August 1, 2013, 10:36 AM

How Bonobos provides online customers with steady site performance

The apparel e-retailer uses Opscode’s Hosted Chef to keep its web servers running smoothly.

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High-end menswear seller Bonobos has begun using an automated system to manage site performance so customers encounter a smoothly running e-commerce site regardless of traffic levels or web server availability.

Bonobos uses cloud-based technology vendor Opscode Inc.’s Hosted Chef product to write computer-code “recipes” for configuring web servers and deploying web software applications. Previously, each of those tasks was a manual process. Bonobos now manages its recipes from a central “cook book,” which is accessible via a web portal, according to Jeff Hart, the retailer’s senior director of engineering and systems infrastructure. That allows the e-retailer to manage the more than 150 virtual servers it rents from Amazon Web Services to host Bonobos.com.

Virtual servers, also called cloud servers, operate like physical servers, but rather than keeping all of a user’s data on machines dedicated to holding them, data are distributed across multiple machines and are able to move among them. Such a setup allows a hosting service like Amazon Web Services, a unit of Amazon.com Inc., to adjust how much disk space it allots to a client at any given time according to how much computing the client needs to do, billing by the client’s total usage.

Hosted Chef makes Bonobos’ web developers more efficient by allowing them to write simple code commands in the Ruby programming language and set them to run automatically as needed, Bonobos says. The tool also provides a “Community Cookbook” of code recipes for common server tasks that other users have submitted, Opscode says. A Bonobos developer can pick the appropriate recipe, tweak as needed and deploy it quickly and with a reduced risk of human error because she’s writing less of it from scratch herself, the vendor says.

Bonobos also combines the Hosted Chef tool with an open-source application monitoring tool called Jenkins CI so it has a one-button system for deploying new applications. That helps Bonobos respond more quickly to spikes in site traffic because all that its staff needs to do is hit one button to add more server space, the retailer says. 

“I just enter some code and whatever I need to do is done right, every time,” Hart says. “This means our infrastructure is both resilient to cloud fluctuations and highly predictable, freeing our developers to do their thing without waiting for computer resources.”

Bonobos is No. 405 in the Internet Retailer 2013 Top 500 Guide; Amazon.com is No. 1.

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