AND Digital / Spotlight / Case Study

How replatforming gave NBrown the flexibility to grow at pace.

About NBrown

N Brown Group PLC (NBrown) is a well-known leader within the British retail sector and currently employs over 2,000 people across the UK.

Like many established retailers, NBrown faced the challenge of trying to stay one step ahead in an industry full of disruption. With this in mind, they set out to re-evaluate and improve their online shopping experience.

From monolith to microservices

In order to deliver faster, more seamless experiences to customers, NBrown understood the first priority was to address their existing platform with its monolith architecture.

This infrastructure, which included the Hybris e-commerce platform, made the delivery pipeline slow and unable to respond to change at the pace required. As a result, NBrown enlisted AND’s help to transition to the Cloud and create a new platform using microservices.

A firmer foundation

As part of this work, NBrown needed to ensure any new system could:

  • Enable faster and safer deployments
  • Self-heal in the event of a fail
  • Automatically activate another server to balance load when needed
  • Reduce cost through the use of more consistent platforms
  • Establish clean environments and deploy onto clean servers
  • Create consistent development and production platforms that mirrored each other

To successfully deliver on each of these areas, AND first provided technical leadership to define a comprehensive new Cloud strategy for NBrown - tackling immediate concerns and establishing a solid foundation for future replatforming work.

After a period of review, the existing monolith architecture was migrated to Amazon Web Services (AWS), providing NBrown with much greater flexibility.

We discovered we did not need to completely re-architect, so the decision was taken to move the minimum amount possible from the monolith, whilst still giving NBrown the ability to improve going forward.

Key outcomes

By automating much of the platform through a variety of microservices, NBrown has seen a number of benefits, including:

  • Increased income NBrown now states that 84% of their total revenue comes from digital sales.
  • Improved customer experience Stock updates on the new mobile platform, for example, now refresh every 15 minutes where previously they took 24 hours, increasing daily revenue by £6.5k.
  • Faster deployment time Creating a new platform with Hybris originally took eight weeks, whereas it now takes 80 minutes.
  • Self-healing capability It takes just 20 minutes to bring in new nodes, and less than five minutes with segregated microservices.
  • Reduced costs By reducing virtual servers from twelve to five, N Brown has seen 22% saved in platform costs alone.
  • Improved quality A centralised logging platform now allows developers to identify before they reach the frontend, dramatically improving the customer experience and release quality.
  • Minimised downtime By enabling blue-green deployments for each release, AND has established clean environments that mean users no longer experience any downtime.
  • More consistent environments The introduction of Terraform now means N Brown’s infrastructure can be built, adapted and versioned in a safe and efficient way.

Additionally, AND’s work with NBrown’s existing WebOps team has enabled them to take full ownership of AWS as platform engineers.