eDreams ODIGEO: Preparing for takeoff with Google Cloud

About eDreams ODIGEO

eDreams ODIGEO is one of the world’s largest online travel companies and one of the largest European ecommerce businesses, with a presence in more than 46 countries and 18 million customers.

Industries: Travel & Hospitality
Location: Spain

eDreams ODIGEO uses Google Kubernetes Engine and AI Platform to dynamically scale its platform and deliver the best possible service to its customers.

Google Cloud results

  • Accelerates development cycles with Google Kubernetes Engine
  • Creates personalized customer recommendations with AI Platform
  • Empowers IT to drive strategy as well as deliver improved technical capabilities

Accelerated feature releases from 40 to 400 per month

“We process more than 1.7 billion travel searches every month,” says Carsten Bernhard, CTO of eDreams ODIGEO. “Scale is a tremendous advantage for us. As one of the largest players in the online travel space, we can get the best deals and invest more into attracting and retaining customers.”

Headquartered in Spain, with five leading online travel brands, eDreams ODIGEO is one of the biggest online travel companies in the world. Since its formation in 2011, eDreams ODIGEO has been working to move the OTA business from a transactional model to a more customer-centered approach, prioritizing long-term relationships over quick sales. As a result of its size, the company can look to its 18 million customers and learn from their behaviors to continuously adapt its offers. “It’s a self-reinforcing circle. More customers means more ability to tailor experiences and that in turn attracts customers,” says Carsten. “All of this is powered by technology. For us, technology is changing our relationship with our customers.”

“Our decision was based on time to market. We believe that in this era of technology, it’s the fastest fish that thrives, not necessarily the biggest one. We felt that Google Cloud would support us to test and release more features for our customers, more rapidly than the competition.”

Carsten Bernhard, CTO, eDreams ODIGEO

Along with an expansion into services beyond air travel, such as dynamic packages, hotels, or car rentals, eDreams ODIGEO decided to optimize its technological infrastructure to be able to continue delivering a great service to customers. The company decided to migrate from a physical on-premises infrastructure to Google Cloud.

“Our decision was based on time to market. We believe that in this era of technology, it’s the fastest fish that thrives, not necessarily the biggest one,” says Carsten. “We felt that Google Cloud would support us to test and release more features for our customers, more rapidly than the competition.”

Dynamic scaling with Google Kubernetes Engine

eDreams ODIGEO already understood the advantages of a container-based architecture. The company custom-built its platform on open-source Mesos clusters, running on in-house servers. As the platform grew to more than a hundred modules, the infrastructure required more management than ever before. “On-premises infrastructure means you have to do a lot of capacity planning and budget for your projects well into the future,” says Carsten. “It would take up more time to plan a project, order new servers, install them, manage them, and then start developing.”

When rolling out updates, the company would duplicate the live module on a parallel set of servers and slowly move the web traffic at times of lower activity, which meant that the launch of updates was challenging during the day and early evening, when most customers visited.

Speed wasn’t the only imperative for the company. eDreams ODIGEO had also been investing heavily in data analytics, machine learning, and AI. It was clear to Carsten and his team that an on-premises infrastructure simply couldn’t scale to meet the demands of these new technologies.

In January, 2017, the company began the search for a new cloud-based infrastructure solution. After evaluating the leading providers, eDreams ODIGEO chose Google Cloud for its performance, strong customer support, and competitive pricing. “We were impressed by the high level of engagement,” says Carsten. “The Google Cloud team was fully invested in our success. It truly was and continues to be a partner on our journey.”

“With Google Kubernetes Engine, there’s not one single highlight, but lots of features like autoscaling, or infrastructure-as-code processes, or its ease of use. There’s a whole combination of things that support us in our mission to deliver a great service to our customers.”

Carsten Bernhard, CTO, eDreams ODIGEO

To minimize disruption, the company migrated to Google Cloud module by module. It took time to replicate and convert each module from Mesos to Kubernetes, the open-source container system invented at Google. With Google Kubernetes Engine orchestrating the majority of the new platform, eDreams ODIGEO can concentrate on speeding up its processes.

“With Google Kubernetes Engine, there’s not one single highlight, but lots of features like autoscaling, or infrastructure-as-code processes, or its ease of use,” says Carsten. “There’s a whole combination of things that support us in our mission to deliver a great service to our customers.”

For the few modules and applications that cannot be containerized yet, the company uses Compute Engine virtual machines, while Cloud Storage serves as a secure, accessible repository for static assets. Stackdriver Monitoring provides a centralized logging and monitoring solution for a comprehensive view of the system as a whole.

Technical gains, strategic value with Google Cloud

With the migration to Google Cloud almost complete, the company is on course to finish by the end of this fiscal year, just as the peak holiday-buying season gets underway. Traditionally, during the winter holidays, eDreams ODIGEO had to plan for more servers to cope with the rise in demand. Yet, these additional servers would then stay idle during non-peak seasons. In the final year of running on-premises infrastructure, the company needed cores to keep its websites running. Today, eDreams ODIGEO has more than doubled these with ease. “When we get to the end of the year, that amount will go up even further,” says Carsten. Scaling up and down at will helps to ensure a smooth, reliable service to its customers without the need for capacity planning or sinking costs into extra hardware.

Adding servers on demand also means that the company can go from a single daily release in the early hours to multiple releases throughout the day. The agility of Google Kubernetes Engine allows eDreams ODIGEO to work at a much faster pace than before. Previously, a new project would take half a year with physical servers. “It would take longer to go from idea to execution, which we call ‘customer lead time.’ That has been reduced by orders of magnitude,” says Carsten. The company used to release around 40 new features a month. Today, the company has grown its releases tenfold, resulting in a much more quality-controlled online experience for its customers.

Meanwhile, eDreams ODIGEO’s work with machine learning has helped the company expand its offering without diluting customer engagement. As the company started to diversify its products and services beyond the flights, it had to straddle a fine line in engaging its customers. “When you give people lots of different options to buy something, you have to be smart about it,” says Carsten. “We found that just offering them fifty new products actually harms customer engagement. So we’ve been using machine learning to recommend personalized products that actually add value to a customer’s experience.”

“Google Cloud has empowered our IT team to make the shift from pure implementation partner to powering core strategic business decisions. Having the capacity to scale dynamically and work quickly has taken us from being a bottleneck to being the engine of the new company strategy.”

Carsten Bernhard, CTO, eDreams ODIGEO

Perhaps the most surprising result of the migration to Google Cloud has been the effect on the IT team itself. The team often hears proposals from other parts of the business and has to decide on their technical feasibility. Recently, it heard a plan from a business department that would provide tremendous value but involved doubling capacity for a large part of the core platform. On the previous infrastructure, that would not have been possible due to the physical limitations of an on-premises infrastructure. On the cloud, however, eDreams ODIGEO simply has to decide on the ROI.

“Google Cloud has empowered our IT team to make the shift from pure implementation partner to powering core strategic business decisions,” says Carsten. “Having the capacity to scale dynamically and work quickly has taken us from being a bottleneck to being the engine of the new company strategy.”

eDreams ODIGEO will spend the rest of this year preparing for another busy holiday season as well as moving the remaining modules to Google Cloud. Once the migration is complete, Carsten intends to decentralize the existing database and build a new data platform with the Google Cloud range of data warehousing and analytics tools, including Cloud Bigtable and BigQuery. The company is also working hard to break new ground with its machine learning and AI capabilities.

“Machine learning is quite an artisan craft at the moment, with every solution unique to its situation,” says Carsten. “We’re trying to look for ways to industrialize the process. We’re very excited to be working with Kubeflow and the Google Cloud team to make this a reality.”

About eDreams ODIGEO

eDreams ODIGEO is one of the world’s largest online travel companies and one of the largest European ecommerce businesses, with a presence in more than 46 countries and 18 million customers.

Industries: Travel & Hospitality
Location: Spain