The road to success
Given its requirements for scalability and low up-front costs, Carbip quickly realized that a cloud-based platform would be the best option. It also knew that a NoSQL database platform would simplify development and increase flexibility as its application evolved.
Eric Barault comments: “We looked at most of the main NoSQL database technologies, and at the time, MongoDB was the obvious choice. It offered by far the best support for geolocated queries, which are the biggest requirement of our service.
“The next choice was how and where to run it. I come from a background of solution design and engineering for a company with a strong tradition of building everything for ourselves from bare metal. But that just wasn’t going to work for Carbip: we didn’t have time to spend administrating virtual machines and load-balancing.
“At the same time, though, we needed an infrastructure that wasn’t going to crash and burn when it came under load. That meant we needed a database-as-a-service, backed by a serious vendor.
“IBM Compose was the ideal option: it makes it so easy to set up a MongoDB cluster, manage it and scale it. Today, Compose means that we don’t need to worry about the database—we can just trust that it will be there, so we can focus on understanding our data and developing our business.”
To connect the cloud-based database to the app running on users’ smartphones, Carbip is also using IBM® API Connect™ to develop a robust, powerful application programming interface.
“A year ago we started using StrongLoop, an open source API framework which IBM has now acquired and built into API Connect,” says Eric Barault. “We were delighted about the acquisition, because StrongLoop was such an ambitious project, and we felt it needed the backing of a major company to fully realize its potential. We’re excited about working with IBM to develop it further.
He adds: “The biggest advantage of API Connect is the rigor that it brings to the development process. NoSQL databases like MongoDB are great because their data structures are so flexible—but if you’re not careful, you can end up with a very messy set of data.
“API Connect helps to structure, type, validate and document the data so that it’s easy to keep your data model clean. That means you can be a lot more robust in opening up your data via an API, because you can be confident in the results.
“Essentially, it lets you harness the power and scalability of NoSQL databases, while preserving the same kind of control that you get with a traditional relational database. So we can define objects like cars, drivers, journeys and timeslots, formalize the relationships between them, and then easily run powerful queries that bring the data together in meaningful ways.”
The server-side Carbip application uses IBM Bluemix® to connect the application logic (built on Node.js) with the Compose database service, and with the mobile app running on end-users’ smartphones.
Eric Barault adds: “Bluemix is more than just a platform for our application servers, it’s a gateway to a whole host of additional services that we can easily integrate into our platform, if and when the business need arises.”
Driving social transportation forwards
With IBM Compose and API Connect powering its development process, Carbip estimates that it has been able to get its app to market twice as quickly.
“When we first started out, we tried developing our own API framework,” says Eric Barault. “If we had continued down that road, I think we would only be 50 percent of the way through development by now. Whereas we actually launched on Android two weeks ago, and our iOS app is nearly ready too. So choosing the right IBM technologies has helped us turn Carbip from a bright idea into a viable product in less than 12 months.”
Going forwards, the company expects to maintain or even increase the impressive pace of its development.
“When you’re trying to build a social app like ours, the biggest challenge isn’t the route-planning and scheduling algorithms—it’s the human relationships between our users, which constantly reveal surprising behaviors and opportunities that we could never have anticipated,” says Eric Barault. “So flexibility and agility are absolutely key. You need a set of technologies that you can use to iterate your designs quickly, without having to go back and refactor the whole framework every three months. And you need a scalable, flexible cloud platform that is capable of expanding quickly to support more complex requirements and larger numbers of users.”
He concludes: “With IBM Cloud Data Services, we can get new features to market up to four times faster, helping Carbip fuel a revolution in social driving throughout France—and perhaps across Europe and around the world in the years to come.”