Red Lion Hotels Corporation

case study

About the Company

Red Lion Hotels logoRed Lion Hotels Corporation is a hospitality and leisure company headquartered in Spokane, Washington. The company has forty-seven hotels throughout the United States and one in Victoria, British Columbia. In addition to the Red Lion brand hotels, the company also operates TicketsWest, a ticket distribution service for concerts, theater, sports, and family events.

The Business Challenges

In 2011, Red Lion began developing hyper-local web and mobile platforms for travelers. Within these platforms, each of the company’s hotels will populate its own online storefront with information unique to that area. Users will then be able to research and book travel destinations based on these regional perspectives.

Red Lion had already started to build the new platforms using the Umbraco content management system, Windows and SQL Server, but was undecided on a hosting environment. The company was dissatisfied with the cost and scalability of its existing co-location facility, so it brought in cloud computing solutions provider 2nd Watch to conduct an analytical evaluation of cloud hosting options in relation to Red Lion’s technical and business goals.

David Barbieri, Red Lion’s SVP and CIO, explains, “Our IT department is very lean, so systems infrastructure issues can easily distract our resources from more value-added strategic work. We are looking for ways to avoid operational infrastructure burdens, as well as their associated capital infrastructure costs. The AWS product set is perfectly aligned with these goals. With AWS and 2nd Watch, we have found a much more cost effective way to keep the lights on for a critical part of our infrastructure while reducing the risk of IT resources getting distracted from our core business strategies.”

The 2nd Watch Solution

2nd Watch’s evaluation revealed that Red Lion will save approximately 38 percent with Amazon Web Services’ (AWS) on-demand pricing, compared to their existing co-location facility. AWS also provides improved monitoring capabilities and Level 1 Payment Card Industry (PCI) Data Security Standards (DSS) validation.

Because Red Lion’s new Web and mobile platforms will cater to travelers, usage will naturally spike around holidays and vacation seasons. To handle these traffic fluctuations, the company requires a highly-scalable infrastructure. 2nd Watch assured Red Lion that all of the solutions offered by AWS are designed to handle just such variations.

With the hosting decision made in favor of AWS, 2nd Watch has started Red Lion’s migration away from the co-location facility. The platforms are running on Amazon EC2 with Elastic Load Balancing, Amazon S3, Amazon VPC, and Amazon CloudFront.

The Business Benefits

Currently, Red Lion and 2nd Watch are working toward a June 2012 release for the new endeavor. Red Lion anticipates increased network speeds and faster load times which will improve the corporate site’s conversion rates.

Red Lion is also planning to establish scalable testing environments within AWS for future marketing initiatives, in addition to migrating both TicketsWest and other production systems.

David Barbieri notes, “Certain aspects of our business are very dependent on IT. In those areas, we often find that IT understands the business better than the business understands IT. In other words, we are better at identifying technology-based opportunities to address business needs. This is to be expected, but to do this well and deliver the most value possible to the business, it is critical that IT stays focused on understanding and meeting the strategic needs of the business. The infrastructure resources available through AWS and 2nd Watch enable us to avoid certain operational ‘keeping the lights on’ distractions so we can maintain our focus on core business strategies.”

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