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Airship chooses Bigtable to empower mobile app developers

Editor’s note: Learn how mobile app experience company Airship uses Cloud Bigtable to deliver high performance throughput and speed, while freeing app developers to focus on high-value feature development.

Airship is a company that helps marketers, product owners, and developers create and adapt powerful mobile app experiences. 

The mobile app experience is becoming the digital center of the customer experience, the place where the exchange of value between customers and brands is most respected and rewarded. Yet some brands treat their mobile apps as just another promotional channel. They’re driving customers to the app but not holding onto them. The truth is, keeping customers is hard. It calls for in-app experiences tailored to the individual, so you can build loyalty and generate revenue. 

Leading brands understand there’s a new practice they need to master. We call it mobile app experience—MAX for short. And MAX is transforming how businesses manage relationships with customers in every conceivable way. We deliver MAX through our Airship  App Experience Platform (AXP), the only enterprise SaaS platform focused 100% on helping brands master mobile app experiences. AXP enables marketers and product owners to create, edit, and manage full-screen, interactive walkthroughs that showcase an app’s latest features, how the app will make customers’ lives better, and how to get started. They can also take advantage of no-code solutions and analytics to activate, retain, and monetize app audiences. As a result, your development teams are free to focus on the more innovative aspects of building apps. 

To deliver benefits and capabilities to our customers, AXP relies on everything from operational data to machine learning to real-time data streaming. With the help of Cloud Bigtable, Google’s scalable, fully managed NoSQL database, we’re able to deliver high performance throughput and speed to our customers. For everything from data storage and retrieval, to segmentation of large audiences, to reading multiple tables at the same time without locking, Bigtable has helped transform our customers’ experiences. The result is much lower latency and faster data access, which means our customers can each deliver a smooth and seamless mobile app experience to their users.

Database management kept us grounded

With the kind of data we capture and deliver, we take a NoSQL approach to data storage and management. As we’ve grown, we’ve evolved our architecture to grow with us. We started with Cassandra and later pivoted to Apache HBase. However, we found ourselves spending untold hours on HBase operations — at every step of the software lifecycle, operating HBase was a labor-intensive process. We needed people to allocate and configure storage nodes; people to monitor zookeeper, namenode, datanode, and regionserver processes; and people to balance regions. We’d find ourselves spending a whole day reading ioutil graphs because read latency was up 200% on one node. Additionally, we would regularly experience hard drive failure, regularly have to rebalance our hardware nodes and once even lost a namenode and had to recover it from backup journals. As a result, we began considering moving to the fully managed database service Bigtable.

Because Bigtable has an HBase client wrapper, it became our number one database choice. In addition, Bigtable’s seamless scaling makes it easy for us to add capacity with a push of a button and without any downtime. 

HBase client wrappers make for smooth take-off

Because of the HBase client wrappers, migrating to Bigtable was very smooth. We found that when spinning up databases in Google Cloud, it was very easy to write a generic job to load a SequenceFile of rows snapshotted from HBase into Bigtable. All of the work was in application code, enabling consistent writes in both locations during the move. We had to simultaneously load the snapshot while writing data and at the same time ensure that results were correct. As a result we had to manage the ‘version’ of a cell manually in application code and in the backfiller. We did this so that a write generated by a backfill would not overwrite a newer writer from live events.

A fully managed service and seamless scaling help us take flight

Since moving to Bigtable, the days spent configuring nodes, balancing regions, and troubleshooting latency issues are gone, and we can use that time for revenue-generating and customer growth initiatives. We’ve also been able to free our application developers from time-consuming operations tasks to focus on CI/CD and tooling, creating high-value features our customers love.

With Bigtable, we have the dynamic, responsive scaling we need to meet our customers’ performance expectations. One of our clusters is writing one million row operations per second, while reading another 700,000 rows per second.

As Airship grows, we plan to scale all Google Cloud services to keep our system both performant and cost effective. We consider Google Cloud a key partner in technology that helps brands master mobile app experiences. 

To learn more about HBase to Bigtable Live Migrations and how to get started, please visit this documentation page.

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