Namshi case study: How a major online fashion site handles web traffic spikes and consolidates data using Google Cloud solutions

Ziad Jammal, Sara Hamdan June 2019 Fashion, Retail, Tech

Online fashion retailer Namshi saves time and money by simplifying the management of its microservices with a migration to Google Cloud.

About Namshi
Namshi is one of the Middle East’s leading online fashion retailers. The fast-growing business offers more than 700 brands to 1.2 million active customers in the UAE, Saudi Arabia, and across the region.

Founded in 2011, Namshi, recently acquired by Dubai’s Emaar Malls, is now one of the foremost fashion sites in the Middle East, posting a sales increase of 16% in 2018. From the beginning, the online retailer embraced cloud computing, building its platform on a range of distinct, containerized services. But over time, this diverse microservices architecture became more and more complicated to handle.


The team identified networking as the root cause of the problems. “In effect, keeping the clusters up and running was taking up 30% of the team’s time,” says Abdelrahman Shiddo, one of the company’s Site Reliability Engineers (SRE). “Cost was another factor, as every additional cluster meant new budget demands.”


Instead of spending time on maintenance, Namshi wanted to focus on developing and deploying new releases to add value to the business. The team looked for a cost-effective way to simplify management of its microservices: something they felt they could rely on, so they could worry less, and innovate more.

 

“It was frustrating to spend half our time maintaining infrastructure,” says Abdelrahman. “We had tried various management solutions with no success, so when we tested Google Kubernetes Engine (GKE), it was a revelation. With one click, we could provision a cluster and have it running within minutes. Our biggest day-to-day problem disappeared overnight.”

GKE builds on Google's experience of running services like Gmail and YouTube in containers for over 12 years. GKE eliminates the need to install, manage, and operate your own clusters, thereby making it easier to manage data and smoothly handle web traffic spikes that occur, for example, from big marketing campaigns.


“Traffic to our site might spike by 30% to 50% in just a few minutes,” says Abdelrahman. “That’s when we’d see errors, because our system wasn’t ready for that traffic. And then we would research ways to fix the problem and manually tweak our system. It was a long-winded way of doing things. Often we would try to predict peaks and provide extra capacity ahead of time, because we just didn’t trust that things would scale properly in the moment.”


This is particularly relevant for marketers who may expect a marked spike in traffic - whether two hours or two days - after a campaign is launched. GKE is automated and able to scale by itself, handling the additional traffic and keeping everything running efficiently.

“If you have a campaign and the site goes down, marketers stand to lose their efforts - time, money and consumers,” said Ziad Jammal, MENA cloud engineer. “Especially during high peak times, a smoothly running experience is key.”

Quick response


With Namshi’s previous cloud provider, infrastructure could take several minutes to respond to spikes in traffic. Users would receive error notifications during that time, or be unable to access the website. And because it was difficult to manage and scale the current infrastructure without compromising security and liability, development was held back, too.

“Migrating to a new cluster would take so much time that we would try to keep upgrades to a minimum,” says Abdelrahman. “We would limit upgrades to once every four months, but that meant we were always using outdated versions of products, which created other problems.”


Abdelrahman and his team looked to migrate to the best cloud provider available for orchestrating Kubernetes. “We ran a benchmark, and the alternatives just could not compare to GKE,” says Abdelrahman. “It was so much easier to manage networking and scaling, and cluster upgrades could be done at the click of a button.”


As well as moving microservices to GKE, the team migrated its primary database to Google Cloud SQL too, so it could take advantage of competitive pricing.


“We had millions of rows of data to move to Cloud SQL, and it would have taken forever to do it ourselves,” says Abdelrahman. “Google Cloud made it easy when they released an API that copied everything across from the database we had with our previous cloud provider.”


The benefit of turning to Google Cloud solutions was that all data is housed in one location.  

“Insights can come from web traffic, from applications, from various sources - traditionally, these are separate which results in silos, and therefore less visibility on customer behavior,” says Victor Bishay, a cloud specialist in MENA. “This is the big value of using Google - everything is in one place, which makes data analysis a more streamlined process.”

Cutting costs and building trust

By migrating to GKE, Namshi has cut infrastructure costs by 30%.


“Because of GKE,  engineers can focus more on Namshi's business than fixing a server or a network issue, giving them the opportunity to better align with marketing teams,” says Jammal. “It’s a key value of Cloud. Rather than spending time on day-to-day operations, they can develop new features and analyze data useful for marketers."

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