Meetup: Building communities through innovation and inspiration

Thanks to the Internet, like-minded individuals join together in active communities around the world. And while the world of virtual meetings is thriving, there is nothing like connecting with people face to face. The social networking platform Meetup bridges the digital and physical divide by helping to connect more than 30 million people with others in their area who share common interests, whether that involves their professional life, creative life, learning life, active life, civic life, and just about anything in between.

Meetup is all about life changing experiences, and its website and app reflect that in a design that emphasizes usability. Meetup wanted to get innovations into the hands of members and organizers even faster, so it switched from a monolithic application in on-premises data centers to an agile microservices architecture in a multi-cloud environment.

“We wanted to go multi-cloud for better long-term resiliency, and we started by migrating our monolithic application into AWS. As we talked with other companies, the benefits of Google Cloud Platform kept coming up, so we explored Google Kubernetes Engine and the development tools. We were immediately hooked. We added Google Cloud Platform to expand our data capabilities, got great results, and now plan to continue building new apps on the platform to drive innovation.” - Jose Rodriguez, Principal Engineering Lead, Meetup

A culture of innovation

Whether on the website or mobile app, members expect great browsing experiences and relevant recommendations when they visit Meetup. By working in a multi-cloud environment, Meetup gains the availability and performance of the cloud now, while opening up agile new development workflows on the Google Cloud Platform.

The shift towards microservices gives engineering teams autonomy to work on features and develop roadmaps that are independent from other teams. This translates into faster release schedules, greater creativity, and new functionality for members and organizers. By taking advantage of Google Cloud Datastore, Meetup brings high availability and scalability to its non-relational data use cases so that teams can spend less time worrying about infrastructure.

“It was initially the developer tools that attracted us to Google Cloud Platform because it’s such a great experience. With the provision-based IM policies, I can give engineers the power to build and ship projects whenever they want,” says Jose.

“Having a lot of teams working independently in Google Cloud Platform allows us to reach our goals faster. Engineers aren’t held back by infrastructure constraints around performance or scalability. They can spin up an entire cluster in a few minutes for a big job and then spin it down to use the resources elsewhere. Google Cloud Platform gives us a whole new level of elasticity.” - Burag Cetinkaya, Director of Core and Data Engineering, Meetup

Analyzing data for better user experiences

Data plays a central role at Meetup, whether it’s analyzing user interests and Meetup content to provide better recommendations or understanding how people are using the site to improve experiences. Meetup teams use both Datadog and Looker to help collect and utilize statistics and key metrics. Datadog monitoring solutions give Meetup easier visibility into the operations of its clusters in the cloud, while data analytics from Looker help executives and product managers better understand key metrics.

Meetup currently works with Google Cloud Dataproc to manage and process Apache Spark. In particular, Meetup is evaluating MLlib, Spark’s machine learning library, to generate recommendation models faster and learn to develop better recommendations for members. The end goal is to go even deeper into analytics using Google Cloud Platform for big data. Managed services such as Google Cloud Dataflow and Google BigQuery will give Meetup real-time processing for big data with help from Google data experts.

“Google is known for bringing value and innovation to data. We’re adopting changes and experimenting with new ways of understanding and using our data to maximize the impact on our Meetup platform,” says Burag.

While most employees work at the New York headquarters, Meetup is attracting a growing number of remote employees. G Suite apps, including Gmail and Google Hangouts, keep everyone connected and working together effortlessly and reliably.

Growing with Google

“We have many things running on Google, and I see that increasing in coming years as Google introduces more ways of utilizing our data at scale,” says Burag.

Meetup is already looking to the future with Google Cloud Platform with serverless applications and standardizing other cloud services on Kubernetes. When the data pipeline is completely moved into Google Cloud Platform, teams are excited to be able to do more with machine learning and understanding transient data.

“We are going through a big cultural shift at Meetup that is putting power back in the hands of engineers. Teams are already making creative changes that help people join communities and live their best lives,” says Jose.

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