated the growth of turnkey and micro e-commerce solutions and services such as Woocommerce and Shopify.
The traditional brick and mortar brands are not just compelled to consider but are also excited about the e-commerce space. More and more brands are transforming and scaling up their traditional production and supply chains capacities to adapt to the new truth. These brands don’t want to lose the game on the technology turf and the new entrants see a level playing field when it comes to retailing on e-commerce.
While the traditional players are trying to playing their strengths by giving discounts, cross-selling and partnering with big service providers, the smaller ones are upping the game by establishing competitive technological benchmarks and innovating in the fields of micro-distribution and deliveries. But what is critical for both the type of businesses is the quality of IT infrastructure that keeps the business operations going. Be it customer support functions, financial transactions, supply chain management or even marketing, all the business modules, today, run implicitly on the IT infrastructure. The companies, thus, need to develop impeccable backend infrastructure to handle growing internal and external demands. While focussing on the growth of a business, the IT infrastructure must also be fine-tuned to ensure privacy, security and safety of the data.
Comparing state of the art cloud solutions with traditional solutions on offer, for e-commerce
With not just the consumer behaviour in view but also looking at the volatile nature of the internet, the companies that have a majority of their business online must chart out the strategy to better address the challenges thrown by changing online trends to compete and win. Cloud is the solution for those companies that still believe in and rely on traditional platforms to offer online services to their consumers. These platforms pose significant risks in the form of:-
High infrastructure costs
Traditional IT infrastructure translates to on-premise physical servers that are typically co-located with other infrastructure components in more often sub-standard physical centres. Expanding these physical centres require provisioning and scaling up of not just the IT infrastructure but also other requirements including space, electricity backups, physical security. Provisioning these on-the-fly is expensive as well as sometimes impractical.
Cloud-based hosting resolves these issues seamlessly. Hosting on a cloud provider would eliminate the upfront costs associated with scaling up of the traditional infrastructure elements. Not just these but the resources on the cloud are generally priced on a pay-as-you-go model and can be scaled up or down depending on the running requirements which often prove cost-effective.
Cumbersome maintenance and operations
Owning and scaling the IT infrastructure is part of the whole IT ownership problem. Specialist manpower is required to manage the infrastructure. Planning of infrastructure and carrying out critical deployment functions such as on-demand scaling, load balancing, disaster recovery is complicated and require prior experience and solid know how. Ad-hoc manpower can’t be used for such infrastructure management activities while developing and managing monitoring tools and processes is a cost centre in itself.
Cloud scores handsomely in this area as well, as it brings the costs considerably down by providing automated tools that make updates and maintenance more and easily manageable. Costs on the account of specialist manpower required for deployment of these tools and resources are saved too. Today, cloud infrastructure providers offer efficient scaling up and down of the infrastructure resources.
Lack of demand forecasting and management
The inherent nature of the internet is its wide reach. Any online e-commerce provider now can sell their wares to anyone sitting in any part of the world. But this boon has a big flip side for the back office.
One of the technical flip sides is traffic. While spikes in traffic would be good news for the sales team, these would ring alarm bells for the infrastructure teams. Unpredictable fluctuations lead to inefficient resource utilization. These could both be over-utilization leading to burnouts and under-utilization leading to irrational costs.
These issues are addressed by the auto-scaling features available on the cloud. These features allow managers to align costs with the demands. The business owners could optimize costs by ordering any number of servers and related resources only in peak hours while withdrawing some at the time of low traffic and demand.
Vulnerabilities and other security issues
Let alone the GDPR compliance, the e-commerce business require sophisticated security preparedness. Along with the privacy management, the platform needs to secure payment data including credit card information, and personal customer details such as name, physical addresses, SSN and phone/mobile numbers.
Cloud-based infrastructure provides much better security support and compliance by provided updated advanced and highly sophisticated defence mechanisms. These components provide safety against data thefts and other malicious attacks such as new DDoS.
Upcoming sections on this documents would list a few important solutions offered by Alibaba Cloud along with corresponding solutions available in the market.
Alibaba Cloud-based e-commerce solution offerings
Cloud-based computing solution for e-commerce is a collection of services that are optimized for high traffic and big data services. These solutions assist companies in running their e-commerce businesses with the facility to scale-up on-demand. The companies can rely on cloud platforms to handle traffic spikes, scale up/down their IT infrastructure components while keeping control over the associated costs.
There are a number of cloud providers in the market but Alibaba Cloud stands apart from them in terms of the expertise and experience. No other provider comes even close to the quality and price that Alibaba Cloud offers to the e-commerce based enterprises.
Alibaba Cloud handles the annual Single’s Day festival. The annual Single’s Day or Double 11 sales festival is the world’s largest online shopping festival. Single’s Day is traditionally celebrated on 11 November and was supposedly started by Chinese bachelor university students. Companies offer great discounts on this day akin to Black Friday and Cyber Monday events in the US. Shoppers spent more than the US $25 billion on the single’s day in 2017 smashing all previous records. Alibaba Cloud hosted the event for Alibaba’s Singles’ Day Shopping Festival with 15 million products listed while processing 812 million orders and 1.48 billion payments in the span of just 24 hours. These translated to almost 300,000 transactions per second in peak periods. Alibaba Cloud provided uninterrupted service throughout the event. This was done with the help of proprietary cloud batch-data processing platform built by Alibaba Cloud.
The same highly sophisticated solutions that power Alibaba is accessible to any enterprise through Alibaba Cloud’s e-commerce solutions. Enterprises can build their e-commerce offering riding on the Alibaba Cloud expertise while reducing their Operational & Management costs. At the same time, these businesses can leverage state-of-art Alibaba Cloud layered security protection and high business concurrency ability. In addition to these, the big data toolsets offered by Alibaba Cloud enable the enterprises to process ultra-large data sets thereby getting actionable insights enabling business-critical decisions.
Alibaba Cloud solution recommendations for Small Businesses
Millennials around the world are entrepreneurial in nature and startup businesses are launched every day around the world. Although backed by investments by venture firms, these businesses are tasked with creating low-cost efficient businesses with mandates on creating efficient, fast, secure and user-friendly offerings. Many a time, these firms are self-financed too which make requirements of low-cost infrastructures imperative.
A few requirements that these e-commerce platforms have are:-
- Hosting space for the website
- Scalable infrastructure to handle a traffic of 1,000 to 10,000 page views per day with variable peak-times
- Efficient database systems to handle 1,000 to 10,000 transactions per day with variable peak-times
- Minimal upfront setup and deployment costs
- User-friendly monitoring and maintenance, and operations and management tools and services
Below is the outline of a few of the important components that are a part of the proprietary platform built by Alibaba Cloud
- Alibaba Cloud Web Application Firewall (WAF) along with Server Guard and Situational Awareness provide efficient protection against prevalent DDoS attacks and other common cyber-attacks. AWF provides features like intrusion prevention by perceiving and negating attack threats by using data modelling and machine learning. Other innovative security management solutions are bundled to provide a well rounded secured service to the customers. On the same layer, the Cloud Monitor enables monitoring of applications. It triggers alarms in case of events such as service availability and provides comprehensive sets of metrics that give clear indications on server loads, usage and performance and other health indicators of Alibaba Cloud resources.
- Server Load Balancer works to contain single-point-of-failure (SPOF) scenarios and provide stability at the time of high spiking traffic and massive concurrent demands. Server Load Balancer scales up the ECS instance on the basis of runtime business demands. These are especially effective while running promotional events that expect many fold increase in traffic for a short amount of time.
- Alibaba Cloud RDS (Relational Database Service) manages the structured data. The active/standby RDS architecture prevents SPOFs for various modules. These modules could be any of the business-critical functions including orders and payments processing, inventory indications, batch updates and other data related components.
Few components recommended for an e-commerce service are
- Managed Server Security Service
Highlights of Alibaba Cloud offering for small business
- Fast deployment of infrastructure components through a user-friendly console
- Ease of use and integration
- Dependable operational stability
- Flexible payment models sans upfront costs. Also, included pay-as-you-go models of payments support small businesses.
- Professional, fast and effective 24×7 support which make Operations & Maintenance easy and cost-effective
In addition to the small businesses, Alibaba Cloud offers equally excellent, cost-effective, efficient and scalable solutions for Mid and Large-sized enterprises.