Resources-to-go: an interview with Just Eat's CTO

By Danny Palmer
11 Feb 2014 View Comments
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In today’s time poor world, sometimes cooking for yourself after a busy day can just seem a bit much. And since respectable people can’t be seen tucking into a pot noodle, a takeaway is often the preferred option.

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But where did you put those leaflets for all the local takeaways? This is the sort of conundrum web business Just Eat thrives on. It enables hungry people to have food delivered to their door from a selection of over 13,000 restaurants each day – and of course it gets a nice slice of commission from every order.

With operations spanning 13 countries – making it the biggest player in the online takeaway sector – and an ever growing customer base, the company soon came to the point where it needed to revamp its infrastructure, which at the time was hosted in a Copenhagen data centre.

According to Just Eat CTO Carlos Morgado, the firm became acutely aware how risky its IT set-up was.

“We’re a rapidly expanding business in many countries, with many customers who depend on us to deliver food, and a failure in that data centre would have obviously had a significant impact to us,” he told Computing.

A decision was made to shift Just Eat’s entire server architecture into the cloud – and that’s exactly how operations have run since April 2013. The scalability and associated cost-savings offered by cloud made perfect sense for Just Eat, which does most of its business in the evenings, when people want dinner.

“The fact we can turn up the dial on capacity is actually very interesting because we’re a very peaky business. Not much happens for 22 hours of the day then all of a sudden, bang, we get huge traffic around dinner time,” said Morgado, likening the set-up to being able to drive a sports car for special occasions.

“Why drive around in a Ferrari for 24 hours a day when for 22 of those hours you could drive a Ford Mondeo? It’s much cheaper and the right thing to do, so from the outset it was advantageous.”

Switching to a cloud-based infrastructure, Morgado explained, has freed his 50-strong engineering team from the task of maintaining and monitoring servers. Instead, they can focus on providing Just Eat customers with a better product and service.

“For us, the cloud in general is about having an engineering team that’s completely focused on creating differentiation in the marketplace for our consumers,” he said. “The vast majority of the time spent by those guys out there is focused on delivering different, better products, which helps drive our business to success.”

Of course there are still some lights to keep on, and certain systems to maintain, but, said Morgado, thanks to cloud, the engineering team’s primary focus is now on driving a better customer experience.

“OS upgrades, all of that stuff is important, don’t get me wrong, but it doesn’t differentiate you from the competition,” he said. “What we want our engineering team to do is drive product enhancements and experience around the site itself, that’s also important. That’s cloud for me.”

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