iCarAsia: Accelerating time to market and boosting employee engagement with Google Cloud

About iCarAsia

Founded in 2012 and headquartered in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, iCarAsia provides websites and applications that connect buyers and sellers of new and used cars.

Industries: Technology
Location: Malaysia

iCarAsia reduces deployment time, expands operations, and uses a machine learning-powered chatbot to interact with customers by using Google Cloud technologies.

Google Cloud Results

  • Decreases software deployment time, replacing biweekly updates with immediate new feature availability
  • Reduces inter-application communication times
  • Offers opportunities to engage with customers and supplement traditional support roles with a machine learning-powered chatbot

Reducing server response times from up to 400 milliseconds to 60 milliseconds

Founded in 2012 and headquartered in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, iCarAsia provides websites and applications that connect buyers and sellers of new and used cars. The business has 500 employees across Malaysia, Indonesia, and Thailand. Its websites attract more than 8 million visits from car buyers and enthusiasts each month.

iCarAsia brands in Malaysia include the car classifieds service Carlist.my and the motoring editorial property Live Life Drive. In Indonesia, the business runs the automotive classifieds property Mobil123.com and the news service Otospirit. In Thailand, iCarAsia operates the car listings service one2car.com, the classifieds website Thaicar.com, and the car enthusiast website Auto Spinn.

The business also offers capabilities through its applications and websites for car dealers to create listings, respond to leads from customers, and access real-time analytics.

“The primary key performance indicator we track is generation of a qualified lead to a seller,” explains Pedro Sttau, Chief Information Officer, iCarAsia. “We measure this by counting the number of people who click on a car listing with intent to contact a seller. Near mid-2018, we were achieving click-through rates of about 35,000 per day.”

iCarAsia emerged from a series of mergers and acquisitions (M&As) of similar businesses across South East Asia. As the new organization emerged, its IT leaders decided the cloud was the best fit for its infrastructure needs. “When the business started, we were expanding into multiple markets with centralized technology,” Sttau explains. “We needed an elastic solution that could expand or retract quickly in line with our M&A strategy and performance.”

Google Cloud Platform boosts performance and reduces cost

In 2014, iCarAsia moved its applications and services to a multinational cloud service. However, changes to withholding tax in Malaysia threatened to make the service prohibitively expensive. As cost negotiations with the cloud provider continued, iCarAsia started engaging with Google. The company’s technology team benchmarked Google Cloud Platform (GCP) services and found they delivered considerable improvements in performance and cost.

These improvements included substantial reductions in the 30 to 60 minutes required to undertake a software deployment, inter-application communication times, and server response times of 300 to 400 milliseconds. iCarAsia also saw opportunities through Google Cloud automation to move from biweekly software deployments to a more dynamic schedule—delivering new products and features faster to customers and boosting engineers’ morale and engagement with the business.

“The Google account team made us feel like we were really being taken care of and that Google was interested in our business. Moving to Google Cloud was a no-brainer for us.”

Pedro Sttau, Chief Information Officer, iCarAsia

GCP move “a no-brainer”

iCarAsia then calculated the time and resources needed to move its applications and services to Google Cloud Platform. The simplicity of Google Cloud Platform services and expert support from Google’s technical and account teams made iCarAsia’s decision easy. “We wanted a provider that had a new solution, operated infrastructure in the places we wanted to establish a presence, was less expensive, and provided migration support,” Sttau explains. “Furthermore, the Google account team made us feel like we were really being taken care of and that Google was interested in our business. Moving to Google Cloud was a no-brainer for us.”

Move completed with in-house resources

iCarAsia started its migration in November 2017 and moved all live applications across by March 2018. The business plans to move the remaining back-end processing jobs to Google Cloud by the end of the year. iCarAsia’s Head of Engineering, Zeeshan Khan, and two in-house engineers undertook the move with assistance from Google. “We tested and benchmarked with one of our less-trafficked websites, and based on the outcomes, decided to move our entire architecture to Google Cloud,” Khan says.

Kubernetes Engine key to architecture

Kubernetes Engine is the cornerstone of iCarAsia’s Google Cloud Platform architecture. The business is now running containerized applications and services in clusters controlled through the orchestration and management service. Cloud resources are provisioned automatically based on descriptions of compute, memory, and storage requirements. Khan and his team monitor application health from a Kubernetes Engine dashboard in Stackdriver, with additional monitoring and support provided by Google site reliability engineers.

Kubernetes Engine also provides the security required by Khan and his team to protect iCarAsia’s applications. In addition, an auto-scaling feature enables iCarAsia to manage peaks and troughs in demand without compromising availability or performance.

iCarAsia is also using the TensorFlow open source machine learning framework and the Dialogflow Enterprise Edition conversational interface development suite to develop and test a chatbot. “We are testing a chatbot we envision will engage with our consumers and supplement some of the traditional customer support roles we have with our products,” Sttau says. “We hope to roll this out within the next two years.”

“We gained the ability with Google to undertake deployments from any location, which makes our lives much easier as engineers.”

Zeeshan Khan, Head of Engineering, iCarAsia

Deployment times down from an hour to 30 seconds

Moving to Kubernetes Engine has enabled iCarAsia to reduce deployment times to as low as 30 seconds and significantly reduced inter-application communication times. “These are huge improvements,” Khan says. “In addition, we gained the ability with Google to undertake deployments from any location, which makes our lives much easier as engineers.”

Furthermore, iCarAsia has undertaken deployments any time a new feature is ready for production. This will improve agility and its engineers’ perceptions of their importance and value to the business.

“As a CIO, the last thing I want to do is worry about workplace applications—I want to be building products and generating revenue. G Suite allows me to do that.”

Pedro Sttau, Chief Information Officer, iCarAsia

G Suite enables CIO to focus on business projects

iCarAsia’s use of Google Cloud solutions also extends to the use of G Suite intelligent applications to nearly every employee within the business. “Gmail is the best product out there, while the storage solutions in Google Drive are extremely valuable,” Sttau says. “Security and backup concerns are removed as well.

“As a CIO, the last thing I want to do is worry about workplace applications—I want to be building products and generating revenue,” he adds. “G Suite allows me to do that.”

With Google Cloud and G Suite technologies in place, iCarAsia is motoring to an exciting future. “The mission of our various businesses is to become the largest and most trusted automotive buying, selling, and information entities in the ASEAN region,” Sttau says. “We see Google playing a key role helping us realize that goal.”

About iCarAsia

Founded in 2012 and headquartered in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, iCarAsia provides websites and applications that connect buyers and sellers of new and used cars.

Industries: Technology
Location: Malaysia