How 1-800-FLOWERS Uses IT to Sustain Its Rapid Growth
The huge on-demand gift deliverer has revamped its entire IT system to handle skyrocketing online sales growth.
Besides its Valentine's Day and Mother's Day staple of offering delivery of fresh flowers, 1-800-FLOWERS.com also provides plants, gift baskets, gourmet foods, confections and plush stuffed animals. So the company has a complicated job to do.
To read about which online retailers customers find most (and least) satisfying, click here.That, of course, is not the number of business transactions the company does per second, but the number of calculations and queries the company's three huge data centers have to handle during peak periods-such as the four days before Valentine's Day and the two weeks leading up to Mother's Day. The system can handle hundreds of business transactions per second with little or no latency. "Our whole system is designed to handle peak periods," CIO Steve Bozzo told eWEEK. "That was the main criteria for us in setting up our system, because our business is built on handling high peaks. "Let's face it: We're men. We don't think about getting gifts for our women until the last minute. That's the way we're made," Bozzo said. With a complex IT environment supporting a number of brands and types of data, and the company growing rapidly through acquisition, 1-800-FLOWERS.com needed to improve data access and availability for its mission-critical customer-facing, Web, financial, inventory, fulfillment and analytical applications. To accomplish this, in 2006 the company consolidated its IT footprint and implemented new data storage technologies, creating a reliable 70-terabyte infrastructure that speeds and streamlines business operations. All the storage is EMC-based, Subramanian said. It is comprised of high-end Symmetrix DMX and Clariion hardware and EMC 's ControlCenter SRM (storage resource management) software. "We use IBM WebSphere for our application software, running on Hewlett-Packard servers," Subramanian said, "to go with the EMC storage. We're very much a loyal vendor shop when it comes to our data centers. We have our few favorite vendors and we don't mix it up too much. It can get too complicated if we do." This infrastructure supports the company's process for handling seasonal peaks in customer orders, which can multiply online traffic 10 to 12 times. Rather than investing in extensive vertical scaling capabilities to accommodate peak loads on a single Web site, 1-800-FLOWERS.com utilizes three regional data centers, each supporting two Web sites-one primary and one backup-all seamlessly connected to the company's main URL.