Loyalty New Zealand nears finish line for cloud migration project

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Loyalty New Zealand nears finish line for cloud migration project

Looks to build on its new foundations.

Loyalty New Zealand, the company behind Aotearoa New Zealand’s Flybuys brand, is set to finalise the migration of all of its on-premises systems to AWS by February next year.

The company has been using AWS in some capacity since 2013 but ramped up its efforts in October 2019.

The company has decommissioned three of its four legacy on-premises based systems – its loyalty transactional system, data warehouse and analytics solution, and e-commerce foundations for its Flybuys Store - moving instead to run on newer platforms that back onto AWS, Loyalty NZ chief data, analytics and technology officer Brian Ferris told iTnews. 

The transactional system was rebuilt using an SOA architecture in the cloud.

The data warehouse has been replaced with a bespoke data platform largely built on AWS S3 and Amazon Athena, and Jupyter Notebooks and Tableau at the frontend.

"We've rebuilt our old data warehouse... we've now got a data platform," Ferris added in an AWS presentation back in July.

"We're actually looking beyond that. We're seeing that's good for now but what do we need in the future so we're looking more towards a true data fabric where we're looking to heavily automate everything, leverage machine learning, and maybe some AI."

Ferris said that the company had "a pretty chunky data asset", with 2.9 million members and 25 years of data.

"Historically, we knew we wanted to mine that and get all the value out but we just couldn't," he said.

"At one stage in the previous solution, our daily load took 27 hours. You do the maths, figure out what that means.

"Now with the cloud solution - and we're getting better, we've still got tuning to do - but we're now running that in about four hours. So a colossal difference, and we've got a long way to go yet."

The e-commerce store is now built on an integration of Magento and Akeneo running on AWS; moving it to run on the AWS cloud “made a big difference" to online sales events like Black Friday and Cyber Monday, where transaction processing volumes increase “exponentially," Ferris said.

Hosting of the company's website remains on-premises for now.

Loyalty New Zealand had intended to migrate the website onto AWS infrastructure before Christmas 2021, but the work was delayed until February 2022 due to lockdowns in Wellington, where its current data centre is.

Ferris said the delay was due to “one tiny little test” that needed physical data centre access to be performed; something that had been impossible due to Covid restrictions.

"It's a classic example of why on-premises is a challenge," he said.

"We needed to do a test, and we needed to get into the data centres. It's only a 15 minute test but if it went wrong, it could have taken down the website and we couldn't do that until we dropped to level two [restrictions in Wellington].

"So that put a delay [on the website migration], which is not the end of the world, but it's frustrating.

"It's one of those things you don't [encounter] on a cloud-deployed solution so we're looking forward to February, when our last [anchor system] will be moved up into the cloud, and we will have no on-premises solutions at all."

The company’s internal IT team worked closely with AWS and cloud partner The Instillery on the multi-year migration project.

Both AWS and The Instillery ran well-architected reviews, a framework and tool available to AWS users to compare an implementation to current best practice.

"The reviews generated significant savings for us, not just in dollars, but in efficiency of how we're running because often the two go hand-in-hand," Ferris said.

"There were no earth shattering changes there we had to make - what we were doing was pretty good - but over the course of the review The Instillery did for us on all our transactional systems, there was nearly a 10 percent saving in our cloud run costs [achieved], which also made things run faster."

Ferris said that savings had been reinvested into innovating more on top of its cloud foundations.

Loyalty New Zealand also called upon VMware to help it clone and migrate VMs to run in AWS, which Ferris said resulted in more time savings on the program of work.

However, Ferris added that the most valuable factor in ensuring the success of the project was buy-in from across the executive. 

“The very initial planning of the project was done by myself and the chief marketing officer. We worked together really closely to identify what those priorities were for the whole organisation,” Ferris said.

He said that he and the CMO were “joined at the hip”, which ensured the project stayed on track and funded.

Ferris said this set the stage for a wider cultural shift within the company.

“We're seeing partnerships like that pairing up at different levels in the organisation – the tech lead and a business lead," he said.

"It's now become very natural in many parts of the organisation that that's how we deliver [projects].

"It took a lot of effort to actually make that real, but I feel like it is now and I think it is actually genuine through the organisation, and it makes a difference.”

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