Due to the health crisis, Black Friday, Cyber Monday and the Christmas holidays could set new records for online sales. To absorb these peaks in activity, e-commerce sites need to be able to rely on the scalable and elastic infrastructure that only the cloud can provide.

Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Christmas… The end of the year is going to be particularly busy for e-commerce sites. Current global events will boost online sales even further, as the health crisis encourages consumers to favor online platforms over physical stores. A recent study conducted by the Federation of e-commerce and distance selling (Fevad) demonstrated the extent to which the lockdown changed how the French shop.

Over the next few weeks, e-commerce sites will need to prepare in order to absorb huge increases in web traffic so that their sites will not crash under the sharp rise in visitor numbers. Cloud infrastructures, due to their scalable and elastic nature, have for many years now been the clear solution to these seasonal needs.

"The cloud industry was born through the development of e-commerce”, recalls Gautier Crepin, Solutions Architects Manager at Scaleway. Amazon had to provision massive infrastructure capacity in order to support the boom in the first online global marketplace. The American group then capitalized on this know-how by creating the subsidiary Amazon Web Services (AWS).

Cloud services tailored to e-commerce

Scaleway works with a multitude of e-commerce sites, and many of their cloud services were designed specifically with e-commerce in mind. For example, an object storage service based on the S3 protocol, named Object Storage, allows users to store product catalogs. The horizontal structure of object storage lends itself well to processing frequently requested data.

"It’s a key issue for e-commerce sites,” adds Gautier Crepin. “The webpage for a product needs to load the associated images rapidly, even when there’s a peak in visitor traffic.” According to a KissMetrics study, 40% of visitors leave a site when the loading time of a page surpasses three seconds. Databases need to provide comparable agility because whether for account creation or order management, they will be in high demand this year-end.

By being scalable, cloud infrastructure is able to absorb occasional peaks in activity without users having to pay for high traffic volume all year round. The cloud allows for full transparency so that users can automate the use and configuration of new servers.

The next step is to containerize. By adding virtual machines rather than physical servers, an e-commerce site gains precious seconds. Kapsule, the latest version of Scaleway’s Kubernetes as a Service offer, is available as of March 2020. This service handles the configuration, deployment and maintenance of container orchestration for users.

According to our expert, however, the e-commerce sector is not taking full advantage of new modes of deployment such as Serverless. As the name suggests, Serverless allows users to no longer worry about configuring their servers. E-commerce sites which use these services let cloud providers handle adapting the capacities of their applications to increases in user traffic.

Technical performance and financial benefits

Another benefit of using the cloud is load balancing across multiple geographic zones (Multi-Availability Zone, Multi-AZ). An e-commerce platform can earn 10% of their turnover in a single day. In order not to let the risk of a data center failure impact anticipated revenue, it is possible to use data centers located in different geographic areas.

This redundancy avoids dependence on a single data center, the failure of which would entail the stoppage of the entire information system (Single point of failure, Spof). "We can expect that due to the health crisis, e-commerce sites will overbook infrastructure capacity in anticipation of the end of the year,” predicts Gautier Crepin. “This was already the case during the lockdown."

Beyond its technical performance, the cloud also brings financial gains. E-commerce sites no longer need to invest in their own infrastructure as well as maintaining and developing it. Instead, by choosing to lease services, they are shifting from a CAPEX model to an OPEX one.

Regulatory and technological sovereignty

In 2020, e-commerce sites can choose a truly French alternative to the US public cloud giants. The platform offered by Scaleway has not only reached a level of maturity equivalent to US providers, but also meets the challenges of sovereignty by hosting data on European soil exclusively (data centers in Île-de-France, Amsterdam and Warsaw).

From a regulatory standpoint, the preference for a national provider is one method of protection against the threat of the Cloud Act which obliges US providers to transfer personal information concerning their users in case of legal enquiries, even if the data is not hosted on US soil.

Sovereignty also comes through e-commerce businesses being able to ensure the reversibility or migration of their data from one cloud to another, at any given time. “Through building on market standards, and widely relying on open source, Scaleway provides the conditions for data portability,” adds Gautier Crepin.

Scaleway is also involved in the European sovereign cloud project, GAIA-X, as a co-founding member. GAIA-X aims to develop common requirements for European data infrastructure that is reliable and guarantees the interoperability of cloud services.