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For nearly a decade, Indonesian e-commerce unicorn Bukalapak was running its own datacentres, doubling the number of facilities every month to keep pace with the rapid growth of the business.
Over time, it became clear that doing so was not sustainable, with the company facing bottlenecks in its expansion due to the lack of agility and costs which limited its growth.
Around 2019, Bukalapak, which started in 2010 as a marketplace platform, made a commitment to move its on-premise infrastructure to the public cloud. The move has since been extended to monolithic applications, most of which have been converted to cloud-native, microservices-based applications.
“We’ve been heavily adopting the microservices model and gradually migrating many of the heavy monolithic applications into services powered by Ruby and Go to meet high-performance requirements and reduce the risk of having a single point of failure,” said Jun Yao, chief technology officer at Bukalapak.
The company is also one of the earliest adopters of containerisation and Kubernetes in Indonesia, enabling it to design an architecture mostly in isolation with the underlying infrastructure that underpins its ability to be cloud agnostic.
Today, Bukalapak operates a multicloud strategy, with Google Cloud as its main cloud supplier, along with Microsoft Azure. The shift to Google Cloud took around two years, after the company broke down its monolithic applications into microservices and improved the efficiency of its code.
“There was open heart surgery and a lot of planning in place,” said Yao. “The teams worked day and night for a few months, and even stayed in the datacentre to ensure things were working,” he added, noting that the cutover to Google Cloud only took two hours of downtime with minimal disruptions.
Following the move, Bukalapak is now trying to move certain infrastructure from one public cloud to another based on business needs. “Thanks to all the learning and practice and our employment of cloud technologies, I believe this exercise will be a lot smoother,” said Yao.
One of the last remaining applications to be migrated to the cloud was BMoney, Bukalapak’s investment platform for retail investors. The application was deployed on-premise due to regulatory requirements, but Yao said the company bypassed those requirements and migrated BMoney to Google Cloud in June 2022.
What is left on-premise are “connection touch points” with some government agencies and external suppliers which, for some reason, are unable to connect to the public cloud, Yao said. “But at the same time, we’re actively looking into that because things have been changing. If possible, we will try to eliminate the datacentre altogether this year.”
Underpinning Bukalapak’s progress in cloud adoption is its engineering culture which remains a work in progress. Yao said when he first joined the company, he found that most teams worked in silos and focused on specific parts of the technology stack.
But instead of taking a big bang approach to promote a DevOps and full stack development culture across the company’s 600-strong engineering workforce, Yao set up pilot teams comprising engineers who have volunteered to show how teams can work better with one another.
“We also provide training programmes, and we design job competencies for different levels of engineers based on what is expected of them,” Yao said. “We encourage people to map into that and help them to upskill themselves.
“We are making very good progress right now and our goal is to have T-shaped engineers who have a full understanding of the technology but specialise in one area,” he said.
So far, the move to cloud and the use of microservices has enabled Bukalapak to be more responsive to diverse customer requirements in a sprawling country.
“Users may have devices with limited storage, and they may also have poor internet connectivity and low data quotas,” said Yao. “These users are very cautious about installing applications on the mobile phone because the real estate is very critical and large applications are not welcomed.
“We realised this problem very early, so to win over customers, we are laser-focused on monitoring and optimising the performance of our applications from day one, and microservices help us to separate and fix things a lot easier.”
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