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DevOps Award winner METRO.digital on being a “DevOps Dreamer”

Besides the authors mentioned in the byline, the team is composed also of Diana Codreanu and Martin Filipczyk.

Founded in Germany in 1964, METRO is a B2B wholesaler with sales of €29.8 in the financial year 2021/22. METRO.digital is the tech product-led company of METRO, the leading international specialist for wholesale and food trade. With longstanding experience in global wholesale, METRO.digital develops customized IT services and products worldwide for all METRO countries. Located in Germany, Romania, and Vietnam, the METRO.digital teams are working continuously on one goal: digitalizing the wholesale industry. In this blog post, we’re highlighting METRO.digital for the DevOps achievements that earned them the ‘DevOps Dreamer’ award in the2022 DevOps Awards. If you want to learn more about the winners and how they used DORA metrics and practices to grow their businesses, start here.

With the rise of ecom merce, the future of stores in the retail and wholesale industries was unclear. For our company, having a strong presence online was a matter of survival, which is why we launched our “go digital or die campaign” in 2015. As part of this, we built the first platform products and ecommerce solution on Rackspace — an OpenStack-compatible public cloud platform — but even innovators can’t rest on their laurels. Creating ecommerce solutions was the first step, but to meet our customers’ needs, we began our digital transformation journey to expand to customer engagement, master data, and the store business.

Meanwhile, we also realized that while our choice of Rackspace helped us avoid vendor lock-in, the technology and service weren’t keeping up with our transformation. We switched to Google Cloud for more robust offerings and scalability. It was better than what we had before, but even after giving production teams direct access to Google Cloud tools, we found our process still limited our speed and innovation.

Objectives

In our planning, METRO.digital turned to DORA metrics to measure current and potential improvements to time-to-market, stability, and availability. We also treated team safety and happiness as crucial factors as crunch, burnout, and similar problems were just as damaging to productivity as to the team members themselves.

To achieve all of this, we realized that we needed to give teams the opportunity to take full ownership of their products with the autonomy to build and run products by themselves. This strategy of overall decentralization from the platform was so that they could react to market and technology changes themselves rather than waiting for the time it can take a big platform to do it. To reach our digital transformation goals, we identified these objectives:

Build a generative DevOps culture 

Use a loosely coupled architecture

Set up a data lake on Google Cloud’s BigQuery

Solution

METRO.digital pilot product teams worked directly with Google Cloud architects and Professional Services Organization (PSO), receiving help with everything from concepts to code. With this deeper level of cooperation with Google Cloud, we not only found success in our pilot programs, but we also created blueprints from which other teams should build.

In addition to infrastructure architecture, we worked with Google Cloud experts to develop our SRE knowledge and mindset, starting by giving teams more autonomy by switching to Agile and DevOps practices, which fostered an attitude of collaborating to constantly improve their offerings. Our loosely coupled architecture of microservices gave teams the ability to release changes several times a week. This improved the reliability of our products and helped promote an SRE mindset. Today, more than 90% of METRO.digital products are running in Google Cloud.

By coupling our tools that tracked SLOs and the budget for errors with automatic measurement of the DORA’s four key metrics, we worked to give teams the data to promote continuous improvement of their DevOps practices. This promoted the practice of continuous integration and continuous deployment across autonomous teams, greatly speeding up change deployments to keep offerings as up-to-date with market needs as possible.

And since all of the microservices are deployed in Kubernetes clusters with Cassandra and PostgreSQL databases, we are able to consolidate data more securely with Google’s tools. Much of our data is exported directly to BigQuery, and reports are created with Looker Studio. We also protect our data and productivity with advanced security including Cloud Load Balancing and Cloud Armor.

Results

“METRO follows a clear cloud strategy, Google is our partner of choice. We do not only benefit from the technology provided by Google, but also best practice processes used at Google like DevOps, DORA, architecture patterns down to non-tech topics like OKR or in our People & Culture department.” – Timo Salzsieder, CEO METRO.digital, CIO METRO AG

By coupling autonomous teams with loosely coupled architecture, we have seen constant improvements in our culture and offerings. One example of success is M.SHOP — METRO’s food service distribution and online product visibility platform for 50,000 B2B customers across 17 countries. With over 200 microservices written in languages like Java, Kotlin, Go, JavaScript, and ReactJS, 10 teams can work in parallel to guarantee independent deployability and scalability of their modules.

With a digital transformation built around microservices and DevOps practices, we have seen measurable success, including:

Increased the release velocity by 600%, from one release every two weeks to three deployment days/week

Over 4000 repositories in our Github organization 

A total of 153 distinct teams using Google Cloud’s native services with 1,526 registered users in 747 Google Projects

151 teams using the platform they built on top of Google Cloud

This collaboration is also setting up further transformation while improving output. At time of this blog, mean time to recovery (MTTR) improved by 80% and deployment frequency by 43%, all while continuing to migrate assets to Google Cloud. Just like the DevOps practices we run on, this continual transformation helps keep us aligned with changing customer and market demands.

Stay tuned for the rest of the series highlighting the DevOps Award Winners and read the 2022 State of DevOps report to dive deeper into the DORA research.

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