Zenly: Supporting rapid release cycles and a stable architecture for millions of users

About Zenly

Zenly is a social map app that lets users share their location with their friends so they can meet with them in real life. The company was acquired by Snap Inc. in 2017.

Industries: Technology
Location: France

Zenly uses Google Cloud Platform to create a containerized infrastructure, reducing latency by 30 percent, building in multiple layers of security, and facilitating real-time analytics with BigQuery.

Google Cloud Results

  • Builds in multiple security layers using Google Cloud IAP and Google Cloud KMS, supporting targeted access control
  • Increases efficiency and simplifies maintenance by empowering developers, creating quicker release cycles and a more stable infrastructure
  • Offers in-depth system monitoring, real-time analysis, and optimization with BigQuery, Stackdriver, and Cloud Machine Learning Engine

Infrastructure costs reduced by 30%

"Where are you? I'm near the exit!" Losing sight of your friends in a crowd can be a frustrating experience. But what if there was a way to know exactly where they are? French app Zenly lets you see where your closest friends are, who they're with, and what they're up to, precisely and in real time. By delivering more context around location, the app gets rid of the need to send 'Where are you?' texts back and forth. Growing from its launch in 2015, Zenly is now part of the Snapchat family. It was acquired by Snap Inc. in 2017, following two successful rounds of fundraising.

"When we decided to migrate to Google Cloud Platform, Zenly was a start-up. We needed an extremely fast release cycle to be able to iterate very quickly, as well as maintain our stability. That's why we chose Kubernetes, for all the agility and flexibility it offers."

Jean-Baptiste Dalido, Head of Infrastructure, Zenly

"Zenly is about connecting people. You no longer need to send hundreds of messages to find your friends or arrange a place to meet, you can see exactly where they are on a map," explains Jean-Baptiste Dalido, Head of Infrastructure at Zenly. "Unlike check-in sites, you don't need to constantly update your location, and unlike most GPS applications, Zenly doesn't use up too much battery life. The other advantage is that it is very precise, and updates locations in real time. That means we need an infrastructure that is robust, with very low latency as each location update is processed in under 300 milliseconds."

With its previous provider, Zenly was experiencing a lack of support over performance issues. In order to achieve the rapid release cycle and stable architecture it needed, Zenly decided to migrate to a containerized infrastructure. It chose Kubernetes with Google Cloud Platform (GCP) as the perfect fit.

"When we decided to migrate to Google Cloud Platform, Zenly was a start-up," says Jean-Baptiste. "We needed an extremely fast release cycle to be able to iterate very quickly, as well as maintain our stability. That's why we chose Kubernetes, for all the agility and flexibility it offers."

Building a robust, secure architecture

Providing real-time location updates for users on the go requires a stable and scalable infrastructure. "We experience peaks and lulls in traffic during the day, as the user load can vary by 30 percent," explains Jean-Baptiste. "We knew we needed to containerize, but with our previous provider, the migration process would have been long and difficult. Communication was a real challenge, so we looked to move to a provider that offered better support."

To do that, Zenly migrated to GCP, using Google Kubernetes Engine as its container orchestration solution. "The migration was relatively straightforward, it took just a week to put everything in place," says Jean-Baptiste. "Because the tools are intuitive and easy to use, we were able to do everything in-house, which is our preference at Zenly, but we also had all the support we needed from Google."

"Security is a top priority at Zenly: we use Google Cloud Identity-Aware Proxy, as well as Google Cloud Key Management Service, and Google Cloud Platform is also compatible with Vault. Using the Google Cloud Platform toolbox means our security is very targeted, with multiple layers."

Jean-Baptiste Dalido, Head of Infrastructure, Zenly

"We use a lot of the tools available on GCP, but Google Kubernetes Engine is at the heart of our infrastructure," says Jean-Baptiste. "It autoscales according to our load, and we don't have to worry about coping with changes in traffic. We also use virtual machines (VMs) on Compute Engine to run our Scylla database, including custom VMs that are tailored to our needs, and preemptible VMs that keep costs down. Other important tools are Cloud CDN, Cloud Load Balancing and Cloud SQL, which we use to store business intelligence data."

"Security is a top priority at Zenly: we use Google Cloud Identity-Aware Proxy (Google Cloud IAP), as well as Google Cloud Key Management Service (Google Cloud KMS), and Google Cloud Platform is also compatible with Vault," says Jean-Baptiste. "Using the Google Cloud Platform toolbox means our security is very targeted, with multiple layers."

"In terms of the data analysis side, Zenly's data scientists use Cloud Dataproc as well as BigQuery," explains Jean-Baptiste. "We feed several terabytes of data from Cloud Storage into BigQuery daily, to create live dashboards that provide our marketing team with business insights, like which features to develop, for example. We also monitor our system using Stackdriver and Cloud Machine Learning Engine."

Getting reactive customer support

One of the reasons behind Zenly's migration to GCP was the need for better customer support. "We wanted to have a more responsive provider that would be more reactive in offering support," says Jean-Baptiste.

"The thing that really makes the difference with Google Cloud is being able to speak directly to a technical team if you have a query about one of the tools. It's an incredible advantage, in terms of resolving issues quickly."

"Even with the gains we have already made, we know we can optimize our performance further. We want to share these insights with the Kubernetes open source community, to show what's possible, even when you're working with millions of users in real time."

Jean-Baptiste Dalido, Head of Infrastructure, Zenly

Passing on performance insights

Since moving its infrastructure to a containerized architecture on GCP, Zenly's system has become easier to maintain, with lower costs. "Day-to-day maintenance is simpler than before, allowing us to move swiftly through our internal processes to deploy continuously, and Google Kubernetes Engine gives our developers more control," says Jean-Baptiste. "Thanks to autoscaling and the other optimizations we have put in place, our costs are down by around a third."

Zenly has also seen an improvement in the speed of its processing. "We have seen an improvement of 30 percent in terms of reduced latency," says Jean-Baptiste. "Once we start working across more regions globally, we expect to see that rise to 50 percent."

Now, Zenly plans to expand its use of machine learning to gain more insight into every level of its infrastructure, as well as making use of the Google global data center network to optimize its system further.

"Even with the gains we have already made, we know we can optimize our performance further," says Jean-Baptiste. "We want to share these insights with the Kubernetes open source community, to show what's possible, even when you're working with millions of users in real time."

About Zenly

Zenly is a social map app that lets users share their location with their friends so they can meet with them in real life. The company was acquired by Snap Inc. in 2017.

Industries: Technology
Location: France