Online travel giant Agoda boosts developer productivity with GitLab
Agoda is a digital travel platform — and keeping its developers happy and productive has been a critical part of its growth.
Agoda, now part of Booking Holdings (Nasdaq:BKNG), helps users see the world for less with its value deals on a global network of 3.6 million hotels and holiday properties, along with reservations for things like flights, airport transfers, and activities. Agoda.com and the Agoda mobile app are available in 39 languages and supported by 24/7 customer support.
Headquartered in Singapore, Agoda employs more than 6,600 staff in 31 markets. The company is dedicated to leveraging best-in-class technology to make travel easier. This means Agoda’s software development teams need to move quickly, collaborate efficiently, and ensure the apps they’re building are secure for customers worldwide.
With GitLab, Agoda has been able to consolidate various point solutions, cut costs, and boost security — all while keeping developers happier than ever, whether they’re building a mobile app or rolling out support to a new language.
Trouble with the toolchain and speed
Before migrating to GitLab’s end-to-end DevSecOps platform, Agoda had to deal with a complicated toolchain of at least nine tools. The mix of tools — and the need to integrate and support them — had become a time-consuming problem for the company’s six software DevOps teams, which total approximately 50 people. And no one on the team was skilled enough in every single tool. If one or two specific tool experts were out, then the team was at a loss for using that capability.
“The everyday life of one of our developers was spread across many different services,” says Nadav Robas, DevOps & DevSecOps manager at Agoda. “We were spending so much time chasing upgrades and security patches, and we had issues maintaining so many service level agreements for all the tools. The teams were so busy just maintaining back then that it was really a nightmare.”
Nadav notes that Agoda’s troublesome toolchain was slowing their time to market, and their onboarding speed, along with creating governance and compliance challenges. And slow is a key problem for software development and for the overall business.
On top of that, Nadav says they also were looking to cut costs, and increase software quality and security.
It was a long list of problems to solve and advantages to find. Agoda’s tech managers knew they needed a DevSecOps platform to take on these challenges. And they knew GitLab was the one they needed.
Why choose GitLab
“I was looking to free up the hands of my DevOps engineers from having to do everyday maintenance work, maintaining uptime, and learning domain knowledge,” says Nadav. “I didn’t want them to be experts in individual tools. Instead, I wanted them to focus on the things that actually matter – how we produce code, how we properly deploy code. We could do that with a platform.”
Once Nadav and his teammates decided to go with a single DevSecOps platform, going with GitLab was an easy choice. Actually, he says it was their only choice.
“What other tool would I have even considered?” he asks, noting they started with GitLab Premium and then moved to GiltLab Ultimate. “Honestly speaking, there aren’t a lot of choices in the industry. Some of them are not mature enough to be something I would consider pitching to my leadership. Some might be well-known but aren’t easy to maintain in an on-premises environment. They just aren’t scalable enough. There was zero chance they would work for us.”
And by going with GitLab, Agoda engineers — who work mostly on-premises but also use a mix of Amazon Web Services and Google Cloud Platform — were able to use GitLab’s Kubernetes executor to replace virtual machine-based Docker Machine runners with Kubernetes. The transition, which was fast and efficient thanks to GitLab, ultimately cut startup time, and gave them faster upgrades and recreations, better monitoring, and autohealing, as well as autoscaling.
Reducing the toolchain, increasing happiness, saving money
Since starting their GitLab adoption two years ago, Agoda has completely replaced a few tools with GitLab. Now they are in the process of replacing any remaining security tools. “I think there will be a huge gain in moving to GitLab,” says Nadav. “It will greatly benefit productivity and our developer happiness.”
Nadav says he’d initially been anxious about moving away from tools they had used in the past, thinking developers might push back about giving up something they were familiar with. However, the company’s bi-quarterly employee survey, which focuses on tool satisfaction, proved him wrong. As soon as the DevSecOps teams began to get past the learning curve, happiness scores began to climb and now GitLab, still in the full adoption process, has the second highest score of any tool Agoda uses.
“I was concerned at the beginning, even though I knew it was a great product,” he adds. “But they really love it. We can clearly see that they love it. We wanted to increase developer happiness and we did. GitLab gets a score of more than four out of five, and that’s really, really amazing. And you know how tough tech people can be when it comes to rating something.”
Along with making developers happier, reducing the toolchain is saving Agoda a considerable amount of money per year in licensing fees, support and maintenance, according to Nadav.
Using GitLab’s single application, Agoda has been able to set up and enforce security policies and shift security to earlier in the development lifecycle. Without a string of security tools to integrate and manage, there’s no more security tool sprawl, eliminating related complications, expenses, and missteps.
“In terms of expenses alone, it’s huge. It’s very cost effective,” says Nadav. “And the platform’s security features are efficient in that they cover everything I’m looking for. Now I have a single source of truth for governance, compliance, and security audits. I also have traceability from artifact to code commit.”
Continued benefits with GitLab
“GitLab has provided our developers with a single pane of glass they can use to see all the processes of the software development lifecycle without jumping back and forth from one tool to another,” says Nadav. “We wanted to consolidate all our services into a single platform and we did. We’re more productive, more secure, and our developers are having a better experience.”
Moving ahead, Agoda is gearing up to use artificial intelligence features in the GitLab DevSecOps Platform to further propel their software development and their security.
"We're excited about the AI-assisted features from GitLab, not only for coding, but through the whole software development lifecycle, as aligned with GitLab’s vision,” says Nadav, noting they’ve demoed GitLab’s AI features. “While testing other DevOps AI features on the market, we have experienced an increase in coding velocity, but we have not yet seen an increase in quality. We're really looking forward to the solution GitLab will provide. We're keen to adopt it at Agoda."
He also notes that Agoda will continue to consolidate their toolchain and begin to use the analysis features inside GitLab’s platform. And he’s also looking forward to providing their developers the ability to spin up their own development environments, which he expects will improve developers’ experience and enable them to more quickly produce high-quality code.
All information and persons involved in case study are accurate at the time of publication.