MercadoLibre Grows with Go

Go helps integrated ecosystem attract developers and scale eCommerce

MercadoLibre, Inc. hosts the largest online commerce ecosystem in Latin America and is present in 18 countries. Founded in 1999 and headquartered in Argentina, the company has turned to Go to help it scale and modernize its ecosystem. Go provides clean, efficient code that readily scales as MercadoLibre’s online commerce grows, and increases developer productivity by allowing their engineers to serve their ever-increasing audience while writing less code.

MercadoLibre taps Go for scale

Back in 2015, there was a growing sense within MercadoLibre that their existing API framework, on Groovy and Grails, was reaching its limits and the company needed a different platform to continue scaling. MercadoLibre’s platform was (and continues) to expand exponentially, which created a lot of extra work for its developers: Both Groovy and Grails require a lot of decisions from developers and Groovy is a dynamic programming language. This was not a good combination for quickly scaling growth, as MercadoLibre needed very experienced developers in this very resource intensive environment to develop and tune to achieve desired performance. Test execution times were slow, and build and deploy times were slow. Thus, the need for code efficiency and scalability became as important as the need for speed in code development.

Go improves system efficiency

As one example of Go’s contributions to network efficiency, the core API team builds and maintains the largest APIs at the center of the company’s microservices solutions. This team creates user APIs, which in turn are used by the MercadoLibre Marketplace, by the MercadoPago FinTech platform, by MercadoLibre’s shipping and logistics solutions, and other hosted solutions. With the high service levels demanded by these solutions—the average user API has between eight and ten million requests per minute—the team employs Go to serve them at less than ten milliseconds per request.

Go gophers with wrench The API team also deploys Docker containers—a software-as-a-service (SaaS) product, also written in Go—to virtualize their development and readily deploy their microservices via the Docker Engine. This system supports larger, mission-critical APIs that handle more than 20 million requests per minute in Go.

One API made important use of Go’s concurrency primitives to efficiently multiplex IDs from several services. The team was able to accomplish this with just a few lines of Go code, and the success of this API convinced the core API team to migrate more and more microservices to Go. The end result for MercadoLibre has been improved cost-efficiencies and system response times.

Go for scalability

Historically, much of the company’s stack was based on Grails and Groovy backed by relational databases. However this big framework with multiple layers was soon found encountering scalability issues.

Converting that legacy architecture to Go as a new, very thin framework for building APIs streamlined those intermediate layers and yielded great performance benefits. For example, one large Go service is now able to run 70,000 requests per machine with just 20 MB of RAM.

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Go was just marvelous for us. It’s very powerful and very easy to learn, and with backend infrastructure, has been great for us in terms of scalability.

— Eric Kohan, Software Engineering Manager @ MercadoLibre

Using Go allowed MercadoLibre to cut the number of servers they use for this service to one-eighth the original number (from 32 servers down to four), plus each server can operate with less power (originally four CPU cores, now down to two CPU cores). With Go, the company obviated 88 percent of their servers and cut CPU on the remaining ones in half—producing a tremendous cost-savings.

Sitting between developers and the cloud providers, MercadoLibre uses a platform called Fury—a platform-as-a-service tool for building, deploying, monitoring, and managing services in a cloud-agnostic way. As a result, any team that wants to create a new service in Go has access to proven templates for a variety of service types, and can quickly spin up a repository in GitHub with starter code, a Docker image for the service, and a deployment pipeline. The end result is a system that allows engineers to focus on building innovative services while avoiding the tedious stages of setting up a new project—all while effectively standardizing the build and deployment pipelines.

Today, roughly half of Mercadolibre’s traffic is handled by Go applications.

MercadoLibre uses Go for developers

gopher with a wrench The programming lingua francas for MercadoLibre’s infrastructure are currently Go and Java. Every app, every program, every microservice is hosted on its own GitHub repository, plus the company uses an additional GitHub repository of toolkits to solve new problems and allow clients to interact with its services.

These extensive and well-curated Go and Java toolkits allow programmers to develop new apps quickly and with great support. Plus, in a community of more than 2,800 developers, MercadoLibre has multiple internal groups available for chat and guidance on deploying Go, whether across different development centers or different countries. The company also fosters internal working groups to provide training sessions for new MercadoLibre Go developers, and hosts Go meetups for external developers to help build a broader community of Latin American Go developers.

Go as a recruiting tool

MercadoLibre’s Go advocacy has also become a strong recruiting tool for the company. MercadoLibre was among the first companies using Go in Argentina, and is perhaps the largest in Latin America using the language so widely in production. Headquartered in Buenos Aires, with many start-ups and emerging technology companies nearby, MercadoLibre’s adoption of Go has shaped the market for developers across the Pampas.

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We really see eye-to-eye with the larger philosophy of the language. We love Go’s simplicity, and we find that having its very explicit error handling has been a gain for developers because it results in safer, more stable code in production.

— Eric Kohan, Software Engineering Manager @ MercadoLibre

Buenos Aires is today a very competitive market for programmers, offering computer programmers many employment options, and the high demand for technology in the region drives great salaries, great benefits, and the ability to be selective when choosing an employer. As such, MercadoLibre—like all employers of engineers and programmers in the region—strives to provide an exciting workplace and strong career path. Go has proven to be a key differentiator for MercadoLibre: the company organizes Go workshops for external developers so they can come and learn Go, and when they enjoy what they are doing and the people they talk to, they quickly recognize MercadoLibre as an enticing place to work.

Go enabling developers

MercadoLibre employs Go for its simplicity with systems at scale, but that simplicity is also why the company’s developers love Go.

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I think that the tour of Go is by far the best introduction to a language that I’ve seen, It’s really simple and it gives you a fair overview of probably 80 percent of the language. When we want to get developers to learn Go, and to get to production fast, we tell them to start with the tour of Go.

— Eric Kohan, Software Engineering Manager @ MercadoLibre

The company also uses web pages like Go by Example and Effective Go to educate new programmers, and shares representative internal APIs written in Go to speed understanding and proficiency. MercadoLibre developers get the resources they need to embrace the language, then leverage their own skills and enthusiasm to start programming.

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Go has been great for writing business logic, and we are the team that writes those APIs.

— Federico Martin Roasio, Technical Project Lead @ MercadoLibre

MercadoLibre leverages Go’s expressive and clean syntax to make it easier for developers to write programs that run efficiently on modern cloud platforms. And while speed in development yields cost efficiency for the company, developers individually benefit from the swift learning curve Go delivers. Not only are MercadoLibre’s experienced engineers able to build highly critical applications very quickly with Go, but even entry-level engineers have been able to write services that, in other languages, MercadoLibre would only trust to more senior developers. For example, a key set of user APIs—handling almost ten million requests per minute—were developed by entry-level software engineers, many of whom only knew about programming from recent courses at university. Similarly, MercadoLibre has seen developers already proficient with other programming languages (such as Java or .NET or Ruby) learn Go fast enough start writing production services in just a few weeks.

Go gopher in a plane With Go, MercadoLibre’s build times are three times (3x) faster and their test suite runs an amazing 24 times faster. This means the company’s developers can make a change, then build and test that change much faster than they could before.

And dropping MercadoLibre’s test suite runtimes from 90-seconds to just 3-seconds with Go was a huge boon for its developers—allowing them to keep focus (and context) while the much faster tests complete.

Leveraging this success, MercadoLibre is committed not only to ongoing education for its programmers, but ongoing Go education. The company sends key engineering leaders to GopherCon and other Go events each year, MercadoLibre’s infrastructure and security teams encourage all the development teams to keep Go versions up to date, and the company has a team developing a Go-meli-toolkit: A complete Go library to interface all the services provided by Fury.

Getting your enterprise started with Go

Just as MercadoLibre started with a proof-of-concept project to implement Go, dozens of other large enterprises are adopting Go as well.

There are over one million developers using Go worldwide—spanning banking and commerce, gaming and media, technology, and other industries, at enterprises as diverse as American Express, Capital One, Dropbox, IBM, Monzo, New York Times, Salesforce, Square, Target, Twitch, Uber, and of course Google.

To learn more about how Go can help your enterprise build reliable, scalable software as it does at MercadoLibre, visit go.dev today.