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During the 2020 Double 11 Global Shopping Festival, the system of STO (a major express delivery enterprise in China) performed smoothly and stably.
"During Double 11, our whole business ran on Alibaba Cloud. While facing hundreds of millions of parcels and tens of millions of orders, our system responded in milliseconds and performed incredibly stable," Fang Yao, the Technical Director of Cloud Migration of STO's system, said with great pride.
Fang stated in a media interview, "The first surge of orders came early on the morning of November 1, but the whole system responded very quickly. In the face of several times more orders received than daily operation, the response time of the system did not change. In terms of order taking, automatic sorting, logistics PDA scanning, and parcel tracking, all of these core indicators remained stable. Moreover, the load of the corresponding middleware and database resources also fluctuated within a reasonable range."
The perfect performance of the system strengthened Fang's confidence toward the second surge of orders. The cloud-migrated system did not disappoint him.
On November 6, Fang stared at the stably-running system closely like he was looking at his own child. It took nearly three months to prepare for the Double 11 Global Shopping Festival. After undergoing countless stress testing and the first order surge of this year's Double 11, Fang finally felt relaxed. As the Head of System Cloud Migration, he received the greatest return at this moment after months of hard work.
Before cloud migration, STO used offline data centers as the computing and data storage platform. The resources from the previous platform were needed during Double 11 but went unused and wasted after the big promotion. After cloud migration, almost all resources are purchased according to demands and are released immediately after Double 11. Use-on-demand is achieved without waste. Compared with last year's Double 11, the IT investment after cloud migration was reduced by 30% from November 1 to November 3 this year, compared with the previous traditional Internet Data Center (IDC) architecture. The business volume has greatly increased at the same time. The cloud migration is remarkably effective.
At the beginning of planning the full-site cloud migration solution, Fang decided to embrace cloud-native and implement 100% containerization on all applications. The decision of technological transformation was based on his strong sense of crisis. In 2019, the parcel number of the express delivery industry reached 60 billion, and STO's parcel numbers reached 7.3 billion, en route to its goal of 10 billion.
Alibaba Cloud Container Service for Kubernetes (ACK) and Container Registry (ACR) can bring two major benefits to STO, which are fast business release and reliable elasticity.
In this fast and changeable era, the business of enterprises needs to "change quickly for greater benefits." With cloud-native technologies, quick online deployment of business can be implemented. Standardized application development and O&M operations can be cultivated for teams, forming a process from packaging application code into container images to Kubernetes standardized deployment. By doing so, large amounts of time and human resources are no longer needed, and problems, such as failures caused by inconsistent cluster configuration, can also be avoided. This can help the successful transformation of enterprises into DevOps-driven enterprises.
The express business is a typical periodic business. How can resources be used on-demand when the business is growing exponentially? Double 11 happens to be a representative scenario for sudden business growth. The 2020 Double 11 Global Shopping Festival became the best testing ground for STO's elastic scheduling.
Container and Kubernetes technologies can bring more benefits than those mentioned above. The data center, which depends on Kubernetes as its core, makes the entire system more stable through application orchestration and service fault self-recovery. Monitoring tracking, service log collection, and procedure monitoring ensure the stability of the service system during rapid iteration. In addition, by combining computing resources monitoring with the service peak values, enterprises can reduce the cost of resources through elastic scaling or downgrading configuration specifications.
The cloud-native cloud migration of STO's full-sate business took more than a year.
With countless demand communication, technical modifications, and constant efforts of STO and Alibaba Cloud, STO's core services were finally migrated to Alibaba Cloud successfully. STO adopted cloud-native technology and architecture for its cloud migration.
This decision set the stage for technological innovation during this year's Double 11 Global Shopping Festival. For example, the application of elastic scaling greatly reduced the computing cost, saving millions a year. Then, more innovative services were quickly launched. This year, the Double 11 Global Shopping Festival offered pre-sale products, which sped up express delivery and improved customer experience.
"Cloud migration is just the beginning, and the cloud just serves as the infrastructure." Fang Yao said, "The technical architecture of STO will evolve towards Mesh, the next-generation microservices architecture, which will improve the governance of complex systems."
The original architecture of STO's core business system was built based on VMware and Oracle. After migrating to Alibaba Cloud, the previous architecture transformed into a Kubernetes-based cloud-native architecture. The introduction of the cloud-native database and the container-based microservices transformation of applications are keys to the architecture reconstruction.
Considering the business needs and technical features, STO finally chose Alibaba Cloud's cloud-native solution of "ACK + ECS Bare Metal Instance (X-Dragon) + ApsaraDB for Redis" for cloud migration of core applications.
The solution of ACK + X-Dragon was released at the Alibaba Cloud Summit on June 9, 2020. STO's infrastructure after cloud migration adopted Alibaba Cloud's X-Dragon. Compared with common ECS instances, Kubernetes-based X-Dragon can provide better performance and more reasonable resource utilization. Resources on the cloud can be retrieved on demand, which is extremely important for STO with short-term and large-traffic business scenarios, such as big promotion activities.
First, the cloud-native X-Dragon can meet the requirements of rapid business release and elasticity. X-Dragon can create and activate instances in minutes. Through Alibaba Cloud ACK, X-Dragon can also use the scheduling and orchestration capabilities of Kubernetes to closely coordinate with Alibaba Cloud infrastructures, such as SLB, VPC, NAS, and SLS. By doing so, X-Dragon can support rapid business deployment in a very short time and can easily cope with the requirements of instantaneous peaks on system agility.
Second, high-performance X-Dragon and elastic containers can work seamlessly together. The container + X-Dragon solution is very suitable for high-traffic and high-concurrency scenarios, such as the Double 11 Global Shopping Festival.
X-Dragon is the best carrier for cloud-native technologies. It has high specifications and can implement high-density container deployment. In addition, it eliminates virtualization loss and improves computing performance by 8%. Moreover, it is similar to physical machines, so it can be secondarily virtualized. The next-generation ACK can give full play to the powerful performance of the latest X-Dragon.
Data shows that the performance of containers on X-Dragon is 10% to 15% higher than on physical machines. This is because X-Dragon has no virtualization cost, and each container running on X-Dragon can have an exclusive Elastic Network Interface (ENI), which improves the network throughput by 13%.
Previously, express delivery enterprises used to compete for business volume, service, and price. Now, they also need to compete for technical strength in the cloud era.
Alibaba Cloud's infrastructure provides support for STO's full-site business system for the first time. The stable and smooth operation of STO's system during the Double 11 Global Shopping Festival presents unlimited potential.
From the perspective of STO, the perfect performance during Double 11 represents the completion of STO's "Digitalization 1.0." In the final stage of its technology planning, STO must achieve Digitalization 3.0 and build an STO Brain. The Brain can take over all facets of the business and iterate by itself. For STO, it is the ultimate symbol of STO's intelligent personality and the final goal of STO's automation transformation.
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