Flywheel: Simplifying site management for clients

About Flywheel

Flywheel takes care of site administration for customers with sites on WordPress and allows them to get back to doing their best work. Founded in 2012, Flywheel is based in Omaha, Nebraska.

Industries: Technology
Location: United States

About Fastly

Google Cloud Partner Fastly is an edge cloud platform that helps developers make great digital experiences happen quickly, securely, and reliably by processing and serving customers' applications at the edge, as close to end-users as possible.

Flywheel and its WordPress platform automates website upkeep for creative professionals and corporate customers. Routine customer site management was inflexible on the company's legacy backend and, with more than 100,000 customer sites, Flywheel sought a more versatile and cost-effective environment for IT administration.

Google Cloud Results

  • Allows for update pushes without causing customer downtime
  • Reduces operating costs for customer sites through streamlined server infrastructure via Kubernetes clustering
  • Broadens access to data and data-driven insights through Google Data Studio and BigQuery

Reduced egress expenses by 50%

Enabling Change

Solutions: Migration; Data Analytics
Workloads: VM Migration; Smart Analytics

Efficiency was a major concern during the early stages of migration planning among Flywheel staff, as the company previously navigated challenges such as having to put individual customer sites onto their own virtual machines or virtual private servers. With its rapidly growing customer base, the company's legacy architecture became a pain point, but with Google Cloud Platform (GCP), Flywheel now has the agility to quickly scale and respond to customer needs faster.

Google Kubernetes Engine provides performance gains and ease of use to the Flywheel platform. The cluster-friendly architecture of Kubernetes allows Flywheel to effectively put more on a server without significantly increasing the supervision required by IT employees. Self-healing and intuitive scalability features within Google Kubernetes Engine allow Flywheel to respond to service issues or customer needs for more CPU and memory resources without the risk of extended downtime.

A cloud-based BI solution with Google centered around BigQuery and Google Data Studio improves data accessibility for Flywheel, bringing newfound information visibility to sales and support teams. The company has also explored leveraging its data warehouse to produce predictive insights on customer subscription and cancellation trends to drive revenue growth. Cloud SQL, Cloud Load Balancing, Stackdriver, Cloud Functions, and Cloud Pub/Sub assist with Flywheel platform's support and diagnostic needs.

Flywheel had been looking at Fastly, a Google Cloud Partner that operates a global edge cloud platform based on Varnish, to replace the in-house Varnish layer Flywheel ran on every server. Now, Fastly extends Flywheel's core Varnish architecture globally, allowing Flywheel to do more at the edge. Flywheel reports that partnering with Fastly resulted in a 2x improvement in cache hit ratio, meaning more requests were served at the edge — not via origin servers.

"Using Fastly reduces strain on our infrastructure and allows us to get content to our customers faster," says Tommy Vacek, Director of Engineering at Flywheel.

Another of Flywheel's architectural goals was to get to 100 percent TLS across all hosted sites in order to provide highly secure communications with end users and benefit customers' SEO rankings. Flywheel is using Fastly's Platform TLS service for supporting HTTPS across the thousands of websites it manages. Flywheel found that using Fastly drove better performance for hosted sites and a 50 percent reduction in egress costs — all while strengthening security through TLS at the edge.

Regular support from Google Cloud Customer Engineers helped Flywheel smoothly navigate the migration process. GCP performance and accessibility has also been a boon for Flywheel IT employees. Previously, routine development or site administration would require significant computing overhead or lengthy customer interaction due to a legacy ecosystem that paired Flywheel systems with individual customer platforms.

For Flywheel developers, GCP represents an infrastructure shift that actively encourages open access and drives productivity gains through better administration. Flywheel also plans to leverage its GCP and Fastly platform to explore growth in the enterprise market through new features including DDoS mitigation, geolocation, and image optimization.

"Previously, we simply were unable to patch 20,000 servers manually or automatically," says Tommy. "Since moving to Google Cloud Platform, we've upgraded the OS monthly with no customer downtime. Google Cloud Platform allows us to take Flywheel to the next level."

"From product to support, working with Google and Fastly just made a lot of sense. We've seen a 50 percent reduction in egress costs and leveraging Fastly and its global network helps bring us closer to our customers."

Tommy Vacek, Director of Engineering, Flywheel

About Flywheel

Flywheel takes care of site administration for customers with sites on WordPress and allows them to get back to doing their best work. Founded in 2012, Flywheel is based in Omaha, Nebraska.

Industries: Technology
Location: United States

About Fastly

Google Cloud Partner Fastly is an edge cloud platform that helps developers make great digital experiences happen quickly, securely, and reliably by processing and serving customers' applications at the edge, as close to end-users as possible.