Dec 13, 2021

How Italic prepared for Black Friday 2021 by adding GraphQL edge caching to their stack

Learn about how we helped Italic improve their performance. Or just go ahead and give the Stellate Edge Cache a try. Or do both!

Whether one looks forward to it or not, U.S. shoppers are primed for Black Friday every year: that ominous-sounding day after Thanksgiving that’s legendary for scoring sales, as you try to recover from post-turkey tryptophan stupor. Italic is an e-commerce marketplace that connects high-end manufacturers directly to customers, which allows you to shop straight from luxury brands’ factories but pay up to 75% less. Founded in 2018 with the idea that customers shouldn't have to pay a premium just for a label, Italic seeks to create a world where everyone can afford to live well.

With the ongoing high demand and fast growth of Italic’s offering came serious scaling problems. If you thought 2020 was awful due to the pandemic, well guess what? During 2020's Black Friday, Italic’s website crashed every few hours as their backend was overwhelmed by a traffic spike.  

There’s nothing worse than feeling left out, except the feeling of leaving your customers out in the cold. Just how bad is that? Says Aditya Chempakasseril, Italic’s Software Engineer, “With this traffic spike, the website eventually started slowing down. And at some point, it just crashed! Our backend was overloaded and couldn't handle the traffic. We didn't know what was going on.”

Yikes. That kind of crisis is enough to send any business into a four-alarm fire. Let's plunge into Italic's architecture to understand how Stellate helped them prepare for Black Friday 2021.

How they architected their e-commerce marketplace

The original version of the marketplace was heavily reliant on third-party services. Italic used Shopify for their product and collection management portal, while they utilized Yotpo to collect product and customer reviews. While using those services helped them get their product off the ground quickly, Italic ran into many limitations for their specific use case — thus, they decided to own these systems in-house.

Unwilling to repeat 2020’s disastrous scenario, in 2021, Italic built their own product and collection management, plus their entire product and customer reviews services from scratch. Chempakasseril explains, “We entirely overhauled our frontend as well as our backend and moved everything in-house. We needed to be able to scale our stack because we're growing really fast and we didn't want these third-party tools to be holding us back performance-wise.”

Italic uses a modern stack based on Go, Node, and TypeScript, and the communication between client and server happens via a central GraphQL API — which is perfect for the kind of data e-commerce websites deal with.

Like most worthy inspirations, the idea to cache hit Chempakasseril during a break, “I was eating lunch one day and I realized that one of the things we didn't do in our old backend was we weren’t caching anything. It’s fundamental! Researching Stellate’s GraphQL edge cache, it seemed like exactly the kind of thing we needed.”

Scaling for Black Friday with GraphQL edge caching

Immediately after deploying to production, Italic's overall cache hit rate was 86%+, with some of their top queries even sitting on a cache hit rate of over 99%!

Chempakasseril remarked, “the Stellate Edge Cache made an enormous impact. And by that, I mean the database pressure was 100x less when we were using the Stellate Edge Cache as opposed to not using Stellate.” On top of that, Italic's overall server load during traffic spikes was reduced by 61%, and their page load times were reduced by over 1 second.

Like a hot rock band ready to perform and knock your socks off, not only did Italic survive 2021's Black Friday traffic spike without any downtime, but their infrastructure now has so much room to breathe that they know they're prepared for any upcoming traffic spike. Watch out 2022, look who’s ready to pounce on profits!