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App Man has Beers with Santa Claus

Hey Santa Claus, what’s happening man?

Well, it’s that time of year again where unfortunately I have to work. Gift orders are up 50% and my elves are working their socks off right now stocking my warehouses for the big day. I honestly don’t know how I would have coped without my new ElfOps team–they’ve been elastic and fantastic thanks to our new AWS hosted applications. The bad news is that my applications have processed record orders in 2011 so I’ll have to work harder. Frankly, this sucks.

Come again? Santa is using the cloud?

Isn’t everyone these days? I mean what else can I possibly do when my orders and subscriptions double each year? If Santa can’t scale, I spend my vacation reading angry letters from parents about how I made their kids cry and upset on Christmas Day. Forget that. I’d rather sit on a beach in Hawaii drinking Mojito’s catching a nice tan. In fact, I should be able to upgrade myself to the Four Seasons in Hawaii in 2012 due to the money I’ve saved by migrating to the cloud. You simply wouldn’t believe how much my own data center was costing me, not to mention those expensive IT Elf consultants I had to bring in. I’m now a lean mean parcel delivering machine and it’s all thanks to the cloud.

Hey Santa, forgot to ask–what you drinking?

I’ll take a sherry, straight, shaken, but not stirred.

So why did your ElfOps team go with AWS?

Two reasons, really. The first has a lot to do with agility: not many cloud providers can spin up 5,000 nodes on the fly in a short period of time. Given the fluctuation of order volumes for Christmas, we simply can’t predict when orders will be received. Therefore, we need a cloud that is truly elastic and agile. For example, when Call of Duty Modern Warefare 3 was released on 10th November we almost brought down AWS due to the overwhelming demand. I think we needed almost 7,000 nodes to process the millions of orders we received over a weekend. The second reason is our applications are heavily distributed across multiple services, with several of those services connected to the retail arm of Amazon. It seemed like a natural fit to leverage Amazon EC2 given many of our applications were already leveraging Amazon web services API to keep our supply chain and order management ticking. Cost savings were an afterthought, really. In fact, I cleared my large data center out and used it as another warehouse to keep my stock onsite. Nothing worse than having to travel backwards and forwards to different stock depots on Christmas eve.

You’ll have to excuse me but I’ve never heard of the term ElfOps. Can you explain?

Sure. In the past we had Develfment who used to build applications, and Operations who used to deploy and support them. It got to the point where our agile release cycles were causing application outages, arguments, and constant fighting between the two teams. I therefore decided to merge them both into a single team which I called ElfOps. I believe IT should work together as a team, because if my applications go down or they don’t perform, I’ll end up kicking both their sorry asses anyway. I now have team that collaborates, communicates and is together accountable for making my business agile. It also means I do less work because pretty much everything is automated…apart from feeding the, reindeers that is. I had hoped this deployment tool we bought called Chef might help with that, but sadly it didn’t.

How does ElfOps manage application performance in the cloud?

Is that a rhetorical question, App Man? You know we use AppDynamics for this. Our applications these days are heavily distributed, complex and agile. Previously we had Wily Coyote to manage our application performance when it was just a a bunch of tomcat nodes. After we moved to a SOA and Cloud architecture, we were unable to get the same visibility we had due to monitoring limitations–not to mention dealing with a big 5 vendor. Can you believe that coyote tried to crank my support and maintenance up after being a loyal customer for five years?! With AppDynamics, my ElfOps team gets a complete end-to-end picture of application performance in the cloud, and we only pay for what we use thanks to your flexible subscription based pricing and SaaS platform.

What’s next for Santa?

Well, I’ve got a few research projects on the go. Every year I receive several billion gift orders for kids between the ages of 1 and 18. To improve my supply chain, inventory, and delivery schedules I’m looking at Big Data technology like Elfdoop Map/Reduce to try and discover patterns in my business so I can become more efficient, which basically means I don’t have to work as hard. For example, knowing that most kids in the UK want snooker tables as gifts means I can distribute snooker tables to my secret stock depot in the UK before Christmas Eve, whereas knowing kids in the US want baseball bats means I don’t have to ship snooker tables across the Atlantic. You wouldn’t believe how many reindeers it takes to ship a snooker table several thousand miles! Big Data is therefore a massive opportunity for me to better understand my customers, orders, and supply chain.

Maybe you could use Big Data to figure out which kids have been good at school over the year? Strike a deal with the schools to give you each student’s report, and then only deliver gifts to kids who’ve been good! You’ll save millions.

App Man, you’re a lot smarter than you look.

Lastly, who is your favorite superhero and why?

Hmm that’s a tough one. I’d have to say Postman Pat because like me, he has a red company car and always delivers on time.

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