Mercari: improving United States service development with Google Kubernetes Engine

About Mercari

Established in February 2013, Mercari Inc. has grown from a consumer-to-consumer “flea market” to Japan’s largest peer-to-peer marketplace. Mercari enables users to take three simple steps to sell goods and services on its app. First, they take a photo; second, they write a description; and third, they press a submit button to send the post live. This process takes only about three minutes to complete. Another key feature of Mercari is the use of an escrow settlement system to keep transactions safe and more secure. Furthermore, users can buy and sell without revealing any more information about themselves than they want to. The service launched in the United States in September 2014 and in the United Kingdom in March 2017. As of December 16, 2017, the mobile app had been downloaded 100 million times and by early 2018, the organization had grown to 400 employees. The organization has also created sister services that specialize in the sale of books, CDs, and DVDs.

Industries: Retail & Consumer Goods, Other
Location: Japan, United States

With Google Cloud, Mercari has created a microservices architecture running in Google Kubernetes Engine that enables the rapid development of new features for the United States version of its marketplace, while minimizing infrastructure management resource requirements.

Google Cloud results

  • Avoided need to employ a full-time infrastructure engineer
  • Gained ability to reserve compute capacity in advance to manage demand peaks
  • Removed infrastructure as a concern during development process

Created a search function in less than one month with a microservices architecture

Established in February 2013, Mercari Inc. has grown from a consumer-to-consumer “flea market” to Japan’s largest peer-to-peer marketplace. Mercari enables users to take three simple steps to sell goods and services on its app. First, they take a photo; second, they write a description; and third, they press a submit button to send the post live. This process takes only about three minutes to complete.

Another key feature of Mercari is the use of an escrow settlement system to keep transactions safe and more secure. Furthermore, users can buy and sell without revealing any more information about themselves than they want to.

The service launched in the United States in September 2014 and in the United Kingdom in March 2017. As of December 16, 2017, the mobile application had been downloaded 100 million times and by early 2018, the organization had grown to 400 employees. The organization has also created sister services that specialize in the sale of books, CDs, and DVDs.

A multi-cloud architecture

Mercari operates a multi-cloud architecture with different cloud services supporting different regions. These services typically ran a standardized technology stack developed in Japan. However, while this model enabled the rapid launch of new features and services, making the Mercari marketplace a compelling proposition for audiences in different markets proved more difficult.

“In order to make Mercari even more popular in the United States, I thought it would be necessary to adopt a user interface that matched the local culture,” says Takashi Namura, Chief Technology Officer at Mercari. “Therefore, at the end of 2016, we decided to completely renew the United States version of our app.” The business opted to move from a monolithic to a microservices architecture.

“A microservices architecture enhances scalability and productivity and enables us to recruit skilled people in the markets we are expanding into,” adds Namura. “Many engineers in the United States are oriented towards modern programming languages such as Go rather than PHP, which is commonly used in conventional, monolithic systems.”

Furthermore, Mercari’s monolithic architecture had become too large and unwieldy for engineers joining the business to work with effectively. A microservices architecture would enable teams in the United States to work independently to develop new functions.

“There are several reasons we chose Google Cloud. First, its load balancing service is very good. Second, we can reserve compute capacity in advance to accommodate a lot of users gaining access to our system, or during a load test. I also like Google Cloud’s ease of use and its compatibility with Kubernetes, which supports a range of container runtimes.”

Takashi Namura, Chief Technology Officer, Mercari

An API gateway on Google Cloud

To complete the process quickly, the Mercari United States team elected to wrap its conventional system with an API gateway developed on Google Cloud. The API gateway enables groups of microservices to access APIs and provides features such as authentication and security policy enforcement. This approach enabled the business to implement microservices efficiently step-by-step.

Diagram of the Mercari United States microservices architecture features
A diagram of the Mercari United States microservices architecture features.
A diagram of the Mercari United States Google Cloud architecture features
A diagram of the Mercari United States Google Cloud architecture features.

“There are several reasons we chose Google Cloud,” says Namura. “First, its load balancing service is very good. Second, we can reserve compute capacity in advance to accommodate a lot of users gaining access to our system, or during a load test. I also like Google Cloud’s ease of use and its compatibility with Kubernetes, which supports a range of container runtimes.”

The organization elected to run the microservices architecture in a containerized environment through Google Kubernetes Engine, supporting the rapid development and iteration of its applications.

Taichi Nakashima, Site Reliability Engineering team member, says the decision meant Mercari United States was able to “start development in the microservices architecture without thinking about infrastructure.”

New search function developed in one month

“Creating high quality functions—such as a renewed search function—that make our marketplace easier to use is quick and easy with microservices running in Google Cloud.”

Takashi Namura, Chief Technology Officer, Mercari

The new architecture running in a containerized environment enabled the business to seamlessly create a version of its marketplace optimized for the needs and behaviors of customers in the United States. The new application, released in April 2017, featured an innovative personalized home screen, giving Mercari an edge over its competitors.

“Creating high quality functions—such as a renewed search function—that make our marketplace easier to use is quick and easy with microservices running in Google Cloud,” says Namura. Developing the new search function took less than one month rather than the two months required to complete a similar project in a monolithic architecture.

“The fact Google Kubernetes Engine is a managed service means the United States team does not need to employ a full-time infrastructure engineer.”

Takashi Namura, Chief Technology Officer, Mercari

Running the new environment in Google Cloud minimized Mercari’s infrastructure administration requirements. “The fact Google Kubernetes Engine is a managed service means the United States team does not need to employ a full-time infrastructure engineer,” says Namura.

Mercari is also using Google Cloud services to analyze user behavior and display of user browsing and “like” histories in near real time.

The success of the microservices architecture running in Google Cloud has prompted Mercari Japan to adopt a similar architecture. Meanwhile, the United States team will continue to promote microservices in a containerized environment, making the role of Google Kubernetes Engine in drawing out the full potential of Kubernetes more important to the business than ever. In the future, the United States arm of the business is looking at more managed services and serverless technologies, such as Cloud Functions, to further streamline the development process.

“We are also exploring opportunities with exciting products such as App Engine,” says Namura.

About Mercari

Established in February 2013, Mercari Inc. has grown from a consumer-to-consumer “flea market” to Japan’s largest peer-to-peer marketplace. Mercari enables users to take three simple steps to sell goods and services on its app. First, they take a photo; second, they write a description; and third, they press a submit button to send the post live. This process takes only about three minutes to complete. Another key feature of Mercari is the use of an escrow settlement system to keep transactions safe and more secure. Furthermore, users can buy and sell without revealing any more information about themselves than they want to. The service launched in the United States in September 2014 and in the United Kingdom in March 2017. As of December 16, 2017, the mobile app had been downloaded 100 million times and by early 2018, the organization had grown to 400 employees. The organization has also created sister services that specialize in the sale of books, CDs, and DVDs.

Industries: Retail & Consumer Goods, Other
Location: Japan, United States