Drouot Digital: Successfully moving towards selling art objects online

About Drouot Digital

Since 1852, Drouot has offered auction operators everything needed to develop their services. Today the company also supports their move into the digital sphere with internet auctions, website creation, online audience development, and web marketing.

Industries: Retail
Location: France

About Neoxia

Neoxia, an European cloud expert since 2008, builds high-performance software services with Google Cloud Platform. Its subsidiary, Skale 5, is dedicated to multi-cloud IT outsourcing.

By choosing Google Cloud Platform, Drouot Digital helps ensure the safe management and global transmission of thousands of online auctions and more than a million art objects.

Google Cloud Platform Results

  • Google Cloud Platform is at the centre of Drouot Digital’s infrastructure
  • Google Compute Engine powers its websites, online auction applications, and live video transmissions
  • Managed service Google Cloud SQL facilitates the configuration, maintenance, management, and administration of relational MySQL databases in the cloud
  • Google Cloud Storage speeds up access to thousands of object photos

Annual sales of €87 million via Drouot’s platforms

Drouot Digital, which connects 120,000 bidders with the 240 French and international auction houses that already use its services, offers bidders the opportunity to purchase art objects online via live auctions (participating via the web in saleroom auctions) and online auctions (exclusively online). Every year, 3,500 catalogues and over a million lots, totaling over €1 billion in value, divided over 21 major categories, are made available to art lovers.

The only marketplace for art objects and collecting that does not charge its buyers any additional fees, Drouot Digital is enjoying considerable growth, with a turnover of €87 million in 2017, an increase of 23% since 2016. The Drouot Group launched the DrouotLive platform in 2009, followed in 2011 by DrouotOnline.

Thanks to e-commerce, the sale of art objects is no longer constrained by time and space. Thousands of clients from around the world can simultaneously bid on works from any era and any culture. Towards the end of 2016, Drouot invested €2 million in Drouot Digital with “the objective of creating the foremost European platform for the direct sale of art online, offering all the services of a dedicated e-commerce provider,” states Olivier Lange, CEO, Drouot.

“All of our websites, auction systems, and online sales are powered by Google Cloud Platform. This infrastructure provides improvements in performance and stability.”

Olivier Cauvin, CTO, Drouot

Accelerating international development

Previously, the auction house had three separate hosted IT systems: one for drouot.com and the magazine LaGazette-drouot.com, one for DrouotOnline and DrouotLive, and one for the network expertissim. This situation was inefficient for Drouot, both financially and technically. “The previous infrastructure was monolithic. We needed to accelerate and automate the deployment of our platforms, while improving the performance, availability, and resilience of our network,” says Olivier Cauvin, CTO, Drouot. “Since autumn 2017, all of our websites, auction systems, and online sales are powered by Google Cloud Platform. This infrastructure provides improvements in performance and stability, even when the rates of connections can vary from 1 to 100,” says Olivier.

This is particularly true for the auctions conducted for Téléthon. Previously, several information systems technicians had to spend a month preparing, reserving servers, configuring memory caches, and so on. “Now, a single administrator can configure the whole thing in a few minutes,” says Olivier. Server costs have been reduced by 20%, even though the number of virtual machines has tripled—and are configured to better correspond to Drouot’s needs.

A new infrastructure in four months

Impressed by the clarity of the pricing structure of Google Cloud Platform (GCP), Drouot Digital tested the video transmission of auctions via Google Cloud CDN in mid-2017. The trial was decisive, both in terms of the quality of the audiovisual stream and the ability to manage the load without incidences of latency, regardless of the number of simultaneous connections. The migration of the three previous platforms to GCP was then carried out over four months in the autumn of 2017, with the help of an implementation partner, Skale 5, a subsidiary of Neoxia.

The key elements of the work included modifying the SQL database versions, reconfiguring the applications, and reprogramming the Java Code in order to adapt each to virtual server clusters on GCP. Google App Engine facilitated the porting of tens of thousands of object lot photos from the three former platforms to GCP.

Alongside the change of infrastructure, Drouot Digital transformed the culture of its IT services with the adoption of an integrated model of development and implementation (DevOps), the automated deployment of applications, and the activation of services managed by GCP.

“An automatic backup takes place every evening, managed by Google Cloud Platform. We now have greater simplicity and peace of mind thanks to delegating this service. We no longer need to maintain in-house knowledge of SQL clusters.”

Olivier Cauvin, CTO, Drouot

A tailor-made configuration

Drouot Digital uses the configuration tool Terraform to describe and oversee the services it has moved to GCP, as well as Ansible and Gitlab pipelines for deployment. The operations are backed by Google Compute Engine via virtual 8-core Debian—Tomcat server clusters with 15GB of active memory. “The instances are created very quickly and are withdrawn as soon as they are no longer needed, which helps ensure we only pay for what we really use,” says Olivier.

PostgreSQL and Google Cloud SQL are database services that are completely managed and can house 30GB of data, and optimally process up to 1,000 requests a second, as the rewriting of the code before migration reduced the number of accesses to the disks.

“An automatic backup takes place every evening, managed by Google Cloud Platform. We now have greater simplicity and peace of mind thanks to delegating this service. We no longer need to maintain in-house knowledge of SQL clusters,” says Olivier. The entirety of the data is replicated as a backup, meaning new servers can be activated within minutes when there is insufficient power.

“During an auction, the video transmission must be simultaneous no matter where the potential buyers are located, which is essential to our business.”

Olivier Cauvin, CTO, Drouot

High-speed images

Using Google Cloud Storage data containers buckets and the global network of Google Cloud CDN, Drouot Digital reduces the latency of video transmissions down to a minimum. Caching the photos of the lots speeds up their loading, depending on the location of potential buyers. 70% of images are therefore stored, a total of 5TB, and double the number of photos cached compared with the previous platforms.

“During an auction, the video transmission must be simultaneous no matter where the potential buyers are located, which is essential to our business,” says Olivier. “Moreover, the images of objects for sale are extracted just once from our database and are made available, via caches, for the hundreds or even thousands of people who are connected. This radically lightens the load of the virtual servers, and therefore reduces our running costs.”

In 2018, Drouot plans to test the new Google Cloud Functions service in order to automatically reframe and resize large groups of images deposited in Google Cloud Storage buckets containers. This will avoid the need for large dedicated servers.

About Drouot Digital

Since 1852, Drouot has offered auction operators everything needed to develop their services. Today the company also supports their move into the digital sphere with internet auctions, website creation, online audience development, and web marketing.

Industries: Retail
Location: France

About Neoxia

Neoxia, an European cloud expert since 2008, builds high-performance software services with Google Cloud Platform. Its subsidiary, Skale 5, is dedicated to multi-cloud IT outsourcing.

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