With the second wave of coronavirus sweeping across the nation, experts predict a greater percentage of this year’s holiday shopping to be conducted online than ever before. In fact, a recent National Retail Federation Holiday 2020 survey predicts that “digital purchases will be the primary driver of growth this year” with 96% of respondents expecting more online-only holiday sales as consumers are less likely to visit actual stores.

While retailers have prepared for the shopping onslaught with everything from deeper discounts to faster supply chains, they also need to ensure that their ecommerce systems can withstand the increased traffic that will trigger bigger loads across their entire IT infrastructure.

In 2019, two big retailers — Nordstrom Rack and Costco — suffered from underperforming ecommerce sites over the Thanksgiving shopping weekend. As this Business Insider article points out, Costco’s website outage could have cost the retailer $11million in lost sales.

Clearly, retailers everywhere want to ensure that their ecommerce systems are available, secure and fast throughout the shopping frenzy. Major retailers have deployed the HAProxy Enterprise Load Balancer, the world’s fastest and most widely used software load balancer, in front of their ecommerce sites for load balancing, high availability and application acceleration.

HAProxy Enterprise customers value the 24-by-7 service contract that comes with HAProxy Enterprise. A member of the authoritative HAProxy support team is always available to help identify and resolve issues.

In fact, the support team at HAProxy Technologies suggests that adequately preparing for the holiday online shopping tsunami is key to optimizing seasonal ecommerce opportunities. HAProxy Technologies works hand-in-hand with its retail customers to review their architectures well in advance of the holiday season to ensure that everything will be in tip-top shape and ready to handle any sudden traffic surges.

Preparing for a Traffic Surge

Metrics — Make sure there is good visibility into the underlying system metrics so that any metrics running close to the red-line can be identified and rectified before peak shopping times. Also, if anything unusual does occur during critical periods, the causes can be more quickly identified. The blog post, HAProxy Exposes a Prometheus Metrics Endpoint, is a good place to start for anyone who wants to dig deeper on their system’s metrics.

Redundancy — There should be enough redundancy in the event of a disaster. This can be achieved simply by running the HAProxy Enterprise VRRP module, which enables active-standby mode, though for larger systems an active-active cluster via BGP or a more complicated solution like a cloud Terraform setup is more appropriate. This both ensures that if more resources are required they can be readily available and if anything goes wrong another node is ready to take traffic over for it.

DDoS/Bot Protection — Having some rules in place for DDoS protection and Bot protection is also a good idea, as it is harder to add protection when everything is down than to ensure it’s in place beforehand.

Managing the Shopping Onslaught

Having a successful holiday season boils down to having knowledgeable support for each piece of infrastructure available. Employees need to understand how all the pieces fit together to resolve questionable metrics (identified by the graphs/alerts set up beforehand) before they become a problem. Should the worst happen and there is a service degradation, they can then quickly and accurately identify the cause.

For HAProxy Enterprise customers, our support team is hypervigilant over the Black Friday weekend. In fact, some of our enterprise customers even contract with us to have dedicated staff available to their IT teams.

One large retailer powers its in-store purchasing processes via the HAProxy Enterprise load balancer, which guarantees that its performance, observability, and security scale alongside shopping traffic during the peak holiday shopping season. One of the greatest benefits to their being an HAProxy Enterprise customer is that HAProxy Technologies provides dedicated engineers throughout the event. As a result, the company’s payment processing can maintain its high availability and speed, no matter how many of its customers take advantage of its seasonal deals.

A second HAProxy Enterprise customer takes advantage of our support contract to make sure they are well prepared to deal with big surges in e-commerce activity, such as those surrounding the Black Friday to Cyber Monday weekend. Working with the HAProxy Technologies support staff, its IT staff reviews the configurations and architecture around its load balancers several weeks before Black Friday to make sure everything is bullet proof. HAProxy Technologies also makes dedicated resources available throughout the holiday season to ensure that its platform operates quickly and efficiently no matter how big of a shopping surge it experiences.

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