Ninja Van: Scaling up a best-in-class delivery service with Google Kubernetes Engine

About Ninja Van

Ninja Van is a tech-enabled express logistics company providing hassle-free delivery solutions for businesses of all sizes across Southeast Asia. One of the region’s fastest growing last-mile logistics companies, it powers businesses with innovative logistics solutions. Today, Ninja Van’s network covers six countries: Singapore, Malaysia, the Philippines, Indonesia, Thailand, and Vietnam.

Industries: Travel & Hospitality
Location: Singapore

Ninja Van handles high load events efficiently with Google Kubernetes Engine and improves data-driven decision making with Cloud Dataproc.

Google Cloud results

  • Processes data in the scale of hundreds of gigabytes to speed up analytics
  • Delivers network performance 10 times faster between data centers
  • Improves business agility by ramping up VMs quickly to handle traffic spikes

Migrates 24/7 business to Google Cloud without downtime

According to a study by Google and Temasek Holdings, ecommerce in Southeast Asia is expected to exceed US$100 billion by 2025. Logistics company Ninja Van helps online retailers compete in this lucrative market with its tech-enabled delivery service.

When Ninja Van launched in 2014, the company was the first logistics business in Singapore to provide real-time tracking updates, so customers know exactly where their parcel is on the journey to their doorstep. At that time, only international shipping providers offered that level of visibility. The company disrupted the traditional delivery model by using algorithms for route optimization so drivers can save fuel and deliver online purchases into the hands of happy consumers on time.

Five years and more than 20,000 employees later, Ninja Van continues to set the pace for innovation with value-added services such as merchant API integration and flexible parcel pick-ups.

“Technology is what sets us apart from traditional delivery providers. It’s the bedrock of what we do at Ninja Van,” says Shaun Chong, co-founder and Chief Technology Officer at Ninja Van. “Google Kubernetes Engine helps us to push out new features more quickly than we could have on our legacy platform.”

“Technology is what sets us apart from traditional delivery providers. It’s the bedrock of what we do at Ninja Van. Google Kubernetes Engine helps us to push out new features more quickly than we could have on our legacy platform.”

Shaun Chong, co-founder and Chief Technology Officer, Ninja Van

Achieving efficiency from billing and resource management

In the early days, the company hosted its VMs on another cloud provider but migrated to Google Cloud for flexibility and scalability. Unlike its predecessor, Google Cloud offers Ninja Van pay-as-you-go, per-second billing and flexible use of computing resources.

“The majority of our customers are online shoppers. It’s not surprising that demand for delivery services peaks during online sales events such as Singles’ Day 11.11 and holiday seasons,” says Shaun. “However, merchants don’t always inform us about their campaigns, so we experience unplanned surges in demand.”

Shaun adds, “It’s hard to predict resource needs to get discounted rates from our legacy cloud provider. On Google Cloud, we’re able to save 57% with committed-use discounts, without locking in machine type. We can mix and match CPU and memory based on our needs.”

The DevOps team relies on Google Kubernetes Engine to autoscale node pools instead of vertical scaling to bigger machines, a process which may involve downtime. The team specifies the minimum and the maximum number of deployments based on CPU utilization. This allows monitoring of the Kubernetes cluster on existing pods and the ability to assign more pods if needed.

“Thanks to Horizontal Pod Autoscaler, we can dynamically adjust our workloads and scale down to reduce cost when resources are no longer needed,” says Shaun. “In the case of peak demand, Ninja Van website and mobile applications can handle 10 times the normal traffic, without breaking a sweat.”

“Cloud Dataproc is a ‘job first’ approach to big data processing. We don’t need to worry about compute capacity or storage. Our data engineers can start a Cloud Dataproc cluster with a few clicks. Once we’ve processed the data, we can just shut the cluster down.”

Shaun Chong, co-founder and Chief Technology Officer, Ninja Van

Automating seamless software delivery on Google Kubernetes Engine

“Working in DevOps is like being a race car driver. We’re striving for peak performance, driving numbers to beat the record. The latency between zones can be up to 10 times lower on Google Cloud than on our previous cloud provider,” says Shaun. “At scale, this performance improvement means a smooth user experience, even when tens of thousands of people are using the application."

Live migration on Google Cloud helps Ninja Van buffer for natural or man-made disasters such as power outages. This capability migrates the application from one physical host to another without affecting performance.

“We’re a 24/7 business, so we need to stay connected with our customers at all times. When we migrated our VMs and applications to Google Cloud, we managed to do so in two hours with zero downtime. That’s quite an achievement as every millisecond of uptime counts,” Shaun notes.

The DevOps team used to do a lot of manual work to deploy applications on the right server with enough CPU cores or RAM. Configuration errors could lead to applications being unable to start up due to lack of resource on the scheduled machine.

“Automating features on Google Kubernetes Engine helps to increase our team’s productivity and code quality,” says Shaun. “Using a managed Kubernetes service further reduces the load on the DevOps engineers. We can focus on building products and adding value to our business instead of investing time in taking care of the infrastructure.”

“On Google Cloud, we’re able to save 57% with committed-use discounts, without locking in machine type. We can mix and match CPU and memory based on our needs.”

Shaun Chong, co-founder and Chief Technology Officer, Ninja Van

Improving customer experience and operational efficiency with data analytics

Demand for delivery services fluctuates from country to country. Ninja Van analyzes historical data that resides in Google Cloud for capacity planning. For example, based on previous delivery orders and driver efficiency, the company may hire more drivers during holiday seasons to ensure on-time delivery for its customers.

“We collect data in the scale of hundreds of gigabytes a day, from driver location data generated by the Ninja Driver app to click tracking on our website,” says Shaun. “We use Cloud Dataproc to access such data in Cloud Storage and run analysis to forecast manpower demand.”

Cloud Storage stores logs from Cloud Dataproc where they can be easily accessed. For machine learning compatibility, Cloud Dataproc integrates seamlessly with big data tools such as Jupyter and Presto to optimize data querying.

“Cloud Dataproc is a ‘job first’ approach to big data processing. We don’t need to worry about compute capacity or storage. Our data engineers can start a Cloud Dataproc cluster with just one line on the gcloud command line interface (CLI). Once we’ve processed the data, we can just shut the cluster down,” says Shaun. “I like the option of using preemptible nodes as low-cost processing power for workloads that aren’t as time sensitive.”

Building next-generation delivery services on Google Cloud

“We run all our workloads on Google Cloud, from third-party applications such as our ticket management system to the barcode scanning software on our conveyor belt,” says Shaun. “Google will continue to play a big part in our next phase of growth as we expand into new countries and offer new services.”

About Ninja Van

Ninja Van is a tech-enabled express logistics company providing hassle-free delivery solutions for businesses of all sizes across Southeast Asia. One of the region’s fastest growing last-mile logistics companies, it powers businesses with innovative logistics solutions. Today, Ninja Van’s network covers six countries: Singapore, Malaysia, the Philippines, Indonesia, Thailand, and Vietnam.

Industries: Travel & Hospitality
Location: Singapore