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Saturday, May 27th, 2017


Going cloud agnostic: ShopBack takes baby steps

ShopBack, a Singapore-based e-commerce startup that primarily earns revenue from online merchants it redirects shoppers to, has been utilizing services from Amazon Web Services (AWS) since it began operating in 2014.

ShopBack, which had been subscribing to AWS offerings such as EC2, RDS, Redshift, CloudFormation, CloudSEarch, Elasticsearch and Lambda run out of AWS’s data centers in Singapore and Tokyo, has always been happy with AWS, says Alberto Resco Perez, an engineering manager at ShopBack. However, the startup is aiming to become cloud agnostic and subsequently less dependent on AWS in order to future proof its IT strategy and avoid vendor lock-in.

“Should we continue to be dependent on the AWS services we use, we’ll have a problem if they decide to change or cut a particular service due to lack of popularity,” Perez says, adding the company will continue to utilize EC2 due to its status as a flagship AWS service.

Enhanced search

ShopBack’s first step toward going cloud agnostic involved doing away with a direct AWS subscription for CloudSearch and Elasticsearch. Instead, ShopBack chose to work directly with Elastic, the application provider behind the AWS Elasticsearch service, to set up its own Elastic Stack Cluster on EC2. It was a decision that allowed Shopback to enjoy various benefits not previously available under the AWS subscription, such as consultancy services from Elastic and more leeway to add commercial extensions.

According to Perez, this deployment would also allow ShopBack to perform a seamless migration should the need to switch IaaS provider arise.

The ability for shoppers to search for products on ShopBack’s site is crucial to its survival. As ShopBack expanded its partner merchant network around the region and the number of products and categories listed on its site increased exponentially, the need arose for an enhanced search function and user experience on ShopBack’s sites around the region. Due to partnerships with retail giants such as Matahari Mall in Indonesia and Zalora, Sephora, Lazada, ASOS and Groupon in Singapore, the number of SKUs ShopBack had to deal with had risen to 13 million.

Performance was lagging - product searches took an average of two seconds while bringing up a store listing could take up to 30 seconds. Multi-language support was also needed for ShopBack’s sites in countries such as Thailand and Indonesia, where English isn’t the main language. The direct subscription with AWS could not fully address these needs.

By subscribing to both Elastic Stack and X-Pack from Elastic, ShopBack enjoyed commercial level support from Elastic, which meant that consultants from Elastic helped ShopBack design its Elasticsearch schemas, while X-Pack provided ShopBack with better control over the cluster’s security. The cluster went live in August 2016.