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Serverless architecture delivers scale, savings for Freight Exchange

Rohan Pearce | Oct. 23, 2017
Despite a sharp increase in the use of its online platform, the logistics company’s CTO says that it still only requires two instances thanks to its extensive use of Amazon’s Lambda service.

Photo via Computerworld Australia

Online logistics company Freight Exchange is increasingly relying on serverless computing to drive its core platform, with a shift to serverless architecture delivering substantial savings according to Martyn Hann, the company's chief technology officer.

Hann said that Freight Exchange's mission is to give people a better way to manage freight -- both people seeking to shift goods and transport companies.

"Our overall aim -- the 'one liner' -- is to fill the empty trucks, but really it's about building a better way for people to manage freight, and that's on both sides of the market," he said.

The CTO said that the service is akin to an online marketplace for independent carriers and aggregator of services from major logistics companies.

"Ultimately from a shipper's point of view, you're coming on, you're getting a quote or range of quotes straight away - which is guaranteed, you're not waiting for people to get back to you -- those prices are fixed up and you can go ahead and book it if you want to," he explained.

The company runs exclusively Amazon Web Services' public cloud. And increasingly it relies on AWS's Lambda service: The cloud giant's serverless compute service, which debuted in 2014 and allows functions to be run on demand without provisioning infrastructure ahead of time.

"We use it a lot," Hann said. "Partly we had good timing - as we were growing and building our platform, that technology started becoming more mainstream."

A key reason for the increasing use of Lambda has been that it makes sense for large parts of the company's platform run on demand, the CTO said.

Freight Exchange integrates with a large number of carriers, from small operators up to large logistics companies such as Toll and TNT, in order to arrange shipping.

However, it only needs to interact with those company's when someone makes a booking, Hann said.

"Given we're primarily Australian-based at the moment, at night and most of the weekend, we don't have any shipments to send across to them because no-one is booking freight at that time," the CTO said.

The event-triggered approach of Lambda works well for the company because it can automatically scale as demand increases during peak periods and incur zero costs when no-one is making bookings.

"We also built our mobile app almost exclusively using it by having serverless API end points and functions behind them that take data in - store location data, respond to events, all that sort of thing - all of which is completely serverless," the CTO said.


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