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Ster-Kinekor ends website crashes during peak web traffic surges for popular movie tickets

55 Movie Complexes

154 3D Cinemas

Over 400 Screens

64,000 Seats

Application Experience

Faster Website & Mobile App

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The Problem

Cinema company SterKinekor was losing business due to their website being unable to handle massive traffic surges from blockbuster movie audiences. The front-end of their website was being load balanced by Nginx. They needed to find a new load balancing solution for their website.
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Why Kemp

Ster-Kinekor, who had previously used Nginx, found Kemp could ensure their website was always-on and could handle massive spikes in traffic. They chose Kemp for ease of use and flexibility of licensing. They found Kemp’s support team very responsive and described Kemp as being easy to do business with.
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The Solution

Kemp LoadMaster load balancing has enabled secure, resilient delivery of the website and mobile app for Ster-Kinekor and their guests. Cinema goers now enjoy an always on, fast, reliable user experience when accessing Ster-Kinekor’s website or app. The simplicity of setting up Kemp stood out for Ster-Kinekor.

Enhancing cinema experience across Africa

Ster-Kinekor Theatres is a cinema company headquartered in South Africa, where it owns 60-65% of the market. It’s 55 movie complexes with more than 400 screens, 64 000 seats, and 154 state-of-the-art 3D cinemas are where their guests share Great Moments at their Greatest. The company has 175 employees at their Johannesburg head office and over 600 employees at their cinema complexes across several African countries. The core business is operating these cinemas from 9am to 11pm daily, with weekends being the busiest period. Ster-Kinekor guests have access to a broad selection of films ranging from the latest Hollywood and Bollywood blockbusters to the latest local releases.

Ster-Kinekor embraced digital over 10 years ago with their website, which offers movie show times and online ticket bookings. Their great-looking, intuitive mobile app makes the magic of cinema more accessible to movie-goers, wherever they are. Ster-Kinekor are at an earlier stage of digital transformation in other areas. Currently their IT Infrastructure and applications are on-premises, with only Office 365 being in the cloud. Ster-Kinekor’s digital transformation process will include moving their DRs to the cloud, and then considering cloud migration for all other workloads.

Ster-Kinekor’s Challenge

Ster-Kinekor’s website and mobile app are of vital importance to their business and to their guests accessing great moments. Their problem was their brand reputation and sales revenues being negatively affected by their website’s inability to cope with surges in web traffic.

Marvel superhero film, Avengers: Endgame, which went on to become the highest grossing film of all time, was launched in April 2019. Normal traffic to the website can be between 500 and 800 concurrent connections although they could handle up to approximately 4,400 concurrent connections. When the Avengers: Endgame movie launched it went way beyond that.

The IT team knew they needed to find an alternative way to ensure the site was always-on and could handle massive spikes in traffic.

They needed to load balance their website which is composed of two components:

  • The website back-end is Vista Group cinema software running on IIS for Windows® Server
  • The website front-end which was being load balanced by Nginx

The Kemp Solution

Kemp enables secure, resilient delivery of the Ster-Kinekor website and mobile application, giving cinema guests a fast and reliable user experience. With Kemp the website and app are always on for Ster-Kinekor customers, ensuring access during peak times such as opening day of blockbuster movies like Avengers: Endgame.

Ster-Kinekor moved both the front-end and back-end of their website, previously load balanced by Nginx, to Kemp LoadMaster which is now enabling them to manage much more connections and demand. Ster-Kinekor IT chose Kemp LoadMaster hardware rather than load balancing software for this solution. Senior IT Consultant, Ahmed Ebrahim, the simplicity of setting up Kemp stood out for him.

The Kemp solution allows Ster-Kinekor IT team to modify the performance metrics collected and the way these are presented to their management. LoadMaster has been running smoothly since installation and they have seen a big improvement in the speed of the Ster-Kinekor website. The IT team have also seen increased speed on their mobile app, running on iOS and Android, since deploying Kemp LoadMaster.

Kemp is a global company with headquarters in New York City, and regional hubs in Ireland; Germany, Brazil and Singapore. More importantly for Ster Kinekor, Kemp have local people working in many of the 138 countries where their 25,000 customers are based, including South Africa. This local support makes all the difference. Ster-Kinekor find the Kemp Support Team to be excellent, commenting that they were able resolve any issues that arose during implementation, were very prompt, and were “always on the ball”.

The End Result

The IT team were keen to see how Disney movie, The Lion King, launched in July 2019, would test their new load balancing configuration and were pleased when the site and mobile app served their customers without any issues.

Ticket sales for a big movie like Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker coming out in December 2019, can begin up to three months in advance and the company see this as another big test. The IT team and Web Development team go through a range of load balancing scenarios in advance. They are now in the process of writing scripts to test a load on the web servers and see what they can handle before another blockbuster movie is suddenly upon them.

Since moving ahead with Kemp, both users and the team testing the Ster-Kinekor website and app have reported a big improvement in speed and user experience.

The importance of providing a consistent application experience at all times to our customers cannot be underestimated, any disruption to our online ticketing service can severely impact our brand's reputation and bottom line. We chose Kemp as our trusted load balancing provider due to its ease of use, licensing flexibility and responsive support team.
Hilton Martin
Ster-Kinekor

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