Parking space booking app JustPark has embarked on a move away from Amazon Web Services (AWS) to the Google public cloud, as part of a push to make its systems easier for its techies to manage.
The company, founded in 2006, allows drivers to pre-book parking spaces in 45,000 locations across the UK via its website and mobile app.
Users are matched through its service with homeowners who have surplus space in their driveways or garages, which they hire out to drivers so they can park their vehicles there.
JustPark claims its services are used by more than 5.5 million drivers across the UK, as well as by local authorities, private transport providers and car parking companies for parking management reasons.
In the past two years alone, the company’s user base has doubled, and JustPark is anticipating that its user numbers will grow by a further 33% in the coming months, prompting the firm to look for ways to make the infrastructure underpinning its platform more efficient for its 40-strong team of techies to manage.
The company initially started out by relying on US-based cloud hosting firm Linode to house its infrastructure, before shifting over to AWS several years later, Jack Wall, head of engineering at JustPark, told Computer Weekly.
“We started life on Linode on a single server, before migrating into AWS about five years ago,” he said. “Back then, the stack was very traditional – virtual machines with config management. We had quite a small team, so it was fairly rough and ready. We then started playing around with containerisation and things like Kubernetes naturally followed in its footsteps.”
Google Kubernetes Engine
The company ran a Kubernetes deployment in the AWS cloud for a period, but running its applications in this way required its developers to be very hands-on, which – in time – prompted the company to explore the use of the fully managed Google Kubernetes Engine (GKE) instead.
“Once GKE was released, we really liked it, so began migrating our container workloads in, and our persistent state quickly followed,” said Wall.
The GKE is designed to provide a production-ready environment for companies to run their containerised applications in, and the move has paved the way for the company to delve even deeper into the wider Google Cloud product portfolio.
“It wasn’t that we were struggling [on AWS] – it was just adding a system management overhead into our developers’ lives, [and] migrating our applications to containers and GKE [meant] we got lots of stuff for free, like service discovery [and] autoscaling,” he said.
“Alongside the rest of the Google cloud proposition and its interoperability with GKE, [that] let us focus on our businesses problems rather than infrastructure problems as engineers.”
One of the biggest benefits the firm has seen is the uptick in the performance and resiliency of its app and websites, said Wall.
“Uptime is crucially important – we deal with immediate demands that require immediate connections,” he said. “Any lags can be extremely annoying for customers, so it is vital that we have an architecture that is resilient and supportive. Moving forward, we’re keen to work with Google Cloud to improve the observability, reliability and resilience of our technical offering to deliver the best customer experience possible.”
The firm has also now tasked Google with managing its entire software infrastructure stack, which has already generated efficiency-related cost savings for JustPark.
“Since we started using GKE, everything became so much easier – we could build on our services, improve the customer experience and crucially, we realised that we could leave our IT and cloud infrastructure in the hands of the experts at Google,” said Wall. “That meant we could concentrate on continuing to perfect our business model.”
JustPark is also now making use of Google BigQuery, which is a fully managed serverless data warehouse, in combination with Google’s data analytics offering, Looker, so the firm can make better use of the data it generates to uncover efficiencies elsewhere within its business.
“This was the first time we started gaining real business insight,” he said. “Using these tools, we were able to use our own data to guide us to the most commercially viable decisions, especially regarding supply and demand.”