Jam-packed with over 30-million people throughout the greater metropolitan area, Jakarta, Indonesia is one of the biggest, hottest, most congested cities on earth. Transportation there is a huge challenge, and going just a mile across town can take more than half an hour by car. While motorists sit in their gridlocked vehicles hoping the AC doesn’t go out, tens of thousands of for-hire mopeds, called ojek, zip between the larger vehicles, moving through the congestion with relative ease.
To help connect moped drivers with jobs, GO-JEK was founded in 2010 with a single call center and a team of 20 drivers available on-demand throughout Jakarta. When venture capital firms started looking world-wide for the next Uber, they soon came knocking on GO-JEK’s door. After a major infusion of cash in 2014, the company broke out and began to grow rapidly. Very rapidly.
Big growth, big volume, big challenges
The tipping point came with the launch of their mobile app in January of 2015, now the most popular free app on IOS in the region with more than 15 million downloads and counting. When the app launched in 2015, the company’s fleet was up to 800 drivers throughout Jakarta, but that was just the beginning. In March, they expanded operations to Bali, growing to 2,200 drivers. By August, their fleet had grown to 30,000, and today GO-JEK employs over 200,000 drivers in 14 major cities across Indonesia.
To say GO-JEK’s operations are complex would be an understatement. The company deals with over 256,000 rides on an average day and, in June, had over 20 million transactions for the month. To complicate matters further, GO-JEK has been rolling out a wide range of services available through their mobile app. The company realized that their fleet of drivers was a powerful logistical resource that could be employed for much more than just ride sharing and courier service, and they now offer food delivery, personal shopping, event ticketing, cleaning and maid service, grooming and styling, massage, and even auto repair.
Due to the popularity of those offerings with consumers, the company faces the challenge of scaling up their ability to securely handle higher volumes of payments.
Show me the money
To improve the customer experience and support their incredible growth, GO-JEK decided to introduce its own payment product, GO-PAY, but that posed some unique challenges. “It’s basically an e-wallet type of service,” says chief of product Rama Notowidigdo. The problem this new product presented Rama and his team was two-fold:
First, GO-JEK had supported its rapid expansion through the use of public-cloud services from Google and Amazon, but public cloud could not provide the security and control they needed for their new payment service.
Second, Indonesia has strict data sovereignty laws that require consumer data be kept in-country. Outsourcing to foreign cloud providers would not be an option. As a result, Rama’s team started building their own data center.
“With a payment platform, you want to control all the data,” says Notowidigdo. “Security is a number-one concern. It looks very easy for the user, but there’s a lot of complexity that you have to build into the back end. It’s a lot of work.”
Finding a partner you can trust
Before making any decisions, Rama and his team did their homework and carefully considered all of their options. “We looked into white label and some low-cost brands, but the price difference is so small, and overall, the TCO doesn’t add up. We don’t want to spend time building a data center, we just want to focus on building our business, what we know we are good at,” says Notowidigdo. “That’s why we chose HPE.”
Rama had worked with HPE before and was confident the company could help GO-JEK with its ambitious goals. G0-JEK chose HPE ProLiant DL560 Gen9 servers to build their in-house payment solution.
“I established my relationship with HPE a while back, with my other company where we actually built private cloud using the same solution, so I already knew I was comfortable with the product,” said Rama.
If you build it, they will come
“It was clear what architecture we wanted, so we just gave them [HPE] a deadline” said Rama. An established relationship was key for the GO-JEK team. “In Indonesia everything you do is about formed relationship. If we need to expedite something, we can escalate it easier,” said Rama. “Otherwise we would have to re-establish that and build the relationship again, and it's too risky for the stuff that we're trying to do.”
Rama and his team designed the GO-JEK data center to create a private cloud with the security and control they needed for the new payment platform. Critically, each server includes its own hard drives, sometimes as many as ten in a single unit. This was a new architectural model for the team.
“We used to have multiple empty [server] boxes with one gigantic hard drive,” said Rama. “We don’t like that model because it is very hard to control and there are a lot of limitations. [The new model] is very simple, but it’s about the software we’re working inside it. We can easily customize it the way we want it, so it’s been very good.”
Despite their meteoric growth and the distinction of achieving unicorn status in a challenging economy, GO-JEK is most proud of the social and economic impact of their work. In Indonesia, as in much of the developing world, owning a moped is affordable, and with GO-JEK services it has become a viable source of income for thousands, providing opportunity and support to the working middle class. “We employ over 200,000 drivers, enabling them to support their families better,” says Rama. “What we do is basically improve the standard of living for the middle class. The more we scale, the bigger impact we can have.”