Hare Digital: Tracking tens of thousands of vehicles with scalable, responsive microservices

About Hare Digital

Based in Brighton, UK, software agency Hare Digital develops custom software systems for clients across a range of industries, specializing in digital transformation, IoT, AI, and big data.

Industries: Technology
Location: United Kingdom

Hare Digital cut infrastructure costs by 78% for a transport tracking business that tracks almost 100,000 vehicles, thanks to a simple, autoscaling microservices solution implemented on Google Cloud Platform products.

Google Cloud Results

  • Saves a reported 78% on infrastructure costs with microservices on Google Cloud Platform
  • Reduces project costs by two-thirds by bringing DevOps in house
  • Eliminates the stress of freeing server capacity and the wait for new resources

Live in 5 weeks instead of a 10-month migration

From transport to retail, Hare Digital solves challenges for clients across a range of industries by creating custom software tailored to specific needs. So when UK company ScorpionTrack looked to optimize its real-time vehicle tracking system, it approached Hare Digital for a solution.

Every day, ScorpionTrack collects tens of millions of rows of data from location tracking devices in almost 100,000 cars, motorbikes, and other vehicles, helping businesses manage their fleets and owners reclaim stolen vehicles. ScorpionTrack takes care to store sensitive historical data for its customers, and as new vehicles joined the system, scaling and storage capacity became pressing concerns.

"The system had developed load issues," says Chris O'Hare, Founder and CEO at Hare Digital. "There were issues with backing up of databases, and the system could not be duplicated on demand. If we needed a new server for additional capacity, we had to file a request, and then wait at least six weeks before we could use it. And because we had to wait so long, we would have to stress about squeezing as much space as possible from existing servers until a new server was ready."

"We weren't cloud engineers, but we wanted to learn the skills and do the work in-house, rather than outsource it. Google Cloud Platform gives us confidence to do that and freedom to play with different options. It can be as simple or as complex as we want it to be."

Chris O'Hare, Founder and CEO, Hare Digital

To create a more robust, reliable, and scalable system, Chris and his team decided to migrate ScorpionTrack to a microservices architecture built with managed solutions on the cloud.

"We weren't cloud engineers, but we wanted to learn the skills and do the work in-house, rather than outsource it," says Chris. "Google Cloud Platform (GCP) gives us the confidence to do that and the freedom to play with different options. It can be as simple or as complex as we want it to be."

Effortless scaling to match unpredictable events

People can be unpredictable, which is why any company that stores data for its customers needs to build flexibility into its infrastructure. For ScorpionTrack, unexpected surges in demand could crash the system, creating backlogs of data in vehicle trackers. Then, when the system would come back online, the backlog would upload all at once, creating another surge, in a vicious cycle. As a result, peaks presented a significant challenge to the company's ability to serve its customers.

"We can expect rush hour traffic, but sometimes vehicles send signals in ways that aren't anticipated," says Chris. "If a number of tracked vehicles are driven onto a ferry, for example, the system is alerted that they are all being stolen, because the vehicles are moving but the engines are off. It's hard to predict every eventuality when that kind of surge of alerts might happen."

Sometimes multiple businesses choose to generate reports on their vehicles at the same time, creating significant demand on the ScorpionTrack database. "Those reports are massive documents," says Chris. "They may combine data from hundreds of vehicles, each with history of data reports taken every 15 seconds over several years. We need to have the capacity to create many reports at the same time, but we don't know when that demand will occur."

"Now if there's something wrong with a component we can create a clone of it, and then test that and implement changes, ready to flip those changes on to our live version. That playful, speedy approach is unheard of with dedicated infrastructure, and it's great for developing."

Chris O'Hare, Founder and CEO, Hare Digital

Hare Digital looked for cloud infrastructure on which to base a new microservices architecture. The team spent 10 months working to implement a leading cloud solution. "We had the feeling that there was so much to do, and so many ways that we could mess it up," says Chris. "We had a look at GCP and instantly felt that we could get things moving. Instances on Compute Engine were cheaper and faster than their equivalents, too. We switched to GCP and went live in just five weeks."

The new microservices architecture handles incoming data with apps on App Engine, which autoscales to match demand in seconds. The data is then delivered to Cloud SQL and BigQuery, a real-time, cloud data warehouse that ingests and analyzes streaming data for rapid analysis.

BigQuery captures and analyzes both batch and streaming data, so the system can produce simultaneous reports without compromising stability or speed. Because storage and compute scale independently on BigQuery, Chris can rely on it to analyze massive volumes of data automatically. Hare Digital no longer needs to plan capacity or calculate how to provision resources because it can use BigQuery within a NoOps serverless infrastructure.

The team handles logging with Stackdriver Monitoring, while Cloud Pub/Sub manages queues between the components, so no data is lost. At the front end, Cloud Load Balancing makes sure that the ScorpionTrack website is fast and highly available by spinning up additional Compute Engine instances at times of increased traffic.

"Now if there's something wrong with a component we can create a clone of it, and then test that and implement changes, ready to flip those changes on to our live version," says Chris. "That playful, speedy approach is unheard of with dedicated infrastructure, and it's great for developing."

"Google Cloud has given us a new direction in our business as we leverage Google innovations to help other businesses with their data problems. All our projects now use Google Cloud Platform. That helps bring talented developers on board, because Google is a known leader in AI and Big Data."

Chris O'Hare, Founder and CEO, Hare Digital

Leveraging innovation in AI and Big Data to create client solutions

ScorpionTrack infrastructure costs are reduced by a reported 78 percent, thanks to the new, autoscaling solution put in place by Hare Digital. "We reached that savings by making the most of GCP," says Chris. "Google Cloud enabled our developers to become DevOps engineers without the contractor costs, saving two-thirds of what we would have spent if we had outsourced. The simplicity of the Google Cloud UI, their training classes, and even hands-on help when it came to building our architecture made the difference. On this project alone, using GCP saved us over £70,000."

The stress of trying to free space on servers while waiting for new capacity has been eliminated, too. "The infrastructure handles its own growth now," says Chris. "We just check on it. It's so easy to handle." For future projects, elements of the system can be cloned to create bespoke versions for other uses. Hare Digital is also exploring other implementations of GCP products, including Cloud Vision and Google Kubernetes Engine.

"Google Cloud has given us a new direction in our business, as we leverage Google innovations to help other businesses with their data problems," says Chris. "All our projects now use Google Cloud Platform. That helps bring talented developers on board, because Google is a known leader in AI and Big Data."

About Hare Digital

Based in Brighton, UK, software agency Hare Digital develops custom software systems for clients across a range of industries, specializing in digital transformation, IoT, AI, and big data.

Industries: Technology
Location: United Kingdom