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Category: StartUp

Designing a Target Architecture for a large scale website built on Amazon Webservices

I am currently helping out a friend of mine with their startup. They wanted me to design an architecture and technology roadmap for their platform so that they can look to get funding to move things forward. They are already hosting their minimum viable product on Amazon Web services so that seemed like the obvious place to start.

To build a tech roadmap your need to start with the target architecture. I used the Amazon Visio Stencils  to draw up what I consider to be a pretty simple but scalable architecture for the site. The site is predominantly a readonly site so there is not a large requirement for a scalable async workflow, as a result scaling will be provided by adding more web & search nodes and caching, caching, caching.Image

There is a requirement to process a number of feeds which would be delivered using Elastic Map Reduce workflows rather than traditional ETLs and pushing the results out to Amazon DynamoDB for fast, scalable read access.

I have also added Solr as the search platform however this could easily be replaced with ElasticSearch or even the new Amazon Cloud Search (still in Beta)

I then plugged in all the details into the Amazon calculatorto get a monthly run cost of $3617.73

I find that cloud architectures tend to be quite prescriptive and thus the above architecture could be considered to be rather generic for a large scale webapp.

I would be really interested to hear what people think of it and what could be improved.

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A/B Testing – Should you use it and if so, when?

Imagine making a change to your site based on a gut feeling and then moving on to the next thing without actually being able to prove categorically, that the change had a positive influence on your business. Perhaps you don’t have to imagine that – you do it every day! So imagine being able to make a change and actually measure whether it has made a positive or negative impact on your KPIs (Acquisition, Activation, Retention, Referral, Revenue).  All the big companies (Google, Microsoft, Facebook etc.) are using A/B testing to enable them to measure each change. But when do you use it?

A/B testing presumes that you’ve already bottomed out your problem solution and are now working on scaling, or product market fit. So in essence you know what your product is and now you need to optimise it. Those optimisations could be big or small and we would advocate for being bold in trying out big changes to get some strong measurements back out to learn from. But here’s a presentation that gives examples of what you can do with A/B testing and why a test someone else has run should not necessarily be used to determine what you do.

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A getting started check list

  • Product solves a problem for a specific target customer
  • Capital-efficient business – operational @ < $1M funding
  • Primarily internet-based distribution – search, social, mobile, location
  • Simple revenue models – transactions, subscriptions or affiliate
  • Functional prototype before investment (or previous success)
  • Small but measurable usage – some customers, early revenue
  • Small but cross-functional team – engineering, design/UX, marketing
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