Disrupting an Industry: how irexchange leveraged AWS to bring a nimble, game-changing platform to market
Fast Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG) wholesale
Irexchange are a start-up B2B platform, providing a marketplace for suppliers to offer their products directly to independent retailers. They are challenging the traditional supplier-wholesaler-retailer model by championing transparency in pricing for both suppliers and customers, and lower cost logistics through intelligent aggregation of customer demand and efficient just-in-time flow through supply.
Irexchange had purchased a Minimum Viable Product (MVP) codebase that served the majority of their platform’s anticipated needs. However there was a challenge to extend this platform for the remaining functionality; the application was a Java monolith, running on physical hardware with no automated testing or continuous delivery in place.
Irexchange’s immediate need was to evolve the MVP to be robust, scalable and iterative. This meant finding a solution that also reduced time-to-market and allowed them to quickly validate their offering.
It was identified that to achieve their objectives, irexchange needed to move from the Java monolith to microservices. The proposed solution would entail breaking the existing application monolith into containerised services to run on ECS.
Recognising the need to leverage external skills and capability, Cevo was brought into irexchange to assist with migrating the codebase to Amazon Web Services (AWS) and implementing continuous delivery, with a primary focus on retail ordering, supplier fulfilment and warehouse picking services.
The retailer ordering logic was mostly contained in the Java application. The warehouse picking logic was mostly in stored procedures in the Microsoft database backend.
Initial exploration was undertaken to validate whether the application could be compiled and run on the latest Java version. After a successful spike, it was converted into docker containers.
The next stage was to automate the building of the AWS environment using CloudFormation. In the public tier, the elastic load balancers managed traffic to the ECS cluster. The running Java application containers ran in the application tier. In the data tier was a Microsoft SQL server RDS backend. SES was used for email notification to customers. Around this, buildkite and bitbucket were used to version control, build and deploy the application. This enabled rapid iteration of the irexchange platform from a monolith towards microservices.
As permanent team members joined irexchange, Cevo’s responsibility expanded to also include up-skilling and knowledge transfer around AWS, devops, continuous delivery and software development best practices.
Irexchange were able to achieve their objective of delivering faster to market within 6 months of receiving the Java application source code.
Using AWS removed the long lead times and complex negotiations required with procurement, architectural governance, supplier negotiation, vendor assessment, request for tenders, delivery and commissioning. Infrastructure could be programmed and instantly provisioned thereby enabling irexchange to focus on building their flow-through platform for customers.
The system supports the business’ transparent, simple cost structure, allowing customers and suppliers to see exactly how cost price and sell prices are structure - this is a great advantage in the typically very complex wholesale FMCG industry.
Most importantly, now having the ability to make fast, frequent releases has built a culture of continuous learning and continuous improvement, enabling irexchange to pivot quickly in their mission to validate the business idea and effectively commercialise.
In addition to helping bootstrap irexchange’s migration and product development, Cevo were also instrumental in building out the organisation’s internal capability as new, permanent team members were brought on board.
Want to know more?
Cevo’s Simon Bond sat down with irexchange’s CTO Greg Frye and Head of Development Nish Mahanty to chat about their journey and experiences to date, key learnings, and tips for any organisation looking to make transformative change. You can view their discussion in full here.