Established in 2001, Blackpepper is a leading e-commerce services provider based in Auckland, New Zealand. The firm helps a range of household brands reach millions of customers each month through its hosted ecommerce and digital platforms. The Blackpepper team works with well-known fashion brands, including Glassons, Hallenstein Brothers, North Beach, Hush Puppies, and Superette.
Location: Auckland, New Zealand
Customer since: 2020
Blackpepper was handling an exponential increase in traffic during the 2020 pandemic lockdown, when traffic volumes increased by up to 400 times from the previous year. This was starting to pose a risk for operational excellence, so Blackpepper needed to figure out how to handle increased traffic in a sustainable manner. They also needed to bolster their security posture against a wave of denial of service (DDoS) attacks that were targeting Australia and New Zealand.
At the time, Blackpepper’s operations had relied on an on-premise data centre and a range of applications and tools developed in-house, including a bespoke Web Application Firewall (WAF).
“We were also using an external content delivery network (CDN) to serve videos and images to each website,” CEO Alain Russell says. “We wanted to shift to a model where our chosen CDN delivered everything for our customers’ websites, rather than just visuals. Unfortunately, our existing vendor was unable to meet this demand and so we realised we needed to find an alternative provider.”
In short, Blackpepper needed a single provider that could tackle everything from content delivery and image optimisation to security. After a series of careful evaluations, Blackpepper chose Fastly for its highly configurable approach and speed of deployment.
“We worked with Fastly solutions in the past and were aware of their capabilities,” says Russell. “When we examined the additional capabilities of DDoS and bot protection they offered, we realised it was the best solution to meet our requirements for providing speed for our fast-paced customers as well as protection against attacks while stopping malicious traffic.”
Once Fastly was in place, Blackpepper immediately enjoyed significant technical and business benefits. Images could be processed and uploaded to customer websites much more quickly and with fewer manual steps required. Blackpepper could propagate changes to websites with new materials at much faster rates than previously possible.
“We use shielding for origin protection as well as [Image Optimiser] and noticed the traffic could traverse the Fastly network a lot quicker than the standard internet. In fact, we actually had to re-factor some bits of our code around this as we were seeing callbacks from payment providers arrive much quicker than they previously did,” Russell says. “When you are processing 2.5 billion requests for images and video every month, a change in performance of this nature has a massive impact on our customer websites. Some customers could not believe just how fast their pages were now loading.”
Adopting Fastly has simplified the way Blackpepper runs front end code, all while giving them greater visibility than before.
“Now that everything is fronted by Fastly, we are able to easily make changes to the underlying infrastructure,” he says. “This is something that was very difficult to achieve previously and has proved very useful during our migration to AWS. We have 80 sites in production and yet we also have much better visibility into what is going on within the infrastructure at all times.”
Russell says the support received from Fastly, both during the deployment and since, has been second to none. The team successfully migrated the image and video traffic for all customer websites onto Fastly’s network over a smooth five-week period.
In upcoming months, Russell says that his team will focus on edge computing and how this developing area can be put to work to assist clients.
“Everything is about speed and security in our industry, so we’re interested in how we can move more processing logic closer to our customers’ end users. This will be a project we pick up once we complete our back-end migration to AWS. I’m very confident that Fastly will continue to support us on both these important fronts,” says Russell.
“During our migration, Fastly helped us problem solve and made recommendations on how things could work. This ended up helping us re-factor parts of our internal code around their recommendations. Fastly has also been great for our first WAF deployments in helping us understand how it works, and how we can tune the relative rules around our platform. They are a great team to work with and are always extremely responsive when we have queries.” Alain Russell