travel audience: Making the move to microservices with Google Kubernetes Engine

About travel audience

Founded in 2011, travel audience is a leading data-driven travel advertising platform, connecting airlines, tourism boards, and tour operators with premium publishers all over the world. The company's performance marketing platform was specifically created for the travel industry and includes programmatic, native, and social advertising products.

Industries: Technology
Location: Germany

Travel advertising platform travel audience decreased downtime, empowered developers, and enabled for growth with minimal disruption, through a staged migration to microservices on Kubernetes Engine.

Google Cloud Results

  • Reduces time spent on maintenance by 75%, according to travel audience
  • Minimizes disruption during migration with a staged, service-by-service approach
  • Attracts talent with a Kubernetes focused environment

Downtime cut by a factor of five for 99.9% availability

Founded in Berlin in 2011, travel audience is part of the Amadeus IT Group, the fifth biggest tech company in Europe and the leading IT provider for the global travel and tourism industry. By specializing in advertising for the travel industry, travel audience has established itself as one of the world's leading data-driven travel advertising platforms in a short period of time.

Ivan Kusalic, the team's Engineering Director explains: "Rather than work with generic advertising, we focus purely on travel. And because Amadeus is the leader in the travel tech industry, we have unique access to data, giving us an edge over our competitors. Combine that with our own internal technology and we are in a very competitive position."

"Some parts of our previous architecture were hard to scale and costly, and we began to see that it would limit our future growth. To scale at speed, manage costs, and meet new challenges, we decided to implement a microservices architecture with managed cloud solutions."

Ivan Kusalic, Engineering Director, travel audience

In addition to using its own software to manage campaigns, travel audience handles 70,000 requests a second to ad exchanges. "That's one of the things that makes the whole operation so complex," says Ivan. "We have to make bids on those requests in less than 75 milliseconds, while we deal with a large amount of data that needs to be processed in real time and batches. To make that work, we need to have both a simple architecture and very precise caching strategies."

As the startup expanded internationally, travel audience recognized that its original infrastructure would not be able to meet future needs without escalating costs.

"Some parts of our previous architecture were hard to scale and costly, and we began to see that it would limit our future growth," says Ivan. "To scale at speed, manage costs, and meet new challenges, we decided to implement a microservices architecture with managed cloud solutions."

Enabling growth with microservices on Kubernetes Engine

The ad tech industry is fiercely competitive and constantly evolving. Platforms need to work with a wide range of intermediaries while placing bids at speed, which is why the teams that run them look to simplify processes as much as possible without compromising availability. That means empowering developers to update and refine platforms, to keep pace with change with minimal disruption.

"We started off using a traditional virtual machine setup, renting physical machines in a data center," says André da Rocha Ferreira, Team Lead DevOps Engineer at travel audience. "But as the platform evolved and grew, the cost and effort needed to maintain that infrastructure was just too high."

To enable growth while keeping costs down, travel audience decided to migrate to a microservices architecture using Google Kubernetes Engine (GKE). "Being in the cloud allows us to rely on others to manage most of the infrastructure and services, so we can focus on providing our developers with the right tools and processes to better do their work," says André. "With our previous data center setup, experimentation was expensive and slow. Switching to a microservices architecture and applying continuous integration and continuous delivery practices on Google Cloud Platform (GCP) makes it much faster for us to test new concepts and improve our platform."

"It's clear that Kubernetes is a technology to invest in, and we believe that nobody else is engaging with it as much as Google Cloud. Because we feel we can rely on Google expertise with its managed services, we can focus on our own needs without reinventing the wheel."

Ivan Kusalic, Engineering Director, travel audience

Alongside GKE, travel audience uses BigQuery and Cloud Dataproc to manage data, with Pub/Sub and gRPC to communicate between microservices. That frees up developers to update services continually and create their own test environments without worrying about infrastructure. "In terms of pricing, Google Cloud is very competitive," adds Andre. "Especially with features such as sustained usage discounts, which make cost less of a factor."

"It's clear that Kubernetes is a technology to invest in, and we believe that nobody else is engaging with it as much as Google Cloud," says Ivan. "Because we feel we can rely on Google expertise with its managed services, we can focus on our own needs without reinventing the wheel."

Migrating individual services – managing independent teams

travel audience opted for a staged approach to migration, prioritizing key services such as bidders. "We didn't have the manpower to migrate everything at once," explains Ivan. "Instead, we identified the biggest pain points in the system and continuously migrated them to a cloud setup. We migrated individual services independently, and moved them one by one with minimal disruption. Some went directly to GKE, while others went to instances on Compute Engine first, depending on the needs of the team involved."

That flexibility is enabled by the ease with which travel audience deploys infrastructure and services on GCP. "We can move faster because we don't need to plan for weeks or more in advance," says André. "Instead of spending time working out how many services and what kind of assets we'll need, we can rely on GCP to spin up resources on-demand, ready for us to move forward." Development teams can operate more independently, too, as they set up new test environments.

"Developers can quickly see their products in action and easily make changes in production," says André. "Previously, we would need to coordinate releases across multiple teams of developers. With the microservices architecture, there's less need for coordination, so we've moved from weekly releases to each team releasing software many times a day."

"Almost every developer we interview for a position asks straight out about our tech stack. Google Cloud makes us very attractive as an employer. Everybody mentions Kubernetes. And when they do, they seem to feel that the default platform for Kubernetes is Google Cloud Platform."

André da Rocha Ferreira, Engineering Manager for Core Services, travel audience

Attracting talent, decreasing downtime, and expanding out

"Our downtime in the last year has decreased by a factor of five, and we now have better than 99.9 percent availability," says Ivan. "That's something that we would not have been able to achieve without Google Cloud and continuous integration." At the same time, travel audience can spend more time working on improving its platform, thanks to managed services. "The percentage of time we spend maintaining our system has dropped from 40 percent to 10 percent, thanks to managed services," says André. "That gives us much more time to work on what is really important for us – adding value."

travel audience estimates its full migration to GKE is nearly complete, as the company looks to extend its global reach. "One of the biggest benefits from GCP is yet to come," says Ivan. "We are looking to deploy on more continents with our own infrastructure, and then in a number of other territories. Instead of setting up and managing data centers across the world, we will simply select a region on GCP for the new deployment."

"Almost every developer we interview for a position asks straight out about our tech stack," says André. "Google Cloud makes us very attractive as an employer. Everybody mentions Kubernetes. And when they do, they seem to feel that the default platform for Kubernetes is Google Cloud Platform."

About travel audience

Founded in 2011, travel audience is a leading data-driven travel advertising platform, connecting airlines, tourism boards, and tour operators with premium publishers all over the world. The company's performance marketing platform was specifically created for the travel industry and includes programmatic, native, and social advertising products.

Industries: Technology
Location: Germany
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