Etsy confirms completion of two-year migration to Google Cloud

Etsy claims move from on-premise to public cloud has boosted its business agility, and is helping it achieve its sustainability goals too

Peer-to-peer online marketplace Etsy has shifted 2,000 on-premise servers and 5.5PB (petabytes) of data to the Google Cloud Platform as part of a wider, two-year business transformation.

The site provides sellers with an online marketplace where they can sell hand-crafted and creative goods, and – since its founding in 2005 – had relied on its own in-house datacentres to fulfil its hosting requirements.

In the wake of the company’s initial public offering (IPO) in April 2015, though, the company found itself under growing shareholder pressure to streamline its processes.

So much so that in 2017 one of its investors went public with a plea to Etsy’s board of directors, urging them to consider using public cloud to cut costs, but also to free up its research and development teams so they could spend less time maintaining its on-premise infrastructure.

And so the scene was set in 2018 for the firm to start moving its infrastructure out of its datacentres and into the public cloud, with Google emerging as its first choice of provider.

Speaking at the 2019 Google Next Conference in San Francisco, Etsy chief architect Keyur Govande said the site had also started to show signs of struggling with the amount of growth it was experiencing at that time.

For example, more than two million people sold goods through Etsy in 2018, with more than 50 million unique items listed for sale on the site at that time.

“When Etsy was founded, cloud did not exist as a concept – we were solely in the datacentre,” he told delegates at the show. “At that time, we had to build a lot of our own tech, because there wasn’t much out there we could use.”

As time went on and the site continued to grow, limitations within its on-premise setup began to emerge, particularly in terms of how long it would take to bring new infrastructure capacity online.

“You budget for three to six months [ahead], you order hardware, [which] takes some time to come in,” said Govande. “You rack and stack it, and then you provision it, and [install] all the software you need on it that before it can finally go into production.”

He added: “That timeline is really important [to talk about], and Etsy was finding this workflow was not scaling as the site was growing.”

Since completing the move to the Google Cloud Platform, Etsy has been able to redistribute 15% of its engineering personnel so they are no longer working on system infrastructure management tasks, and can concentrate instead on work that will enhance the site’s user experience.

“Moving an operation of this magnitude to the cloud isn’t something that happens overnight, but Etsy has shown it can happen faster than you think with the right approach and the right partner”
Will Grannis, Google Cloud

It has also made significant progress in its goal to become a more sustainable organisation, whose operations run exclusively on renewable power by the end of 2020, it said.

Incidentally, during the Google Cloud Next session, Govande called out Google’s track record on sustainability as a key factor in its decision to partner with the firm.

Etsy’s chief technology officer (CTO), Mike Fisher, said the organisation also needed a cloud provider with the “technical chops” to “move the business forward”, which it is now doing with the help of Google’s machine learning portfolio of tools.

This work will focus on making it easier for site users to sift through and find the items they are looking for more quickly, but the company is also intent on using Google Cloud to experiment more with the huge datasets it has at its disposal to optimise the buying and selling experience further for its users.

“Moving an operation of this magnitude to the cloud isn’t something that happens overnight, but Etsy has shown it can happen faster than you think with the right approach and the right partner,” added Will Grannis, founder and director of Google Cloud’s Office of the CTO team.

“It’s not just about having the best technology, it’s about approaching it in the right way with a team that is the right culture fit. Etsy and Google’s shared focus on iterative learning, data and sustainability made it easy for us to speak the same language and move fast.”

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