YPlan is tonight’s going out app. Browse through a curated shortlist of the best events in town every night and book in just two taps, without having to print anything. More than 500,000 mobile users have downloaded YPlan in London and New York to go to the best events in their city from concerts to sporting events, theatre productions, and comedy shows. By using YPlan, people can share event information with friends or snap up exclusive tickets to a sold-out rooftop party during rush hour. YPlan launched in November 2012 in London, has an office in New York, and is expanding to major cities in Europe and North America in 2014.
When YPlan launched, it needed a powerful, reliable mobile-centric technology solution that would allow the company to create the app and go to market quickly. The company wanted a solution with minimal maintenance, data security, and the ability to scale easily based on different load patterns. Cost was a consideration as well, but the company was more interested in quality and giving users the best possible experience. YPlan cofounder and CTO Viktoras Jucikas says, “We wanted to have the best product available for our customers.”
Why Amazon Web Services
After comparing various cloud providers, YPlan started using AWS in September 2012. “AWS was immediately appealing because of its breadth of services built to kick-start a company, competitive pricing options, and innovative mobile-centric solutions,” Jucikas says. “The elasticity of the AWS Cloud allows our app to increase capacity with only a few clicks during high-load periods.” He adds, “AWS offered us a powerful, reliable, speedy solution that caters to our capacity requirements at the right price.”
The AWS APIs helped the company set up its infrastructure quickly. “We use the AWS CloudFormation to automate service usage, which is a big differentiator for us,” says Julius Seporaitis, Senior Software Engineer. “Otherwise, we would have had to do a lot of manual work when we were setting things up.”
YPlan started using AWS with Amazon Relational Database Service (Amazon RDS), AWS CloudFormation, Amazon Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3), and Elastic Load Balancing. Seporaitis says, “The first fully working prototype took us about five days, which was pretty fast to have something running and scripted with AWS CloudFormation scripts. We basically built the infrastructure that we have now on top of what was done in those five days.”
Currently, the company uses AWS to deliver the whole platform to its users. It runs Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2) instances to serve the API for its mobile application, event management system and website. “We’re embracing the AWS Cloud as a utility paradigm, and we never reuse our instances,” Seporaitis says. “When we deploy our systems, we terminate the old ones and spin up new ones.” YPlan also uses Amazon CloudFront to quickly deliver beautiful images in-app to customers.
The company uses Amazon S3 as a package repository—that is, says Seporaitis, “When we build our software for deployment, we package and store it on Amazon S3. Then the combination of Amazon S3, standard Unix package manager, and AWS Identity and Access Management (IAM) tools provide us with highly available, fast and secure package repository.” This setup enables YPlan to deliver an automated, versioned, scalable build and deployment pipeline with quick roll-back capability.
YPlan also uses Amazon RDS Multi-AZ deployments to store part of the data. Its capabilities like replication, automated backup, and failover simplify setup. AWS allows the team to shift concentration from database management to creating the best data model for the app. See Figure 1 for an illustration.
Figure 1: The YPlan Architecture
Using AWS has helped YPlan move closer to its goal of becoming a $1 billion company. Seporaitis says, “AWS helped us to move fast right from day one, when we first met in the office, to the beta launch. If we had gone with another provider, the process would have taken more man-hours—AWS offers a lot of automation.”
The initial stages of the company’s development were completed on time and under budget. Jucikas says, “We had a really tight deadline of 3 months. The whole team rallied, and we were able to push out the beta version on time. It went smoothly. AWS played a big part in helping us towards that goal.”
As a result, the company experienced 500,000 downloads in just 1 year, and has realized availability between 99.987 percent and 100 percent. Customer response has been positive. “More than 90 percent of the reviews we’ve received have been five stars,” Seporaitis says. “There’s a lot of customer love for what we’re doing, and we’ve gained a lot of traction.” As a result, YPlan has seen its revenue increase beyond its expectations.
The team has been able to focus on product development because of the minimal need for maintenance with AWS.
“It’s all about having fast development cycles,” Seporaitis says. “AWS takes a lot of the headache away, letting us concentrate on the real problem: making sure the product is great.”
Throughout the process, the technology team have had minor issues, which were solved using the AWS documentation. Seporaitis says, “I found the documentation to be concise and forums very helpful; usually if something didn’t work, I mostly referred to documentation to resolve it.” In addition, the company took advantage of AWS Enterprise Support to ensure maximum platform utilisation. Seporaitis says, “The support is first class; they take the time to meet with you and understand your requirements before giving you tailored advice. The after-care is faultless, and they are very proactive too—suggesting new cost-efficient AWS services for some specific use cases we have.”
Jucikas adds, “We chose AWS because it’s the best, and we haven’t been disappointed. It’s been excellent in terms of technical ability, and the customer service has been fantastic. We’re a company that prides itself on customer service, so it’s helpful to deal with other companies that do too.” Seporaitis concludes, “We look forward to having AWS at the heart of YPlan during the next phase of our growth.”