On sales are a crucial moment for any ticket sales-based organisation, so having a sales flow that can cope with increased traffic, avoid downtime, and keep customers and stakeholders happy is really important.
There are a few key technical (and customer service) challenges that arise during big on sale moments. This involves dealing with a significant spike in traffic, where customers are often visiting the same pages at once and are all trying to buy, login and checkout at the same time.
This can create a level of demand that your systems are unable to deal with, and if this isn’t carefully managed, it can lead to a lot of customer frustration.
We know that the process of scaling server capacity up manually to meet demand can be time consuming, expensive and require specialist expertise. It also requires additional planning for busy periods and makes reacting to surges in traffic difficult (you can’t always predict when a star might tweet about their involvement in a show).
So we immediately recognised the benefits of having a product that can scale quickly and reactively to meet demand as it arises.
Viadukt’s serverless technology can handle high traffic with short notice, meaning you’re well positioned to meet increased demand.
What does ‘serverless’ mean?
Serverless computing is the modern way to manage how your site or application is hosted. Contrary to what the name suggests, there are still servers involved, but they are managed on your behalf by the vendor (in this case Amazon Web Services). So when your site gets busy, more resources are provisioned to help you meet that demand automatically, and when the demand passes, the underlying server resources are reduced - saving both money and the environment!
Before delving into the Infrastructure choices we made and why, it’s important to acknowledge how they are beneficial to both organisations and their customers.
What this means for you
Because Viadukt scales to demand automatically, we can offer you peace of mind with a straightforward licence fee that doesn’t vary from month to month. This means when you have a busy on sale you can make the most of the increased sales without worrying about an increase in hosting costs.
Less patching and maintenance required
While there are still servers running the infrastructure behind the scenes, Viadukt’s serverless technology means that you don’t need to actually manage these yourself.
They are instead managed by the sector-leading experts in the AWS infrastructure team, so we don’t need to worry about patching or regular maintenance, and you don’t need to worry about incurring those additional costs!
Improved sales with high throughput and less drop off
With the increased throughput available thanks to the load Viadukt can handle, there are fewer queues needed and more happy customers able to quickly purchase tickets.
What this means for your customers
Less queuing, quick ticket booking
This increased throughput also gives your customers the ability to quickly purchase tickets, with a very low likelihood of the sales flow crashing due to increased load.
This means that customers will have a much better end-to-end experience, from the moment they purchase a ticket to attending the event itself.
A considerable amount of time was spent choosing the right infrastructure for Viadukt to ensure it could meet the needs of the organisations who use it. Some of those key choices are outlined below.
- AWS & CDK for easy deployments of infrastructure
- Static frontend app, fast and lightweight
- API powered by Lambda functions
- Caching strategy to improve performance
- Serverless to scale to meet demand
- Easy integration with the latest version of Queue-it
AWS & CDK for easy deployments of infrastructure
- There are a few serverless cloud providers around. We chose Amazon Web Services (AWS) for Viadukt due to its maturity, and the vast array of services it offers as a single stop architecture solution (rather than handling different functionality with different services). These include email, logging, a clear billing structure and the option to deploy infrastructure as code with the Cloud Development Kit (CDK).
- This managed, easy to deploy infrastructure removes many of the pain points of hosting servers yourself. With our wealth of experience using AWS, we help to maintain the backend systems so you’re able to focus on keeping your customers happy and driving sales forward.
Static frontend app
- Viadukt is split into two parts: a rapid and responsive frontend application and a fully-featured API.
- The static frontend application is deployed to an S3 bucket (S3 buckets are used to store and retrieve any amount of data, at any time, from anywhere on the web), meaning that it’s lightweight, fast and responsive.
- The API is powered by AWS API Gateway which handles difficult to manage infrastructure considerations, such as Cross Origin Resource Sharing or CORS (which protects against your API being incorrectly used), throttling (which mitigates abuse of the system from sustained targeted attacks), and route management. This adds another layer of protection to your system and further helps to avoid downtime.
API powered by Lambda functions
- The Viadukt API is a collection of microservices powered by over 130 individual Lambda functions. Lambda functions are serverless and allow you to write and run code without having to manage or provision a server, they act independently from one another meaning if one function has an error it doesn’t prevent the others from running as they should.
- The microservice architecture is flexible by nature, meaning that it’s easy to add new features. It also keeps business functions separate to give you more control over how you deal with the increased demand for certain services over others using caching, which is the ability to store frequently requested data and pages to protect your systems from overloading. We use this effectively on performance details and seat maps to only request the latest updates rather than trying to load all the information in every request.
- The reason we chose Lambda over traditional servers is because they can scale to meet demand automatically. And because Lambda functions are serverless, AWS is able to manage the provisioning, scaling and day to day patching of the servers these functions run from.
- While serverless does scale automatically, we combine this scalability with caching and staggering requests through the API to help build further resilience into the system. This helps to avoid functions being overwhelmed and means you can continue serving your customers.
Caching strategy to improve performance
- The Viadukt caching strategy revolves around the fact that 90% of a sales flow is static content, with only seat availability and a customer’s account and basket needing to be requested live.
- Viadukt uses CloudFront to manage its caching policy with granular control over the different microservices.
- An extremely short cache (around 10 seconds) is also applied to the seat map, which helps to prevent overload with customers repeatedly refreshing during busy on-sales.
Serverless to scale to meet demand
- At capacity, the Viadukt API can handle thousands of direct requests a minute for the seat map.
- This means you can easily allow several thousand customers through at once.
- Beyond this amount of traffic, we use API throttling, the process of limiting the number of API requests a user can make in a certain period, to avoid overloading the system. When the throttling limit is reached, some requests might take a little longer, but this gives the system time to recover and avoids the dreaded error messages that prevent customers from being able to book any tickets at all.
Easy integration with the latest version of Queue-it
- Queue-it is a virtual waiting room for managing large volumes of visitors, protecting your site. Queue-it has been around for many years and is used by thousands or organisations around the world across many different sectors. This coupled with excellent customer service and easy to use admin panel make it our go to choice for queue management.
- Using the CloudFront deployment option we can be really specific about how your queues are set up, meaning sales can continue throughout the rest of your inventory while managing traffic through the most popular performances. The flexibility this offers provides best in class functionality and lets you sell how you like.
Future proofing & Evolution of the product
Microservice architecture means we can quickly develop new features in isolation
As important as sales are right now, there are always new challenges to meet, new technology to contend with, and new innovative ideas from the sales team that need to be built.
Viadukt is built to last and adapt to these requirements - new features can be created and existing ones extended to meet specific needs. Some examples of the new features we’ve recently released:
- Capturing customer allergy information within the food and drink upsells
- Limiting tickets for specific performances, for specific customer types and for limited periods of time.
- Picking up existing reserved orders and rollover subscriptions and paying these off online without the need to call the box office.
Staying up to date
As technology evolves and new ways of working emerge, having the ability to move one function at a time to a new system removes the need to migrate everything at once, which adds resilience and helps to ensure business continuity.
Agnostic features and multiple CRM’s
Viadukt is built to work with multiple CRMs, which means that your sales flow doesn’t need to change if your backend CRM system does.
With the flexibility to work with both Spektrix and Tessitura, as well as other CRMs in the future, migration between systems is simple - just a reworking of your configuration files and a fresh sync of data.
An additional bonus of this is that some features are CRM agnostic, which makes it easier for everyone to benefit from.:
- A multilingual admin interface makes it easy to edit two or more languages, or a text editor to rework any box office naming conventions to more customer friendly language.
- It also has additional functionality for limiting tickets, and linking food & drink or merchandise to events/performances.
Viadukt is built user-first. We have worked hard to provide a simple, frontend user experience and have backed this with a powerful, well architected system that can help you to deliver a great ticket buying experience day to day, while still being able to meet those high demand moments and importantly, drive big on sales.
This is just one of the many things Viadukt can do. Read more about it or get in touch if you’d like to hear more or arrange a demo. We’d love to have a chat about how Viadukt could work for you: firstname.lastname@example.org