Behind the scenes REA Group has been undertaking a massive effort to replace key technologies that help drive realestate.com.au, according to Tom Varsavsky
The REA Group chief engineer said that he is currently overseeing an effort to swap in a new search platform as well a continuing the shift away from a monolithic application to a microservices-based architecture.
The site’s primary search engine is currently based on Microsoft’s FAST Search and its front-end is driven by “an old clunky Java Spring application,” he said.
REA has chosen Elasticsearch as a replacement search solution. On top of that a new React-based front end for the core web application is being rolled out.
“When you add all that up, it’s basically the guts of the core area of our site is being replaced,” Varsavsky said
“There’s a technical urgency because of the lifecycle of the technology coming to an end with FAST – it’s really old search tech,” he added. But the re-platforming effort is also being driven by a desire to make it easier and faster to make changes to the site as well as boost the end user experience.
“We’ll be able to turn what’s currently a traditional website into a single page application for our core buyer experience,” Varsavsky said.
REA replaced the ‘sold’ section last year.
“We’ve used that as kind of our spearhead project to select the technology, select the way we’re going to do it, make sure we’re happy with Elasticsearch and everything that means.”
A current focus is replacing the core buyers’ section of the site, which alongside being a more complex section is also important because of the revenue it delivers to the company.
“That’s now been going for, I’d say, six or seven months and it’s going to be finished in July,” he said.
“We are primarily an open source organisation,” Varsavsky said. “We have a big engineering team so we’ve got good technologists in the building – we prefer to work with things that are open source and things that are cloud ready and can be deployed on AWS.”
The company has a “cloud-first strategy”, progressively shifting more workloads to Amazon Web Services.
“The current buyer website still runs on physical data centres, so as part of this uplift we’re also moving all of that workload to the cloud.”
“We’re not really investing in our data centres anymore; our Amazon bill is bigger than our data centre bill at the moment,” he added.