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PUMA taps into Akamai Service Management for rapid, cost-effective deployment across 30 sites

“Akamai’s [service management] consultants understand both their technology and our business. As a result, Professional Services has become an extension of our team, enabling us to extract maximum value from our investment.”

Andrew Hopper , Technical Lead in International Marketing , PUMA

The Situation

With offerings spanning sport and fashion, the PUMA Group – which owns the brands PUMA, Cobra Golf and Tretorn – distributes its footwear, apparel and accessories in over 120 countries and employs more than 9,000 people worldwide. Its websites support an average of more than 120,000 unique daily visitors and revenues totaling more than 2.4 million in 2009.

The Challenge

With a goal of being the most desirable and sustainable sport lifestyle company, PUMA deploys more than 30 branded websites to support its marketing campaigns and e-commerce initiatives. For Andrew Hopper, Technical Lead in International Marketing for PUMA, this translates into handling multiple high- profile site launches across diverse technology platforms and far-flung geographies. As part of that, he deployed the Akamai Dynamic Site Accelerator (DSA) for PUMA’s online ecommerce sites, brand marketing sites, marketing campaigns, events and promotions. Hoping to extend the web performance improvements the company realized, he wanted to deploy the solution’s full feature set across his properties without distracting his team from its core focus.

The Goal

PUMA needed to meet three key requirements to support its objectives:

  • Speed time to market: The company needed to quickly deploy DSA across its existing sites and quickly turn up new DSA sites to support the nimble marketing department’s response to world events including World Cup soccer.
  • Continuously tune and optimize Akamai solution: PUMA wanted to extract the most possible value from its investment in DSA.
  • Maintain core focus: To drive business strategy and processes, the company wanted its technical team to concentrate on value-added activities rather than implementation tasks.

Why Akamai Service Management

Tapping into Cost-Effective Integration

Knowing that the rate of a skilled web application engineer averages up to $150 per hour, Hopper realized it was much more cost-effective to engage Akamai Professional Services under a Service Management package. With it, PUMA could not only quickly implement DSA across its sites, but also access Akamai’s expertise with very little lead time.

According to Hopper’s calculations, the time spent to execute contracts for each Akamai deployment plus the time implementing the web performance solution made it clear that the Service Management package was a wise choice. “Launching just one site on our own would take us 2-3 weeks, both for the initial deployment and to triage issues that arose because we’re not intimately familiar with the Akamai network and tools. For a minor fraction of the cost of the Akamai Dynamic Site Accelerator solution, the Service Management package enables us to engage Akamai Professional Services and deploy changes much more quickly,” explains Hopper.

Responding Quickly to Business Needs

Easy access to experienced Akamai consultants is extremely valuable to PUMA, especially since it launches new campaigns every two to three months. With Service Management, PUMA can quickly deploy Akamai web performance solutions on sites as needed. “Because Akamai’s consultants understand our business and configuration, we don’t have to deal with the typical headaches and logistical hassles associated with IT deployments,” says Hopper.

Why Akamai Service Management

Hopper equates the purchase of Professional Services to investing in an expert driver for a powerful racecar. “My operations team can’t possibly know the intricacies of the Akamai network and DSA solution like Akamai’s consultants do. Similarly, an Akamai Customer Care engineer isn’t in a position to understand our business overall and consider the big picture. But Akamai’s consultants understand both their technology and our business. As a result, Professional Services has become an extension of our team, enabling us to extract maximum value from our investment,” continues Hopper.

Succeeding with a World-Class Partner

According to Hopper, Akamai employs some of the best and brightest technologists in the industry. “To be top marketers, PUMA partners with a group of world-class companies and Akamai is one of them. Because of my confidence in Akamai and the Professional Services team, we can push the limits and rest easy as we drive as much traffic as possible to our sites,” says Hopper.

As Hopper explains, it’s impossible to predict the success of a viral campaign – but when such a campaign is successful, it’s vital for PUMA’s multi-million dollar websites to be available and perform flawlessly. For instance, in one recent campaign, traffic burst to 1.6 Gbps. Hopper projects his team would have needed 100 servers to support that level of traffic and up to two months to execute the necessary contracts and turn up the additional capacity with a hosting provider. Instead they handled it with just two servers by offloading over 97% of the traffic to the Akamai content delivery network (CDN) using a highly tuned DSA configuration implemented by Professional Services.

“Not only does Akamai enable us to agilely and confidently support big marketing and branding campaigns, we can do so with a smaller infrastructure. In fact, we anticipate that the performance gains from DSA will enable us to eliminate data center operations in APAC and the EU and the associated staff for a savings of up to $400,000 per year,” continues Hopper.

Taking Advantage of Sophisticated Functionality

Professional Services has also written advanced content-handling rules to take full advantage of unique Akamai capabilities. Advanced custom configurations allow PUMA to deploy multiple secure and isolated web application platforms like Ruby on Rails and legacy Java under a single domain name.

The Akamai Difference

These configurations also allow PUMA to delegate control of one section of its website (e.g., Puma.com/running) to one agency and another portion to another agency (e.g., Puma.com/football). Each agency is then responsible for maintaining its origin servers. This provides complete security and isolation. Moreover, keeping all content on the puma.com root domain increases inbound links and organic SEO rankings, which means PUMA spends less on PPC ads and gives users a more consistent web experience.

PUMA also uses sophisticated failover rules that trap 403, 404 and 5xx server errors. The rules intercept failed requests to puma.com and redirect them to static content stored on Akamai’s NetStorage. These errors are then seamlessly recorded in a third-party system - even if the PUMA origin servers are offline.

Optimizing Site Functionality and Minimizing Issues

Hopper is impressed with the responsiveness of Professional Services. Through Service Management, Akamai consultants have come to know the PUMA account and configuration intimately and can quickly respond to any request and recommend opportunities for improvement. Moreover, the team is proactive in notifying Hopper and his team about any problems it notices. According to Hopper, “Professional Services might notice that we forgot to cache .mp3 files or have configured the wrong headers and will suggest a fix.”

PUMA can email a changed configuration file to its main point of contact within Akamai for fast and simple updates. As a result, the company can rapidly change its configuration and respond to errors impacting site visitors. “Because our Akamai Professional Services consultant understands my team and its capabilities, he doesn’t waste time verifying that we understand the implications of changes to our configuration file,” says Hopper.

Delivering Beyond Expectations

To date, Professional Services has helped PUMA deploy 30 sites onto the Akamai network. Pleased with the results of DSA, Hopper is encouraging other divisions of PUMA to deploy the solution. Meanwhile, his team is preparing to launch services that enable the company to personalize content on a new level and will use Akamai to offload its servers of computationally intensive database calls. “As we customize more and more, we are using Akamai beyond just the presentation layer. In essence, Akamai will enable us to turn up or throttle down dynamic content in response to traffic loads,” explains Hopper.

“We employ smart, passionate technologists at PUMA and they’re consistently impressed with Akamai’s technology solutions. Many companies overpromise and under-deliver, but the opposite is true for Akamai and Professional Services,” concludes Hopper.