Pantheon: Evolving operations for mission critical websites

About Pantheon

Founded in 2010, Pantheon has grown to a team of over 120 of the world’s experts in building, launching, and managing WordPress and Drupal websites. Pantheon now powers over 200,000 websites, serving 8 billion page views a month.

Industries: Technology
Location: United States

Pantheon moved to Google Cloud Platform, improving performance and reliability while supporting a 99.95% uptime SLA and reducing cloud infrastructure costs 40%.

Google Cloud Results

  • Improves performance and reliability, enabling Pantheon to serve larger customers
  • Supports 99.95% uptime across 200,000+ websites
  • Reduces cloud infrastructure costs by 40%
  • Enables future analytics offerings based on machine learning and big data analytics

Migrated 200K+ websites to GCP in 2 weeks

Nearly every business needs a web presence—but the vast majority of companies don’t want to be involved in the technical aspects of coding, deployment, hosting, security, and scaling websites. To stay focused on the business value and creative aspects of their websites and avoid managing infrastructure, thousands of companies turn to Pantheon, a website operations and hosting platform that powers over 200,000 websites.

Pantheon promises its customers speed, reliability, and scalability plus world-class collaboration and workflow tools. For five years, the company was able to deliver high service levels in all three areas running its platform on bare-metal virtual cloud servers. However, as its business grew, network links began to saturate under heavy load, risking instability. As Pantheon’s business evolved to focus on servicing some of the largest websites in the world, the company wanted to partner with a more innovative cloud services provider.

“We wanted a partner that could give us what we offer to our own customers: the flexibility to scale smoothly and consume services without building them from scratch,” says David Strauss, CTO, Pantheon. “It was time to move beyond custom containers on managed VMs and extend our cloud strategy to include next-generation technologies for container management and analytics.”

“In every test our engineers did, Google Cloud Platform came in as better, faster, and more cost effective than the competition. Google Cloud Platform is more data-oriented than other cloud providers, making it a better match for our needs and our customers’ strategic initiatives.”

Niall Hayes, COO, Pantheon

Pantheon evaluated several leading cloud providers and determined that Google Cloud Platform would be the best fit for its business and customers. Engineering had the final say, running a battery of functionality and performance tests at the storage, database, and web server layers.

“In every test our engineers did, Google Cloud Platform came in as better, faster, and more cost effective than the competition,” says Niall Hayes, COO, Pantheon. “We compared MariaDB to Google Cloud SQL and Cassandra to Google Bigtable, and container density improved from 250 to 400 containers per server.”

Migrating 200,000+ sites in 2 weeks

Pantheon wanted to make the transition transparent to its customers, so a fast and smooth migration to Google Cloud Platform was essential. With help from Google, Pantheon completed the migration quickly and moved 500TB of databases, code, and files with zero customer impact.

“We migrated over 200,000 websites to Google Cloud Platform in 2 weeks, including 50,000 that are heavily trafficked and actively developed, and nobody noticed,” says Josh Koenig, Co-founder and Head of Products at Pantheon. “The speed was incredible. There was no downtime, and we filed no additional support tickets with Google during the entire process.”

The platform for platforms

For its content management system runtime environment, Pantheon runs its own homegrown container management technology on Google Compute Engine. To automate scaling for other core services such as its routing layer and distributed file system, it uses Google Kubernetes Engine for cluster management and orchestration.

“Google is the clear leader in Kubernetes and container management, which aligns very well with our open source values and our vision for the future,” says Niall. “With Google Kubernetes Engine we get better resource efficiency, and automated operations and autoscaling take a lot of administration off our plate.”

“Google’s network topology, both locally and globally, performs better and more reliably than competing solutions, making Google Cloud Platform the best choice for us and for our customers. Google beats any other cloud provider as the best platform-for-platforms.”

David Strauss, CTO, Pantheon

In addition to smooth scaling, Pantheon and its customers benefit from improved performance and reliability thanks to the high-quality private network offered by Google.

Further, the Google partnership with Fastly enables direct connectivity to Google Cloud Platform to improve performance for edge caching. As a result of these improvements, Pantheon raised its availability service level agreement (SLA) from 99.9% to 99.95% and can now take on even larger customers.

“Google’s network topology, both locally and globally, performs better and more reliably than competing solutions, making Google Cloud Platform the best choice for us and for our customers,” says David. “Google beats any other cloud provider as the best platform-for-platforms.”

Adds Josh: “Google has unbelievable technology around persistence and replication between zones and regions, and that is not something we could find anywhere else. This allows us to offer advanced disaster recovery and failover services to our customers.”

Strengthening customer relationships

Pantheon uses Google BigQuery, a fully managed, cloud-based data warehouse, to integrate with Fastly and analyze website traffic on behalf of its customers. Previously, Pantheon was unable to ingest edge data quickly enough from Fastly, limiting its ability to identify issues and provide the best customer service. Today, Fastly streams logs in real time into Google BigQuery for analysis, giving Pantheon a wealth of insights.

“Since moving to Google Cloud Platform, our platform is more secure, reliable, and scalable than ever. We reduced our cloud infrastructure costs by 40%, and our customers’ sites run 45% faster than industry benchmarks.”

Niall Hayes, COO, Pantheon

“We use Google BigQuery to identify customers that have outgrown their infrastructure or need to right-size for business growth,” says David. “We can have proactive conversations and add a lot of value to the relationships. Soon, we plan to make Google BigQuery available to our customers so they can better understand their own traffic.”

Adds Niall: “Google Cloud Platform is more data-oriented than other cloud providers, making it a better match for our needs and our customers’ strategic initiatives.”

Integrated, granular security

Pantheon appreciates that Google Cloud services are built for public cloud, with granular security as a core design and development requirement. Employees simply use their G Suite credentials to gain access to Google Cloud Platform infrastructure and services.

“We’ve been a G Suite shop for years because of the paperless collaboration benefits,” says Josh. “G Suite connects our distributed company, and it was very natural to use those same logins for Google Cloud Platform.”

Staying competitive and productive

Moving to Google Cloud Platform opens up new possibilities for services Pantheon can offer to customers in the future, including machine learning and big data analytics, to give them a more complete view of how digital experiences are driving their businesses. Internally, engineers can move faster, do more effective capacity planning, and provide better service as Pantheon moves its products upmarket.

Pantheon expected to save 20% on cloud infrastructure costs by moving to Google Cloud Platform, but was able to double that savings with resource optimization and managed services.

“Since moving to Google Cloud Platform, our platform is more secure, reliable, and scalable than ever. We reduced our cloud infrastructure costs by 40%, and our customers’ sites run 45% faster than industry benchmarks,” says Niall. “Our engineers are Google fans for a reason—they’re happier, more efficient, and more productive on Google Cloud Platform.”

About Pantheon

Founded in 2010, Pantheon has grown to a team of over 120 of the world’s experts in building, launching, and managing WordPress and Drupal websites. Pantheon now powers over 200,000 websites, serving 8 billion page views a month.

Industries: Technology
Location: United States
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