AllSaints tech team explains tools behind its cloud journey

Members of the AllSaints technology team have explained the company’s five-year journey to becoming a cloud-based business, describing it as “the biggest infrastructure change” in its history.

Since 2014, AllSaints has used the capabilities of data management specialist Pythian, API codifier Terraform, and an array of Google Cloud tools to help create a new infrastructure. During the project, the retailer has halved the number of servers it runs from 60 to 30, and it says it is in a stronger position to flex its online business to meet consumers’ ever-changing demands.

As previously reported by Essential Retail, AllSaints uses Google G Suite for internal communications, which the retailer’s executive consultant for digital and technology, John Bovill, said was “a deliberate move” to get staff familiar with using the cloud.

Soon after, AllSaints migrated its infrastructure to Google Cloud with support from Pythian. Andy Dean, technical operations manager at AllSaints, said 60 individual services moved onto the new technology set-up.

“The interdependencies between them meant that it made more sense to move them all at once, and that took a lot of planning,” he noted, adding that the development team needed to change to Cloud SQL technology and undertake significant re-coding.

“It was the biggest infrastructure change we’d made in the history of the company, so one of our goals was that nobody noticed the change,” explained Dean.

One result of that change is AllSaints now utilises Google Compute Engine and Google Kubernetes Engine autoscaling to meet the needs of additional online traffic at peak times. It said this means it no longer has to rely on additional servers and has contributed to a 50% reduction in infrastructure costs.

The team now monitors web performance through Google Cloud’s Stackdriver, while Google’s wider network provides disaster recovery services which replaces a previous reliance on a single data centre.

In-house development

AllSaints’ develops its customer-facing services in-house, including electronic point-of-sale systems and its mobile app, and the move towards a microservice architecture gave the development team a chance to change their way of working. They can now build a continuous integration/continuous deployment (CI/CD) pipeline to automate the software delivery process, using Jenkins on Google Cloud and Terraform.

“Before, we couldn’t confidently say a bug was fixed until we actually tested it in production – now we can deploy code in test environments that exactly mimic production,” noted Dean.

“The improved CI/CD pipeline means we can update our services every day, with a shorter lifespan on bugs, and minimal disruption. That makes us more responsive to customer needs, more proactive. And that's exactly what we’re trying to achieve.”

AllSaints said online page speeds and conversions have increased since rolling out the new infrastructure. Next up, the retailer is preparing to deploy Istio to connect and monitor its microservices model, and it is planning to explore ways of leveraging data within its organisation via Google Cloud tool, BigQuery.

“Strategically we are looking to maximise our usage of Google Cloud, driving this and associated technologies to provide the best possible AllSaints experience for our customers,” explains Bovill, who having overseen the latter stages of the AllSaints cloud journey is preparing to leave the retailer at the end of this year.