How Auto Trader UK, the UK’s largest automotive marketplace, uses Istio and Google Kubernetes Engine to drive change

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Brand-new or second-hand? Diesel or electric? Convertible or SUV? Buying a car means choosing from a plethora of options, and that can be hard for some people to navigate. As a result, retailers are constantly rethinking their technology offerings–which means digital transformation must move just as fast.

As the UK’s largest digital automotive marketplace and the country’s 16th largest website, Auto Trader UK prides itself on how simple it is for its consumers and retailers alike to buy and sell cars on their platform. To do it they rely on Google Kubernetes Engine (GKE) plus Istio, an open-source, transparent service mesh that is integrated into GKE. Istio has helped to enable visibility, increase agility and effectively secure their production environment, without sacrificing developer productivity.

Improving security and agility with GKE and Istio

Since 2013, Auto Trader has been a completely digital business, and they are now the UK’s market leader, with 55 million cross-platform visits every month and an audience four times larger than their nearest competitor. In total, they offer 300 applications including valuation tools, detailed reviews of dealerships and new cars, and integrations with car finance and insurance partners.

Auto Trader’s journey began 17 years ago on-premises with its own data centers. Then in 2018, they decided to move to the public cloud as part of their digital transition to create a more agile architecture that enables faster innovation. Their first choice was Google Cloud Platform (GCP).

As a part of this journey, Auto Trader moved their back-end applications to GKE and implemented Istio. They were looking for a trusted partner to off-load management of Kubernetes and they chose Google Cloud because, as Karl Stoney, Delivering Engineering Lead at Auto Trader put it: “Who could manage it better than the company that created it?” Many of the capabilities that Auto Trader were looking for come out-of-the-box with Istio, as it enables visibility into applications in terms of response times and other important service metrics.

“Over the last 14 months we have worked directly with Google’s Kubernetes product managers with ongoing access to the Google Cloud Istio teams,” says Russell Warman, Head of Infrastructure at Auto Trader. “From a business perspective, migrating to Google Cloud Platform means we can get ideas up and running quickly, enabling us to build brilliant new products, helping us to continue to lead in this space.”

Looking ahead

Since adopting Kubernetes and Istio, Auto Trader has seen significant gains in efficiency. For example, they are 75 percent more efficient in terms of their compute resources, without impacting performance. Auto Trader has also lowered their monthly bill and can now predict future spending more accurately. Istio, meanwhile, has helped them improve security and visibility, with no extra developer effort or training needed.

Auto Trader is now planning to complete its migration to the public cloud. With about a third of its services already running in production on GCP, they plan to migrate their remaining workloads over the next year to ensure everything is built, managed and monitored in the same way.

Auto Trader are certainly in the driver seat when it comes to their Istio journey.

To find out more about the other benefits of migrating to GCP, both from an operational and development perspective, including improved security, see the Auto Trader UK case study.

Learn more about Istio on Google Cloud here.

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