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Supporting astronomic growth with minimal maintenance

How Conrad Electronic unlocked a new online marketplace using MongoDB and Google Cloud

INDUSTRY

eCommerce and Retail

PRODUCT

MongoDB Atlas

USE CASE

Catalog

CUSTOMER SINCE

2017
INTRODUCTION

Scaling up for success

When leading European retailer Conrad Electronic wanted to create an online B2B marketplace for its own — and third-party products — it turned to MongoDB, because of its simplicity. As the marketplace grew it moved to MongoDB Atlas — the developer data platform — for further scalability and to reduce management burden. The database platform now hosts over 7 million product offerings.

Founded in 1923, Conrad Electronic is a one-stop online store for all things electronics

"We decided to pivot to a microservice architecture and move to a Kubernetes cluster on Google Cloud."

Tobias Baumgart, former Technology and Architecture Director, Conrad Electronic

THE CHALLENGE

Creating a bustling online trading post

Founded in Berlin in 1923, Conrad Electronic is a well-known German family-owned electronics retailer, which delivers individual electronic parts, electrical equipment, components, and complete IT solutions domestically and worldwide. The Conrad Group has 21 million worldwide customers and employs over 2,500 employees in 17 countries. In 2020, over 10 million packages were shipped to over 150 countries.

At the heart of Conrad’s business model is its online platform, recently augmented by a new B2B Marketplace (established in 2017) which enables sales by third parties and currently has 650 sellers onboard.

“We changed our focus to B2B and needed to create a new source of real-time product data, improving the purchasing process for our customers,” explains Tobias Baumgart, former Technology and Architecture Director at Conrad Electronic. “Acting as a platform for other sellers has different demands and we needed flexibility to enable that.”

The marketplace also operates as a platform for over 800,000 of Conrad’s own products, making it a one-stop-shop for German electronic needs. With an ever-increasing number of data points to manage, Conrad needed a robust, scalable and flexible database platform to ensure optimal availability and response times to enable the best customer experience. This can prove difficult with relational databases because retailers and eCommerce players must create limitless, complex and inflexible tables where simply adding three fields to the data model could take hours.

“We were confronted with a project to implement the marketplace very quickly and decided to deploy MongoDB Community Edition in the backend because we had significant developer experience of the solution and appreciated its simplicity,” says Baumgart. “After 18 months, it was clear that we needed to migrate to MongoDB Atlas to improve performance and reduce our overall maintenance burden.”

“We want to focus on development and our customers. Not maintenance and infrastructure.”

Alexander Kaiser, Head of Platform Architecture, Conrad Electronic

THE SOLUTION

Scalable, secure and high-performing

MongoDB Atlas provides an advanced cloud database service, enabling data distribution, built-in automation for resource optimization, auto-scaling, actions tailored to Conrad’s specific workloads, and data security and privacy controls. This gives Conrad the scalable, secure and high-performing database platform it needs while removing all the administrative hassle. Moreover, MongoDB's data model is particularly useful for Conrad to map hierarchical product data, which now totals over 300GB.

The company is also using MongoDB Charts, which provides a clear understanding of data, highlighting correlations between variables and making it easy for Conrad to discern patterns and trends. This visualization enables the company to effectively analyze spend per project and become more efficient. In addition, Conrad is taking advantage of MongoDB’s real-time Metrics, which provide insight into cluster CPU and memory utilization while also highlighting slow queries immediately, making it particularly useful for load testing.

Today, the company uses MongoDB Atlas on Google Cloud to house all the marketplace data both for Conrad itself and for its partners, including microservices for different tasks, such as product, users, cart, search and billing. Now, R&D engineers, designers, educational establishments, electronics industry buyers and repair technicians can purchase and exchange all manner of electronic goods, with over 7 million currently listed.

“It is a simple, fast and comprehensive data environment, which enables our purchasing and sourcing platform that is key to the business,” adds Baumgart. “It provides a frictionless experience and allows us to focus on customers. At the same time, we have 100 in-house developers, and it also gives them a sandbox for new developments.”

“With MongoDB you can build prototypes insanely fast. This allows us to quickly try out new services,” agrees Janek Wonner, Head of SRE & Cloud Technology, Conrad. “This is thanks to the data model - MongoDB speaks JSON. And that makes it much less complicated. In a relational setup, we would have to set up a schema first.”

Process overview of the Conrad marketplace with reseller products along with Conrad’s own products and the unified data storage in MongoDB

“With MongoDB you can build prototypes insanely fast. This allows us to quickly try out new services.”

Janek Wonner, Head of SRE & Cloud Technology, Conrad Electronic

THE RESULTS

Faster, more flexible, with zero downtime

MongoDB Atlas now hosts over 7 million active SKUs, as well as customer information and payment details. Performance has increased markedly, compared to on-premise, which makes the internal development team more productive while improving the customer experience. The environment can also scale to meet the expected, exponential demand, with ‘sharding’ enabling horizontal scaling at low costs.

“We are predicting astronomic growth and cannot limit the amount of new products on the marketplace. There are thousands daily that need to be immediately available”, comments Baumgart. “MongoDB Atlas takes care of that without breaking a sweat.”

At the same time, MongoDB Atlas is simple to manage and maintain, requiring no specialist MongoDB engineers, meaning Conrad’s development team can focus on more strategic, value-added tasks, such as new feature development, rather than worrying about data maintenance, ensuring they can always facilitate a better customer experience. In fact, by reducing the administrative burden of tasks, such as cluster patching, Conrad can save 240 workdays, equivalent to one full time employee.

“We want to focus on development and our customers. Not maintenance and infrastructure,” says Alexander Kaiser, Head of Platform Architecture, Conrad. “Especially since the number of developers is limited. We must focus on the essentials”

Furthermore, MongoDB Atlas clusters are highly available and backed by an industry-leading uptime SLA of 99.995% and excellent support across all cloud providers, so product data is always available: “The MongoDB support is top notch. It really is first class service we've received from the team so far,” remarks Kaiser.

“MongoDB enables fast, immediate, customer-facing apps and e-procurement with real time data retrieval and zero downtime,” concludes Baumgart. “That means we can deliver the best customer, employee and partner experience — and continually improve that experience — without having to commit vast resources to database management.”

“We are predicting astronomic growth and cannot limit the amount of new products on the marketplace. There are thousands daily that need to be immediately available. MongoDB Atlas takes care of that without breaking a sweat.”

Tobias Baumgart, former Technology and Architecture Director, Conrad Electronic

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