Wine retailer Wine Access modernized while saving costs and increasing performance by using a serverless architecture on AWS. The company migrated from on-premises servers to AWS, where AWS Retail Competency Partner JBS Solutions helped it transform its architecture on AWS Lambda. The new solution scaled automatically to meet a 400 percent increase in website traffic, experienced no outages, and cut compute costs significantly and database costs by about 50 percent. Now Wine Access has an agile ecommerce solution that supports its pursuit of new business ideas and innovations, improves the customer experience, saves hundreds of in-house work hours, and launches new revenue streams.
Moving beyond Antiquated Technology
In 2014, direct-to-consumer wine retailer Wine Access found itself tied to the past by its antiquated technology stack. Founded in 1996, the 40-person company curates and sells small production wines, which it was doing mostly through a direct email sales chain and with a website self-hosted on costly, outdated servers. To support growth, Wine Access sought a modern ecommerce solution on Amazon Web Services (AWS).
The company turned to AWS Retail Competency Partner JBS Solutions to help it migrate to a new website and infrastructure. That project was so successful that Wine Access continued to work with JBS Solutions for a digital transformation to a serverless architecture built on AWS Lambda, which is used to run code for virtually any type of application or backend service without provisioning or managing servers. Now Wine Access better serves its customers and has the agility to pursue new business ideas and sales opportunities.
Adopting a Modern Ecommerce Solution
JBS Solutions helps companies solve business and technology challenges by developing and modernizing custom software and mobile applications. Bolstered by its status as an AWS Retail Competency Partner—meaning it provides innovative technology offerings that accelerate retailers’ modernization and innovation journeys across all areas in the enterprise—JBS Solutions helps retailers define their business objectives, architecting custom software, mobile applications, and other solutions to meet those objectives.
In 2015, Wine Access was growing fast, but its outdated technology stack hampered its ability to develop and innovate. It had a self-hosted website running on 1990s servers that cost $200,000 per unit. “We were using technology that had been outdated for over a decade, and we were desperate to switch to something new,” says Thomas Halpin, director of engineering at Wine Access. “But two of the firms we engaged to help us failed.”
Wine Access turned to JBS Solutions, which it had initially connected with in late 2014, and JBS Solutions successfully migrated the company to a modern ecommerce website developed on the Django Python framework and running on Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2), a web service that provides secure, resizable compute capacity in the cloud. The project kicked off a long collaboration between the two companies. “We try to be a long-term technology partner,” says Donald Morrone, director of delivery at JBS Solutions. “Our dedication provides better outcomes for our customers.” In 2018, Wine Access again engaged JBS Solutions to further modernize its architecture.
Implementing Serverless Architecture for Continuing Growth
Because JBS Solutions has an AWS Service Validation in AWS Lambda Delivery, meaning it is validated for following best practices using AWS Lambda, it was well suited to build a serverless ecommerce solution for Wine Access. In October 2019, JBS Solutions gradually migrated components of the retailer’s website from Amazon EC2 to the AWS Lambda architecture as a test. By February 2020, the entire website had been migrated. Soon afterward, when demand increased at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the serverless architecture seamlessly accommodated a 400 percent increase in traffic to Wine Access’s website. “Had we not made that move to AWS Lambda, we wouldn’t have had the capacity,” says Halpin. “Because JBS Solutions was looking forward to the growth that we were anticipating, we had a very scalable architecture.” Using AWS Lambda made managing that situation simple for JBS Solutions. “Instead of adding more capacity or managing servers, we did nothing,” says Morrone. “Using AWS Lambda, we took care of all the extra traffic—no outages, no slowdowns.”
Wine Access not only experienced better performance on AWS Lambda but also significantly cut compute costs. “By migrating to AWS Lambda, we cut our compute costs to a fraction of what they were before while increasing site traffic,” says Halpin. JBS Solutions also tackled Wine Access’s highest monthly cost—its database—by migrating the retailer to a database that could better adjust to meet its usage needs: Amazon Aurora for MySQL, a MySQL-compatible edition of Aurora, a relational database service. Because Wine Access serves only the United States, its traffic is spiky—the company tends to see high website traffic during the day in US time zones but very little between West Coast evening hours and East Coast morning hours. Aurora scales up to meet high traffic and down when there isn’t any. “There wasn’t a single issue in cutting over to Aurora, and it cut our database costs by about 50 percent because we only pay for what we use,” says Halpin.
On the AWS Lambda architecture, JBS Solutions can quickly add new features for Wine Access customers or automate previously manual processes, improving customer service while decreasing the workload for Wine Access. Previously, Wine Access staff had to check the weather and travel time for thousands of shipments every week because wine spoils in overly hot or cold temperatures. That process is now automated on AWS, saving staff hundreds of hours in 1 year. In January 2021, JBS Solutions used Amazon Simple Notification Service (Amazon SNS), a fully managed messaging service, to build Wine Access a website notification feature that sends customers an automated text message or email when a certain small-batch wine is back in stock. “That solution addressed a customer need and provided a valuable revenue stream for us,” says Halpin. JBS Solutions quickly implemented Amazon SNS. “Being an AWS Partner meant we knew we could use Amazon SNS rather than try to reinvent the wheel,” says Morrone.
Personalizing the Customer Experience on AWS
Wine Access and JBS Solutions plan to create dynamic website content based on users’ browsing activity using Amazon Personalize, a fully managed service that trains, tunes, and deploys custom machine learning models to deliver highly customized recommendations to customers across industries such as retail. For example, if a customer is partial to Cabernet Franc, Wine Access could use Amazon Personalize to feature options from Chinon, France, where the Cabernet Franc originated, as the customer interacts with its website.
On its modernized infrastructure, Wine Access transformed from an email-driven business inhibited by outdated technology to an agile ecommerce company. “Whenever we have a business goal or problem, JBS Solutions helps us solve it,” says Halpin. “Working with JBS Solutions means we can focus on what we do best, which is wine.”