Audi AG ranks among the premium brands of the automobile industry. The success of the Ingolstadt car manufacturer is not only due to the quality and elegant design of its models, but also to a strong brand presence. The company’s web site plays an important role in creating an emotional connection between customers and the Audi brand. The brand portal www.audi.com, in particular, serves as an interface between Internet users and the company, attracting about one million visitors monthly.
It became apparent in 2002 that performance of the website, which is centrally hosted in Germany, did not measure up to the high standards of quality set by the corporation in various locations around the world. “Loading times in various global markets were so high that the image portrayed contradicted that of the Audi brand, which stands for fast and reliable cars,” explained Christian R, who is responsible for online marketing and customer portals at AUDI AG. In particular, prospective buyers in Audi’s core markets – the United States, Latin America and Asia – experienced very slow content delivery times. Users in Korea, for example, had to wait 80 seconds or more for an audi.com page to open, despite the fact that almost the entire country is connected to broadband networks.
Audi’s web presence needed to meet four key requirements:
Outsourcing web content to Akamai was far more economical than setting up decentralized web hosting via computer centers in Asia, North and South America. Apart from cost considerations and the fact that the implementation of such concepts is time-intensive, a decentralized content delivery network (CDN) solution would have been incompatible with the company’s IT strategy, which is one of centralization.
Good service from day one made the Akamai performance solution convincing: “The company was able to clearly demonstrate, by means of an independent performance test, what effect Akamai’s services would have on our global web presence”, said Christian R. This was by no means a simple test, but an extensive live demonstration, in which Akamai took over worldwide delivery of the web pages. The results of the first Akamai website acceleration project were very positive. Audi representatives were impressed by the ease at which the Akamai solution was integrated. In the test, loading times for web pages accessed in Korea, for example, fell to almost 10 percent of what they were, to a mere seven to eight seconds. Compressing website content ensured that even those users without a broadband connection could load pages within acceptable times.
In stage two of the project, in April 2003, Akamai began delivering the site for the new Audi A3 campaign. The new model boasted a tremendous amount of innovation, which Audi wanted to communicate simultaneously through various channels. The advertising campaign comprised TV, print and Internet elements. One feature of the extensive web marketing package was the ability to download informational material and TV advertisements of the new model online via streaming video.
Audi was concerned about whether their network infrastructure would be able to handle the expected increased level of interest. Again, setting up additional data centers in Asia or the United States was not economically viable. Instead, peak load was absorbed by Akamai’s load-balancing software. This software enables Akamai to automatically monitor the load on a client’s system and allocate additional web servers on-demand, if required, to regulate network traffic. The decision proved to be the right one; system administrators registered data traffic of up to 260 Mbits at peak times – a load that Audi’s web center is not designed to handle. With Akamai’s help, the Audi campaign ran for a year without any network malfunction.
Since December 2003, Akamai has been delivering Audi’s model configurators, where prospective buyers can construct their ideal car online. With Audi’s “Standard Configurator” accelerated via the Akamai solution, visitors to the web site are able to obtain a first impression of their new car with just a few clicks. The “Enhanced Configurator” offers additional features, for example, a check on whether the desired combination of options is available. Whichever configuration a user chooses, Akamai’s web acceleration solution ensures that their ideal car is only a few short clicks away.
Audi and Akamai’s latest project involves the car manufacturer’s dealer network. Audi assists its importers with their own web presence by providing a worldwide Content Management System (CMS). Once again, decentralized hosting of the CMS software “Day Communique” was not an option, due to high estimated integration costs and complexities. “Akamai again applied an independent performance test to the project and was able to show that it would make sense for the delivery of some of the content to be handled by the Akamai network”, said Audi’s Aslund.
For this project Akamai allows Audi importers in various countries to create content for their own local website. Data is input via a web interface and processed at Audi’s web center in Germany. The template for the layout of the pages is defined by Audi, to ensure that its corporate identity remains undiluted by local variations. The images on the web pages originate from the central Audi database and are once again delivered via Akamai. This way, creating pages using the CMS system is simple and fast. To accelerate the web-based CMS, Audi employed Akamai’s Web Application Accelerator. “Internet Protocol does not automatically ensure that data packets take an optimal route through the web”, explained Manfred Fochler. “As a result of our presence in the world’s most important networks, we are able to transport content to the end user using a very effective and fast route.” Using Akamai’s ‘Sure Route’ technology to establish an optimal routing means that data travels from Europe to Asia, for example, up to 40 percent faster.
About 80 percent of all content on Audi’s web pages today is delivered by Akamai. Only one fifth of the data travels directly from the Audi servers to the Internet user. ”Audi views Akamai as a scalable extension to the infrastructure of our internal web center and offers us a quality of web performance which we would not be able to achieve by our own means”, said Christian R. Based on their cooperation to date, Audi is looking to put complete web applications onto Akamai’s content delivery network. Aslund continues, “Akamai’s technology does justice to the Audi slogan ‘Vorsprung durch Technik’.”