Auto information business puts pedal to the metal on cloud

Cloud computing has offered auto maintenance information provider Infomedia reduced processing time, more integrated development and operations teams, and also assures seamless customer contact.
Written by Drew Turney, Contributor

Infomedia is a global auto service and maintenance information hub responsible for accumulating, processing and delivering information about auto parts and service to dealerships around the world.

Infomedia's director of IT and development, Nicolas Fogg

95 percent of the Sydney-based company's business is exports to support the world's leading car dealerships, and Infomedia deals with almost a terabyte of data per week. Director of IT and development, Nicolas Fogg, says the company found itself 'drowning in data'.

So he turned to Amazon Web Services to manage and streamline data processing and publishing. "Our applications were traditionally fixed, leased from a hosting provider," Fogg says. "Each week we'd have to restart and upgrade the servers that ran our applications. It went okay until it didn't, and it was really disruptive to customers."

Fogg says the attraction of AWS was a global footprint and the ability to automate infrastructure and duplicate systems for testing prior to deployment. "It doesn't impact service to our customers and we can provide a seamless user experience for them."

With flexible infrastructure and APIs to write programs that automate services, he says Infomedia's experience has been positive, letting the company accelerate innovation delivery and enhance quality control.

"We've gone from shipping CDs to customers to delivering Software-as-a-service (SaaS)," Fogg adds. "Now, it's not only the same experience no matter which shop you walk into around the world, we have a globally redundant environment where users can be serving the same application from the data centre nearest to them."

Using cloud computing doesn't only mean service has improved thus far, it puts increasing innovation at Infomedia's disposal as they keep looking for ways to improve customer experience. A recent change has seen the use of AWS's latest generation input/output-intensive I2 instances, "designed to deliver tens of thousands of low-latency random operations per second to applications", according to AWS.  "We're seeing significant improvement in our data processing jobs on these instances," Fogg says. "It's reduced processing time by 33 to 66 percent."

Perhaps most crucial of all, there hasn't been a disruption to the way system administrators normally work. Fogg says AWS provides 'programmatic' access to all the functions IT staff would normally define with physical infrastructure (like cabling) and stand-alone appliance configuration, something he says gives Infomedia the opportunity to blur the line between application and infrastructure.

"We embrace the concept of developers and operations working collaboratively," he says, "and AWS automation allows application and infrastructure to do the same. When the two are aware of each other and act as one, it offers new and interesting capabilities."

It also means his team has access to new skills like programming and scripting that they didn't use when dealing with traditional infrastructure. Thanks to a mindset shift away from immutable, rigid infrastructure towards a more fluid and adaptable view, developers can work with the infrastructure team to embed the needs of the new paradigm into application design from the get-go.

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