Sundio Group, a leading tour operator in the Netherlands, wanted to improve performance for its online reservation system. To speed searches and transactions, the company implemented a new Microsoft data management solution. As a result, Sundio Group has improved performance and availability, and it has built a platform for rapid business growth.Business Needs
A leading tour operator in the Netherlands, Sundio Group sells trips to holiday destinations throughout Europe.
||The stability of the platform has increased, and we rely less on hardware redundancy and more on the high level of availability that we get with SQL Server 2012.
The company implemented an online reservation system in 2002 and today sells most of its trips over the Internet. As sales and competition increased, it looked for ways to boost performance and improve service to customers.
At first, its online presence gave Sundio Group a competitive advantage. But that changed as other companies also began selling through websites. “Europe is a highly competitive marketplace,” says Bas Bruijninckx, IT Manager at Sundio Group. “It’s very easy for newcomers to penetrate the market. “
Low profit margins are another challenge, but they can also help screen out competition. “With low margins, the only way that you can succeed in our market segment is if you can handle a high volume of sales,” says Bruijninckx. “That’s our only protection.”
The peak booking seasons occur twice annually for summer holidays and winter sports vacations. For a few weeks each year, sales jump from approximately €380,000 (U.S.$484,000) to €3.4 million (U.S.$4.3 million) per day. Any delay can be costly. “If customers don’t get a response in a couple of seconds, they will book elsewhere,” says Bruijninckx. “So we really need to achieve top-notch performance and maintain it during our peak seasons. That has been the biggest challenge over the last couple of years.”
In addition, the company was expanding operations in eight European countries. With plans to double in size within two years, the company needed a more scalable infrastructure.
Sundio Group had identified several areas for improvement. For example, marketing teams would run reports on the same servers used for online transaction processing (OLTP). As a result, transactions could potentially lock when customers ran searches. Bruijninckx says, “If locking occurs during a peak reservation period, and it takes 15 minutes—that’s a very expensive 15 minutes.”
In the past, Sundio Group added more server computers to support peak sale periods. The company now looked to a different solution: improve performance and support growth by optimizing data management.Solution
Sundio Group decided to become an early adopter of Microsoft SQL Server 2012 Enterprise data management software. The company had used Microsoft products from its inception and looked forward to working with the new solution. “There has never been a reason to change from Microsoft technology,” says Bruijninckx. “SQL Server is also the platform of choice for the vendor of our reservation solution, so we have strengthened our relationship with Microsoft over the years.”
Sundio Group asked Coeo—a Microsoft partner with a Gold Data Platform competency—to optimize its infrastructure. Coeo had already helped Sundio Group migrate from SQL Server 2000 to SQL Server 2005, and it remotely manages the Sundio Group infrastructure from London, England. The new solution includes the SQL Server 2012 AlwaysOn feature, which is typically used as part of a disaster-recovery and high-availability configuration. Instead, the company uses the AlwaysOn availability group capability to improve the performance of its entire infrastructure. Sundio Group offloads a workload to a secondary server, which the marketing team uses for reports. As a result, the solution reduces performance bottlenecks on the frontline OLTP servers. In addition, automatic failover clustering helps ensure availability and reliability.
Sundio Group and Coeo began testing SQL Server 2012 with the Windows Server 2008 R2 Enterprise operating system in July 2011, and they put the solution into production four months later. The new infrastructure includes four HP ProLiant DL580 G5 server computers that are used for customer searches and four HP ProLiant BL680c G7 servers that process reservations. The solution publishes changes to the front-end search servers through transactional replication. The company manages approximately 6.5 terabytes of data.
To reduce latency, Sundio Group also replaced a storage area network with a Fusion-io ioDrive installed on front-end servers. Optimized for SQL Server, the Fusion-io modules improve performance by storing data closer to the CPU.Benefits
By improving performance and scalability with a Microsoft solution, Sundio Group can take full advantage of sale periods and improve support for rapid business growth.Enhances Performance and Profitability
Sundio Group has improved performance and expects to serve a higher volume of customers and improve profit margins as a result. The solution will help the company take full advantage of spikes in daily revenue, when sales skyrocket from €380,000 to €3.4 million.
Bruijninckx says, “With the SQL Server 2012 AlwaysOn feature, we can offload less-critical workloads and make more resources available to our customers during peak reservation periods.”Improves Scalability and Reliability
With the new solution, Sundio Group is confident it can handle its busiest booking seasons more easily. “We have more scalability across the entire platform now,” says Bruijninckx. “The stability of the platform has increased, and we rely less on hardware redundancy and more on the high level of availability that we get with SQL Server 2012.”Supports Business Growth
Sundio Group believes that the Microsoft platform is the best choice for supporting its ambitious growth targets. “We’re expanding our business model to the rest of Europe, and we expect to double in size in the next two years,” says Bruijninckx. “The Microsoft platform with SQL Server 2012 supports us by enabling us to scale out and up.”
The company looks forward to taking advantage of more capabilities in SQL Server 2012. Bruijninckx says, “In a broader sense, Microsoft technology supports us so that we can do the business we need to do. It provides us with the flexibility, performance, and functionality required to achieve our goals.”This case study is for informational purposes only. MICROSOFT MAKES NO WARRANTIES, EXPRESS OR IMPLIED, IN THIS SUMMARY.