Established in 1979, Senao International is a subsidiary of Taiwan’s incumbent mobile and broadband carrier, Chunghwa Telecom. The company sells mobile phones and related subscription plans, game consoles, and digital-home solutions. With more than 550 retail outlets in the country, Senao’s selling strategy is to drive maximum foot traffic to its stores, where trained salespeople meet with current and prospective customers. The business also focuses on an omni-channel strategy that seeks to provide customers with an integrated shopping experience.
In 2016, Senao’s management decided they needed an e-commerce site to maintain market share and attract more customers to their stores. Nearly all of Senao’s competitors already had an online sales platform, so the company wanted to launch something quickly with minimal discussion time and cost outlay. The new system had to be compliant with the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS), and credit card data required encryption. Aloysius Chang, DevSecOps manager at Senao, was hired to spearhead the project.
The company was also experiencing high volumes of downtime with its customer relationship management (CRM) system. “When one instance or one machine would shut down, our whole CRM system wouldn’t be of service to other systems,” says Chang. With downtime often approaching one week, Senao was ready to migrate the system to a new solution with high availability. In addition, when the system hit capacity, developers had to manually add resources and allow it to cool down before accessing CRM data. Thus, scalability was also important.
Another problematic area was the company’s point of sales (POS) system, which like its CRM platform, was built on traditional on-premises data centers. Security issues were arising with its POS and company websites, and Senao struggled to identify the source of breaches.
The figure below illustrates Senao’s environment on AWS:
Chang, who came to Senao with prior experience using Amazon Web Services (AWS), immediately recommended the AWS Cloud to quickly launch the e-commerce site. He had the support of key executives, namely the company president and department vice president, who recognized the advantage of cloud architecture in reducing time-to-market. They made training resources available to the IT team, who were initially reluctant to switch to the cloud, to help them become familiar with AWS architecture. The team attended monthly workshops held in their region, and the AWS account rep organized a dedicated, one-day, on-premises training session.
Senao implemented AWS Key Management Service (AWS KMS) to fulfill the PCI DSS requirement on the new site. AWS WAF – Web Application Firewall is used to protect its new and existing web applications, and the company takes advantage of AWS Lambda(Lambda) to automate control of its AWS WAF policies. Lambda is also used with Amazon CloudWatch (CloudWatch) to monitor Senao’s new CRM system. The business migrated all CRM applications to the cloud, utilizing Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2) computing power with load balancers and Amazon Relational Database Service (Amazon RDS) to manage customer data. Amazon CloudFront provides a secure POS interface, and Senao stores all user logs from CloudWatch and Amazon CloudFront for analysis on Amazon Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3).
"Once we implemented AWS WAF and automated control with AWS Lambda, we were about 90% faster in finding problems with our website and POS systems."
Using AWS, Senao has improved online security, eliminated downtime, and reduced the time and effort required to maintain company systems. It was able to launch its e-commerce site within a month of beginning development. “If we had built the site on a traditional data center, I think it would have taken us almost a year,” says Chang.
Today the e-commerce site has about 10,000 visits per month and brings in about 20 percent of total revenue. Although it is not a primary driver of business, the site serves Senao’s business goal of “online to offline,” encouraging people to visit its stores to boost transaction volume.
Chang admits that before AWS, Senao lacked strong security protocols, making the firm vulnerable to intrusions. Now, AWS WAF helps protect company websites and the POS system, and all customer data is encrypted using AWS KMS. “For every system access on AWS, we can easily view stored logs on Amazon S3 and parcel through all the logs to find the hacker or unauthorized person trying to access our data center,” says Chang. “Once we implemented AWS WAF and automated control with Lambda, we were about 90% faster in finding problems with our website and POS systems.”
Migration of the CRM system was simple, and in the 3 months since project completion, there has been no downtime reported. This virtually unlimited availability and automatic scaling have resulted in far less maintenance time for engineers and developers. Senao has set the system to auto-scale overnight without interrupting big processing jobs for its database. For systems maintenance, what was once a four-hour daily workload has been reduced to 90 minutes, cutting processing time by 63 percent.
Chang says the team is now very happy with the convenience of its AWS platform. “We don’t need to wait for any resources or consider capacity for our resources ahead of time. Developers just open a case [when they need more computing power] and DevOps will assign new resources to them so they can keep on developing their projects.”
With the time saved, Chang’s team has been able to undergo more in-depth training, and all 3 team members will take the AWS Certified Solutions Architect – Associate exam this year. They are also working on new analytics projects involving data on user behavior collected on the e-commerce site and through the new POS system, and they are testing Amazon Redshift as a data warehouse. Senao is considering another project for next year using Amazon Athena to analyze data logs for automation reports.
For Senao, moving to the cloud has opened new doors of opportunity for the next stage of business. Chang concludes, “When you start using AWS, you will never go back to traditional data centers.”
Aloysius Chang, DevSecOps Manager
Once we implemented AWS WAF and automated control with AWS Lambda, we were about 90% faster in finding problems with our website and POS systems.