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Online booking: how thousands of orders are handled a minute on busy days

With cloud computing, we’re able to deal with extremely high demand.

By Rob Greig (Chief Technology Officer)

2 December 2013 at 9.29am | 4 Comments

We’re often asked by customers and other arts organizations how we deal with our big booking days. What’s behind our website, how does it work and what are we doing to ensure that ticket buyers are able to make their purchases quickly and easily.

The Royal Opera House is not the only arts organization wrestling with the challenges of online sales for Victorian-era theatres, or dealing with the demands for greater capacity online. As charities and non-profit organizations we are always mindful how we spend our resources and it is important that what we do is sustainable.

With this in mind, we’ve turned to cloud technologies to solve the problem. Cloud simply means ‘processing on the internet somewhere’. Imagine your home computer not being under the desk at home or in the office, but somewhere in Ireland and only being paid for when it’s in use. This is basically what we do but on a much larger scale. Through using cloud computing, we’re able to ensure that we avoid any unnecessary expenditure.

We use Amazon Web Services as our cloud provider, one of the largest providers in the world whose other clients include Vodafone, Ticketmaster and FC Barcelona (who, with over 98,000 tickets to process for every game, dwarf us in terms of capacity!). Amazon’s services are combined with Tessitura – our customer relationship management system – with both of these high-spec systems able to handle periods of high demand.

During our last public booking day we had 360 virtual computers (servers) available to us in the cloud. One hundred and eighty of these were in action and the 180 were held as a backup to ensure that, with a sudden increase in purchases, we were able to cope with the extra demand. A few hours after booking opened at 10am we were able to scale down to only four servers – such is the speed at which thousands converge on our site and then depart after booking.

The nature of cloud technology has allowed us to develop and improve. Making the website more stable has been our priority, and now we have achieved this we are working on new functionality such as our ticket search feature, something that you can now try out for yourself.

We’re looking forward to enabling an array of new functionality in the future, and always welcome constructive feedback.

By Rob Greig (Chief Technology Officer)

2 December 2013 at 9.29am

This article has been categorised Off stage and tagged Amazon Web Services, booking, Cloud, design, development, digital, technology, Tessitura, website

This article has 4 comments

  1. Sims responded on 3 December 2013 at 12:56pm Reply

    Hope that by next booking day the amphi seating plan
    will show ALL available all seats. Plan does NOT scroll to the top and alternative selection by price seems to have gone.

    A straightforward list of productions (no illustrations required) would be useful.

    .

    • Ellen West (Head of Online Content) responded on 3 December 2013 at 5:49pm

      Hi Sims

      You should be able to drag the map to see all of the available seats, or pinch if you are on a tablet. This is the same principle as a Google Map.

      You can see a plain list of what is available to book by using the page available for each booking day:
      http://www.roh.org.uk/events/booking

      Best wishes

      Ellen

  2. It is an enormous improvement that everyone can log on to the website at once. However there is only the same number of seats available so competition is fierce! There does seem to be an issue now with the fact that often seats are still indicated as available long after they have been added to a basket. This is very frustrating as one can waste so much time getting submission errors.

    • Chris Shipman (Content Producer (Social Media and News)) responded on 10 December 2013 at 3:33pm

      Hi Ann,

      This is something that occurred for a small number of users and we're looking into the cause of this.

      Apologies for the inconvenience.

      Chris
      ROH Content Producer

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