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February 13, 2014updated 22 Sep 2016 11:06am

What drove one bus company to change its IT infrastructure?

Private cloud provides highly available and resilient ecommerce site for Arriva Bus.

By Vinod

Arriva Bus provides transportation services across the UK and has an estimated 770 million passengers on board per year. Their website serves not only as a reference point for customer information including timetables and service updates but also as a transactional site for ticket purchasing and order transaction. With a growing number of passengers and an increasing demand for real-time access to Bus information from mobile devices, updating its online ticketing facility was mission critical for Arriva Bus’s operations. The company therefore recruited digital marketing specialist Freestyle Interactive to create its new ecommerce platform and Six Degrees Group’s (6DG) high quality, resilient, secure hosting infrastructure to underpin the environment.

The challenge

To deal with the increasing demands, Arriva Bus approached Freestyle Interactive to design a new ecommerce platform on its website that allows passengers to access ticket purchasing facilities, up-to-the-minute service information and route details on the go. The explosion of smartphone devices meant that the company needed a mobile-friendly site with significantly more capacity.

The original Arriva Bus infrastructure was hosted on dedicated servers, with an over-engineered set up that struggled to handle traffic spikes, typical of a transport company. With a website receiving traffic 24/7 and with vulnerability to the seasonality and peak hours, Arriva Bus needed a solution that was highly available, resilient and scalable.

6DG deployed a highly available, elastic and scalable web hosting platform with a fully managed backup and disaster recovery solution in a geographically diverse location. The primary environment is set up on a single-tenant private cloud hosted in a dedicated rack in the 6DG Tier 4 datacentre. The private cloud consists of 3 HP blade servers with 3Par SAN for live storage. The virtualisation deployment consists of 12 VMs spread across the 5 physicals in high availability mode with VMware as the hypervisor. The VMs consist of a mix of production web servers, development web servers, back-end databases and caching servers. Being fully scalable, a private cloud configuration allows for additional resources (physical and/or virtual) to be added, facilitating either short-term bursting or long-term growth.

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The solution is backed up on a second environment sitting on a virtual private cloud on 6DG’s multi-tenant platform in London. With fully managed backup for storage with reserved compute power matching the primary environment, this hybrid cloud configuration allows both full disaster recovery and the potential for additional burst capacity. Arriva Bus opted for an SLA for the Recovery Point Objective (RPO) and Recovery Time objective (RTO) of 24 hours and 4 hours respectively.

Freestyle Interactive technical director, Paul Taylor, says: "With the constant change and development in mobile technology we are seeing more and more demand for clients to have a payment system that its customers can access from the convenience of their home and on the move. This was the case for Arriva Bus – it needed a ticketing option that its customers could access whilst travelling at any point of the day and at any location.

"Six Degrees Group was able to work with us to create and provide a hosting platform that met the brief and as mobile continues to increase in popularity this solution will become crucial to Arriva Bus’s operations and to its customers."

The benefits

Freestyle benefits from a unique dual-zone two-site primary and secondary hosting platform. This allowed the site to be built with a phased approached, making it more flexible for building, testing and deployment. Arriva Bus was able to introduce a new online service and applications to the public, safe in the knowledge that their information is safe, secure, backed up and with business continuity and disaster recovery backed into the solution.

The mobile ticketing and the iPhone, iPad, Android and BlackBerry apps provide an online environment that is able to stand up to the significant increase in traffic it faces, with cloud scalability built in. Subsequently, the private cloud has a virtual private cloud twin environment delivering managed backup and disaster recovery services for resilience, diversity and worst-case-scenario contingency planning.

Mike Woodhouse, marketing manager, Arriva UK Bus, says: "When designing the new website we knew it was important to use a suitable hosting platform that would take into account the current and anticipated requirements of the site. With 770 million passengers travelling on Arriva UK buses each year, it’s likely that the traffic to the website is going to increase significantly so this solution needed to have the potential to scale up.

"Working with the web developers at Freestyle Interactive and the managed hosting experts at Six Degrees Group, it was possible to build a solution that is not only designed for future growth, but also boasts inbuilt resilience, giving us piece of mind that passengers can get great customer service from our online platforms."



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