Diwali lights RedBus way to cloud computing
RedBus' inter-city buses in Bangalore, India
How did Diwali, the ancient Hindu "festival of lights," spark the novel idea of online bus ticketing in India?
How did Red Bus, India's largest bus ticketing company, thrust its way to become 15 times larger than its nearest competitor?
What gave the RedBus CTO the peace of mind as he boarded financial apps on the cloud amid data security concerns?
Founded in 2005, RedBus is an Indian travel agency that sells bus tickets throughout India. The bus tickets are purchased through the company’s Website or through the Web services of its agents and partners. The company also offers SaaS-based software that gives bus operators the option of handling their own ticketing and managing their own inventories.
To date, RedBus has already sold two million plus bus tickets, and has more than 100 bus operators using the software to manage their operations. At present, RedBus has 700 inter-city bus operators, out of the total 1,200 inter-city bus operators in India.
|"We are completely on AWS now, including our financial management applications."|
-- Charan Padmaraju, co-founder and CTO, RedBus
The story opened on a day in October 2005, when online bus ticketing was still non-existent. One of the RedBus founders failed to get a bus ticket to return home for Diwali -- the most important Hindu festival for family get-together.
While the rest is history, the RedBus founder decided to build a common bus ticketing platform which would build on "a common server where all bus operators could offer tickets on a first-come-first-served basis," so bus tickets would be as easily purchasable as air or train tickets.
After using one of the traditional data centers for over a year, however, RedBus quickly ran into the problem of scaling. "The procurement of new servers, upgrading existing servers and most of the developer's time went into circumventing scaling issues which were not adding values to our core business. That's when we decided to try out the cloud," said Charan Padmaraju, co-founder and CTO, who currently heads an IT team of 20.
Cloud strategy 2008
"We wanted the developers to focus on developing and enhancing the application that would improve our offerings to customers and not spend unproductive time on IT infrastructure," Padmaraju added, "having run pilot tests and proof of concept, we learned and gained experience on how to operate in the cloud which helped us to build our cloud strategy in 2008."
In the early phase of RedBus operation, the company had fixed number of servers with limited capability which failed to scale at all.
"We also didn't have much option in choosing computing resources, configuration and the types of operating systems we want. Moreover, procuring a new server or upgrading an existing server took more than two weeks! For examples, once we wanted to open a port on one of our servers and it took two days," said Padmaraju.
"On another occasion, the memory size wasn't enough to service the workload, the process to upgrade took more than a month and our business took a hit -- this is when we decided that we had enough of this infrastructure constraint and moved our entire infrastructure to AWS [Amazon Web Services]," he added.
Before AWS, RedBus was unable to service its customers in a quick turnaround time frame. "After moving to AWS, our traffic has increased more than 50%! We are now able to launch multiple products for bus operators on SaaS model. This is possible only in a cloud platform due to its elasticity and scalability." According to Padmaraju, RedBus have also been able to fully tap its analytics requirement with AWS."
From database, storage to monitoring
RedBus selected AWS for its "great reviews" and "a whole breadth of services that help businesses of all sizes." According to the CTO, Other key benefits for RedBus are:
Resource control. "We can build any application we want using any platform or any programming model or operating systems. We control the resources consume, fit them into our applications as we see fit, pay as we use, giving us exactly the flexibility and scalability we need," Padmaraju said.
"We are now able to launch multiple products for bus operators on SaaS model. This is possible only in a cloud platform due to its elasticity and scalability."
-- Charan Padmaraju, co-founder and CTO, RedBus
Secure scaling. "We can create and destroy a virtual server instance any time very securely on AWS platform, and we have complete control over our firewall and authorization needs which give us peace of mind."
Hop and go. "We do not have to start from scratch. AWS gives us a whole breath of services such as databases, storage, messaging, content delivery, monitoring among others that can be incorporated into our applications. These services help us build great applications for our customers easily and quickly."
Transparent pricing structure. "We like the fact that AWS has a transparent pricing structure with a great selection of configuration and types that allow us to choose any combinations that suit our requirements. We pay as we use: no upfront commitment, no contract and we can make changes to scale dynamically as we go," said Padmaraju.
Financial apps to board cloud
Initially, RedBus used AWS to build one of its new SaaS offerings for its customers. Benefitting from a smooth and easy process of hosting and managing the cloud service, Padmaraju decided to move RedBus' entire infrastructure to AWS.
"We are completely on AWS now, including our financial management applications. With their global scale and years of experience handling infrastructure serving so many customers of every imaginable scenarios, we believe that AWS is more secure and reliable than any traditional data center or cloud providers," said Padmaraju.
"There were some initial concerns about moving to the cloud like security and support as people thought we will have to do everything by ourselves once we move to the cloud. That fear turned out to be baseless as AWS resources, support and knowledge base have been very helpful for customers. In fact, the migration to AWS cloud actually made our lives a lot easier."
Off the bus with 3rd party apps
Currently, RedBus is using a number of third party applications to handle messaging queues and load monitoring. Its next goal is to remove all such third party apps and rely on similar services provided by AWS in order to focus completely on its core business.
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