Aucnet Upgrades Auction System Enabling 50msec Price Updates via WebSocket

Auction management giant, Aucnet (Minato, Tokyo)is promoting a revolution in core auction systems. In the spring of 2016 they began using a powerful new bidding system in their auctions for used, four-wheel vehicles.

The main feature is an auction function that refreshes prices on-screen every 50 milliseconds using the bidirectional WebSocket communication protocol. Moving forward, they will investigate the auction’s deployment to Hanaki and digital devices.

Aucnet auctions approximately four million vehicles annually at more than 100 physical sites nationwide as well as on the Internet. Approximately 7,500 used-vehicle dealerships participate in such auctions as members and purchase used vehicles to resell to consumers. The bidding system provides a mechanism for used-vehicle dealerships to participate in auctions via the Internet. During an auction, upstream communication data relative to “who has bid? (person raising the price)” and downstream communication data regarding “did the most recent price win the bid?” are received. Here only a small amount of data is exchanged, and, as the price changes 20 times every second (in 50-millisecond units), strict and near-real-time communication control can be achieved.

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Migrating from Java Application to Browser

There are two objectives for this system upgrade.

The first is to replace an existing Java client-server application. A Java-based bidding system has been operational for approximately 10 years. Java was used because, at that time, a strict communication protocol could not be achieved solely through a web browser. The mechanism involved communication between a Java application (client) installed on vehicle dealership PCs and the Aucnet server.

However, the disadvantage of this was the burden on user support. As explained by the Cloud Promotion Supervision GM, Tameyuki Kuroyanagi, of the system’s subsidiary Aucnet IBS, which is spearheading the reform project:

The used-vehicle dealerships were a variety of sizes and so the specs of the PCs used were equally diverse. There was a constant need to upgrade the Java application, and this required considerable support.

In the new system, bid/win data are exchanged using the WebSocket protocol. WebSocket is a communication protocol designed for real-time/multi-frequency bidirectional communication. Aucnet concluded that the same performance level as that delivered by the Java application could be achieved with WebSocket.

As WebSocket functionality is automatically loaded with the web application, participation in the auction using a wide variety of operating environments, including Windows, Mac, and iPad, is now possible. The Java version is still supported however approximately 30% of the used-vehicle dealerships have migrated to the new system.

Simultaneous Auction of 100 Vehicles

The other objective is the introduction of new services. As a special project, Aucnet has started a new auction system called the “Hyakuretsu-shodan (Hundred-Exploded Auction Sales)”. An auction format in which 100 vehicles can be auctioned within a 15-minute time limit occurs once per week.

The previous type of auction was conducted vehicle-by-vehicle; the used-vehicle dealership’s purchasing representative had to wait until the auction began. In cases where the intended product had already been determined, using the Hyakuretsu-shodan (Hundred-Exploded Auction Sales) enables purchasing to be completed in a short period of time.

The need for a simultaneous multi-vehicle auction has been evident for a long time; however, due to communication restrictions, the number of vehicles could not be increased.

Although there was a desire to propose a new purchasing method, it was difficult to implement the required number of simultaneous communications (approximately 100x greater) with the previous Java app. With the adoption of WebSocket technology, it has become possible to implement new services.Cloud Promotion Supervision GM, Tameyuki Kuroyanagi

With the current system, approximately 200 vehicles can be effectively auctioned at the same time. Moving forward, Aucnet plans to improve the system and service content while considering the trends of used-vehicle dealerships.

Hybrid Cloud Architecture

The new Aucnet system infrastructure is built using the “Amazon Web Services”(AWS)public cloud in combination with a private Aucnet cloud.

WebSocket-related processing is performed by the Kaazing WebSocket Gateway which was developed in the United States by Kaazing, who develop system-linking software specifically for this field(see also smooth linking between systems using WebSockets). According to standards organizations, most web browsers deployed since 2011 are compatible with the WebSocket standard; however, Internet Explorer versions 6–9, which are often employed by used-vehicle dealerships, are not compatible. Support for legacy browsers is provided using WebSocket emulation built into the Kaazing WebSocket Gateway.

Functions for the new auction format Hyakuretsu-shodan (Hundred-Exploded Auction Sales) use AWS with Apache ActiveMQ, which is a message-processing tool (message broker) with the Kaazing Gateway server. The previous auction functions for “new auctions” is developed and operated using the same configuration in a private cloud.

Original article in Japanese