Reshaping media-reader relations online with a SaaS solution on Google Kubernetes Engine
Google Cloud results
- Speeds up production in house, as developers use Google Cloud documentation for a successful one-week proof of concept
- Frees up in-house developers from adding and removing machines to accommodate spikes in traffic with GKE managed services
- Enables global scalability with international clusters, so customers anywhere in the world benefit from fast response times
From 15 minutes to 15 seconds to deploy code
As we get accustomed to living in the information age, it becomes harder to remember what the world was like before some pioneering journalists published the first basic online journalism website in 1993. Publishing was never the same again. Nearly three decades on, it’s simple for any publisher to quickly spread its content online. But there’s a catch: in an age when information is so pervasive, how can publishers continue to charge for content and keep their businesses financially sustainable?
Enter Poool, the French tech startup reshaping the way people access and finance content. Poool was founded in 2016 by four avid readers who noticed that paywalls were becoming commonplace online. “As readers, we found it very strange to visit a publisher’s website and be presented with only two options: pay or leave,” recalls Maxime Mone, CEO and co-founder at Poool. So the team built Poool Access, a SaaS solution offering publishers alternative ways to interact with their website visitors, through customizable subscriptions and premium content. “We offer publishers an alternative business model that doesn’t rely on ads and doesn’t pressure readers into making a decision before having a chance to experience their content. Our solution aims to benefit both sides: it gives readers a better experience, and this helps publishers to build lasting relationships with readers, increasing their reader base and revenue in return,” explains Maxime.
Today, Poool Access supports 150 media publishers in France, from online newspapers to major media companies, with the technical capability to grow and manage their online subscribers. Maxime credits this success to the team’s ability to keep things simple. The product is easy to use and enables customization without requiring any coding skills from publishers. Publishers can set different rules to test different scenarios and then analyze the results to see how their audience responds. For example, publishers can offer a number of free articles to readers before requesting they pay a subscription to access more content. Pay or leave are no longer readers’ only options.
But goods news spreads fast. As Poool’s solution piqued the interest of many more publications, the small team worked around the clock to scale the infrastructure supporting it. Although cloud-native, Poool Access was initially designed to process up to 200 requests per second. “Scaling what we had built in our original cloud provider was challenging, time-consuming, and expensive,” recalls Ugo Stephant, Head of Engineering and Design at Poool. So Poool needed a way to access more processing power cost-effectively, and turned to Google Cloud for a solution.
“We’re a regular-sized company but we have the traffic of almost all the media companies in France combined. Google Cloud gives us the means to automate aspects of our production environment and to scale up and down as needed, while remaining financially sustainable as a startup,” says Ugo.
HANDLING 10X MORE TRAFFIC WHILE KEEPING COSTS IN CHECK
Ugo’s team selected App Engine as the best tool for deploying and managing its API back ends. In house, the team built a proof of concept in a staging environment and built an API to validate it. After just a week, they were up and running in the new environment and ready to move to production. “We spent some nights updating the product to fit with App Engine coming from our other provider, but the transition was very smooth for something so complex,” says Ugo.
For two years, operating in the App Engine environment worked smoothly. App Engine automatically scales depending on app traffic and offers a pay-as-you-use alternative which helped Poool to keep its costs in check. However, as the popularity of Poool Access continued to rise, so did the traffic that Ugo’s team needed to manage.
“Every time a reader accesses paywalls on our clients’ websites, we manage that request. Premium articles, free articles, home pages: we’re on every page of our customer’s websites, so each reader browsing the website can result in around 30 requests for us to manage.” In order to provide in-depth analysis for their clients, Poool has to digest all of this traffic to understand how readers are interacting with the content, the wall options, and the different subscription models. But doing all this on App Engine was becoming costly. So they looked for an alternative.
“As our traffic went from 200 to 2,000 requests per second, it became challenging to keep costs down. We needed more power and more automation, so we decided to use Google Kubernetes Engine to sustain our infrastructure, because it can grow at scale and speed, cost-effectively,” says Ugo.
SCALING COST-EFFECTIVELY WITH GOOGLE KUBERNETES ENGINE
Just as the Poool team decided to transition to the containerized approach with Google Kubernetes Engine (GKE), COVID-19 arrived in France and its population of 59.47 million internet users went online for the latest news. As a result, Poool started to manage two times more traffic at the beginning of the pandemic. Against this backdrop, the Poool team decided to get expert advice to ensure a smooth transition to Google Kubernetes Engine, and reached out to digital transformation specialists OP-Rate for support.
The two teams exchanged information while the Poool team made the transition, analyzing performance at each step to ensure that the experience of users and clients wasn’t being affected. Now Google Kubernetes Engine supports everything in Poool’s daily operations, says Ugo. “Google Kubernetes Engine is the basic foundation of everything we do nowadays, and we have complete confidence in its availability, power, scalability, and security.”
Helping readers access the information they need, quickly
Although Poool has come a long way since its inception, the original intention for its founders remains the same: to improve the experience of readers looking for information online. With this in mind, the company is committed to keeping its response times to 100 milliseconds to ensure customers and readers don’t have to wait for Poool Access to load before accessing content. The transition to Google Kubernetes Engine is also helping the company to deliver on this promise.
“Before Google Kubernetes Engine, it could take us around 15 minutes to make a deployment. That’s way too long if you’re looking to fix a mistake on production across 100 websites. After working with OP-Rate to automate our deployments with Google Kubernetes Engine, we can now deploy anything in 15 seconds,” says Ugo.
Meanwhile, Ugo’s team has been able to reclaim some time back from managing requests manually. “Before Google Kubernetes Engine, I spent several sleepless nights removing or adding machines to query depending on our traffic,” says Ugo. “Now that’s automated, and we can trust that our infrastructure will work smoothly, even though we’re using more capacity and computing power because our traffic is increasing. What’s more, since adopting Google Kubernetes Engine as the backbone of our infrastructure, we’ve cut our production costs in half.” The team went from spending €115 per day with App Engine, to just €60 per day with Google Kubernetes Engine.
Providing customers with fast and reliable services anywhere in the world
And this is just the start for the Poool team. With an automated platform that scales as quickly as the business, Poool is outlining great ambitions for the near future.
“Paywall, register wall, and cookie wall solutions have been mainly used by traditional media that are going to the web. Now, every content-based business is looking for these kinds of solutions. So we aim to expand Poool Access to serve more business verticals and markets,” says Maxime.
“As Poool expands globally, we aim to continue delivering fast response times for customers wherever they might be. Google Cloud can support us with that,” says Ugo. “Having an infrastructure in place that is as reliable in France as anywhere in the world is crucial for our business success, which is why we see our partnership with Google Cloud as a longstanding one.”
Founded in 2016 with the vision of making it easier to access finance online content, Poool is a technology startup supporting publishers with the technical tools to manage their media-reader relations.
- Google Cloud
- Kubernetes Engine