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Case Study

BuildingConnected Facilitates $4B Daily in New Construction Projects using mLab

mLab's fully managed Database-as-a-Service enables the quickly-growing BuildingConnected to focus on product development. By using mLab, BuildingConnected is able to operate, without any internal DevOps engineers, the cloud platform that has modernized the preconstruction process for builders.

Highlights
  • With mLab, BuildingConnected focuses engineering resources more acutely on platform iteration and expansion.
  • BuildingConnected reports that mLab's support has established the gold standard that it now evaluates all of its other service providers against.
  • Backed by mLab, BuildingConnected is the preconstruction engine for 250,000 active contractors, subcontractors, and building owners — with 10,000 new construction projects added each month.
Customer Profile

BuildingConnected provides a cloud-based suite of tools used by general contractors, subcontractors, and real estate owners to streamline organization, information, and communication around preconstruction and project bidding. The purpose-built solution allows companies to track bids, qualify vendors, and gain analytical insights to make smarter and more informed decisions.

The Challenge

Looking to use managed services instead of taking up its engineers' limited time, BuildingConnected needed a MongoDB Database-as-a-Service solution to keep its backend management simple and reliable.

BuildingConnected was founded in 2013 to bring new digital communication and pre-bid prospecting tools to the highly collaborative construction industry. Projects are often incredibly complex, but emails had long been the de facto way to try and corral bid information (and then keep all parties on the same page). For example, the Chase Center — the future home of the world champion Golden State Warriors — under construction in San Francisco requires around 1,000 subcontractors to work together over the course of two years. Selecting those thousand meant initially reaching out to (and receiving bids from) 10,000. Recognizing a need, BuildingConnected developed an easy-to-use solution that brought efficiencies well-known within the tech industry into the construction world.

To keep its platform as seamless to use as possible, BuildingConnected sought out technologies that were easy for developers to work with, and that would enable rapid product iteration and improvement. This meant enlisting managed service providers for all DevOps duties, which allowed BuildingConnected to focus on product development.

The engineering team initially chose to work with MongoDB as its NoSQL database because of its intuitiveness. During evaluation, MongoDB was installed and running within seconds, whereas alternative options required jumping through significant hoops to get off the ground. BuildingConnected then sought out a MongoDB service provider that offered the ability to scale resources up and down quickly and with low overhead. As a strategy, the company wanted the ability to overcome any scaling issue by simply paying for more powerful instances, and then returning to a smaller deployment once the issue was resolved.

Solution

BuildingConnected selected mLab for its expertly managed MongoDB service and has found the provider's support to be particularly extraordinary.

BuildingConnected discovered mLab through its Heroku add-on, initially choosing the DBaaS provider for its synergy working alongside Heroku on AWS. Via mLab and other services, BuildingConnected's backend — which includes MongoDB, Elasticsearch, Redis, Heroku, and Amazon Redshift — is handled entirely by managed service providers. The company now has 34 engineers on its team, but can operate without a single dedicated DevOps engineer.

mLab has helped BuildingConnected overcome scale issues by temporarily utilizing more robust MongoDB instances. Recently, for example, the company experienced a series of unusual spikes in database activity. BuildingConnected was able to determine the issue without any interruption to normal activities or service, because it could seamlessly upgrade its deployment while it investigated the root cause.

While mLab's support was not actually a component of BuildingConnected's initial selection criteria, it has been one of the main reasons that the company has been sure to stay with mLab as its provider. BuildingConnected interacts with mLab support on a weekly basis for troubleshooting and help with MongoDB optimization and upgrades. On the mLab platform, BuildingConnected's entire engineering team has access to the mLab UI and to tools like Telemetry, which BuildingConnected uses to keep an eye on database performance, and mLab's Slow Query Analyzer.

We know from experience that we can reach out to mLab's support any time of day and receive a response right away. When I look at why we stay with a service provider — any provider — the whole reason is so that we have an external team we can count on, that can do some heavy lifting for us and provide expertise when needed. Working with mLab has actually re-set my expectations. I've come to hold up mLab as the standard by which I measure our other service providers. The ability to be there and see us through any issues that do arise is so important for a scaling business like ours.

Jesse Pedersen Founder and CTO, BuildingConnected

Benefits

mLab helps BuildingConnected reduce expenses and scale at-will.

BuildingConnected estimates the costs of managing its MongoDB database in-house could easily reach $300,000 a year. The company's costs with mLab are meaningfully less, and include a level of MongoDB expertise and “seen it all” support that would be difficult to replicate internally.

Still, to perform due diligence BuildingConnected recently evaluated mLab's competition; while the overall cost differential was difficult to determine, BuildingConnected quickly realized that mLab's support wouldn't be matched by other providers. The company trusts mLab for rapidly addressing all support requests that come in, no matter time of day. (Conversely, the first email to a competitor's support team never received a response.)

Backed by mLab's managed service, BuildingConnected has successfully grown to now bid out a staggering $4 billion in new construction projects daily, and intends to continue to rely on mLab's platform for MongoDB management as it grows.

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