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Sooraj Shah

Contributing Editor

Sooraj Shah is Contributing Editor of New Statesman Tech with a focus on C-level IT leader interviews. He is also a freelance technology journalist.

How Boozt’s switch to Google Cloud Platform has boosted its growth

Boozt is a Swedish online clothing retailer, which opened in 2009, and has seen huge growth in the last decade. The company stocks clothing and accessories from more than 600 Scandinavian and international designer brands on its website such as ECCO, GUESS, Espirit, Tiger of Sweden, and Polo Ralph Lauren.

With over one million active customers, Boozt is hoping to become the leading clothing and beauty provider in the Nordics. One of its key selling points is that customers can order and receive their shopping within a day – which is driven by technology.

Jesper Brondum, chief technology officer at Boozt, explains that the organisation sees itself as a technology company that sells fashion. The company had actually started as a company which would build an e-commerce presence for well-known brands such as Jack and Jones. However, after a few years, many of these brands opted to build their own websites, and this left Boozt with declining revenues. It decided to change tack, and built its own platform for a multi-brand shop.

“We put a lot of focus on building an in-house proprietary e-commerce platform, including the warehouse management system, customer system, e-commerce site and CMS, so we own the technology and this gives us an advantage over our competition,” Brondum states.

Boozt did rely on some external technologies and partners too – including Rackspace, where it had a dedicated environment.

“Rackspace was always known as one of the best-in-class when it came to this service. It was expensive but worth it for us,” says Aurelijus Valeisa, web development director at Boozt.

“For us, handling the infrastructure was not the key business process and instead of hiring system and network administrators, we hired developers to build the systems and then relied on Rackspace to support their guidance in the infrastructure part,” adds Brondum.

Boozt worked with Rackspace for over a decade. In that time Rackspace itself had transitioned from a hosting provider to a managed cloud services company. As Boozt began to experience challenges with its existing infrastructure – such as being able to scale, Rackspace told the company that it had reached the limits of its dedicated environment and that it made more sense to move to the cloud.

“I was very surprised because many other businesses in this space would not suggest moving to the cloud as they would lose money from us even if they earn money from the services they provide on top of the cloud – but this is the advantage of having Rackspace as a partner as they are very unbiased,” Brondum adds.

Picking Google Cloud Platform

Boozt always had a good relationship with Google, and it made the choice of a public cloud provider easier.

“Google Cloud Platform (GCP) was very much focused and superior on big data and machine learning tools compared to the competition and that was a key element for us. We really didn’t want to build our own infrastructure for machine learning,” says Brondum.

“We did use a little bit of Microsoft and Amazon’s cloud but it’s always better to do things with someone that is new in the game because they are so much more focused as they’re willing to work hard for it. Even though Google is a big company, GCP is a small cloud provider compared to Amazon and they’re still focusing on growth – when you’re small you’re not complacent so that was another reason,” Valeisa adds.

In the past, Boozt could plan for additional infrastructure by predicting its traffic. However, with events like Black Friday becoming increasingly prevalent, the discrepancy between normal traffic and the traffic from those days became so high that over-capacity of infrastructure was really expensive.

“We came from a very frugal background when we were small, so having these extra 20 servers which you wouldn’t otherwise use didn’t sound right, so it was one of the challenges we had to solve. We tried to utilise Rackspace cloud but those were also being reached with a limit, and Rackspace suggested moving to another cloud provider to solve the scalability problem,” says Brondum.

Boozt suffered downtime on Black Friday in 2016 and 2017.

“I think Black Friday 2017 in was one of the worst situations because we invested a lot of time and we thought that we did everything right but we still managed to go down. As we are a public company there was a lot of media attention around it,” says Valeisa.

“It wasn’t about the money we lost from transactions but it was more of an embarrassment from a technical perspective. This was the main driver for us that we could survive the traffic and the infrastructure could scale during Black Friday in 2018,” he adds.

Following a successful migration to GCP in partnership with Rackspace, the retailer survived a 40 per cent hike in customer visits over the Black Friday weekend – equating to 50,000 new customers – without a minute of downtime or any performance issues.

“We had no performance or scalability problems, and in fact, everyone was complaining about how boring it was,” says Valeisa.