Insider view: the future of ecommerce

Our ‘insider’ series explores the challenges, pitfalls and triumphs of bespoke hosting projects.

Organisation: Elastic Path, a world-leading ecommerce provider.

Interviewee: Stuart Sanders, Director, Solutions Delivery EMEA at Elastic Path Software.

What is the future of ecommerce for vendors?
“The market has been consolidating. The smaller operators have been bought by the larger companies. Flexibility is key and over the next three to five years, it’s going to be the ecommerce vendors that can react to changing market conditions that are going to come out on top. So for us, it’s not just about building solutions for retail or digital, it’s about helping companies win customers in the first place.”

How are your clients’ hosting needs changing?
“Our customers are becoming ever more demanding. Now customers want to ramp their operations up or down quickly. You’ve got to be more flexible.”

What does Elastic Path do?
“We facilitate the world of ecommerce. Whether it’s digital or physical goods, if it can be sold online, we are thought leaders in it. Our primary focus is the UK, Canada and the United States and our clients include Virgin, Google, Telus, Motability and Trimble.”

What are the trends in ecommerce hosting?
“There are three tiers in ecommerce hosting: software as a service; small, individually hosted solutions; and solutions that are hosted on-premise by the client. But we have recently seen a move towards Amazon and hosting in the public cloud, and a number of people have asked us to take on the operational aspects for them.”

Why are clients asking for managed hosting services in the public cloud?
“Because they can’t cope with sudden peaks and troughs in demand with their current in-house set-up, where it can take weeks to bring new servers online and they’ve got to go through the whole procurement process. They come to us with a challenge: can you take our existing infrastructure into the public cloud and run everything right up to the ecommerce platform for us?”

Is this where a hosting partner like Digital Craftsmen comes in?
“Yes. The challenge is finding someone who can actually run the service. I looked through the contacts that I had and Digital Craftsmen stood out for me. We wanted someone who could build a managed service in a public cloud environment that they didn’t control. Someone who was extremely rigorous and could work with us during the development process.”

What qualities did you look for when appointing a hosting partner?
“We looked for someone who could form a single team with us to provide ecommerce services for the customer. We sought someone that was going to be flexible enough and that had a great deal of cloud knowledge — both public and private. And someone that was going to be extremely responsive.”

And you found Digital Craftsmen met all your needs?
“Yes. We could trust them. I wanted their technical ability. Digital Craftsmen took the challenge on to provide managed services on top of an Amazon hosting platform and were undaunted by it.”

How did Digital Craftsmen compare to the competition?
“Digital Craftsmen were far and away head and shoulders over the other providers that we considered. They are taking away the pain by handling the managed services for me. During the selection process, a number of larger players fell by the wayside, while the smaller players wanted to host in their own environment.”

What services have Digital Craftsmen provided?
“They have taken the tin from Amazon and the software from us and done everything: deployed the software, configured the firewalls, maintained the system, proactively adding capacity to handle usage spikes around events such as new product launches, and spun capacity down during downtime so the client is not hit with large costs.”

Elastic Path is developing a new product as a result of this partnership. Tell us more.
“It’s ‘ecommerce as a fully managed service’, offering the flexibility to meet our customers’ ever-changing needs. It allows them to focus on their real business. The client response has been absolutely fantastic.”

Will this new product add to your bottom line?

“It should do. We can take existing customers and embed ourselves into their business by putting long-term deals in place. We’ve only been able to do this because of the relationship with Digital Craftsmen.”

The ‘heartbleed’ bug sent shockwaves through the ecommerce world, with hackers potentially able to access encrypted data. How did Digital Craftsmen handle it?
“Even before I had received a call from a client, Digital Craftsmen had visited all the servers that were potentially threatened and patched them. I was able to contact the client and say that it had already been taken care of.”

Why have you retained Digital Craftsmen?
“They understand that agility is important in the cloud world, which puts them in a very good space for the future. They are very good at responding to our needs and working as a team. They have provided a level of service far beyond our expectations.”

What difference has your partnership with Digital Craftsmen made to your client relationships?
“It’s been a meeting of minds. We now have a joint team that we wouldn’t have got with another hosting provider. Digital Craftsmen has been able to provide us with a service that enables us to extol massive virtues for our own team.”