Developing a Trading Platform that Processes 325,000 Transactions per Second

How Alibaba’s technology supports faster rollout while improving system integrity

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Pain point 1: Lack of a full-scale management mechanism, and low collaboration efficiency

The lack of a full-scale perspective on the tracking and management of business requirements is observed as follows:

Pain point 2: High barriers to platform entry, and the inability of new businesses to try new modes without risking failure

New businesses are bound by the laws of growth. In the early stages of business model verification, requirements are relatively simple, and trial and error through repeated releases is a viable strategy. However, the older trading platform had certain restrictions and constraints, and could not meet the new businesses’ fast access requirements like simplified ordering processes and independent launch.

Pain point 3: Poor separation between businesses and the platform, which is unable to support the development of the businesses

The older extension mechanism for business logic was the Java SPI (Service Provider Interface) approach, with more than 500 SPIs used for business extension on the trading platform. However, the specific implementation clauses of these SPIs were not organized and isolated according to business dimensions, which resulted in the businesses’ custom logic being scattered across the platform code. Whenever new requirements emerged, business parties could only modify the code in the platform’s code library to customize the business logic. The lack of reasonable layering and domain abstraction led to the coupling of businesses and the platform, where business parties could not design and develop their own businesses with ease and efficiency.

Pain point 4: Lack of reusable business assets

The domestic Taobao and Tmall sites have a variety of business support tools such as pre-sales, shopping vouchers, and red envelopes. Faced with delivery for international markets, we wondered if these could be reused as they are, or if they required adaptation. This raised the issue of business asset reusability.

Conceptualizing the TMF 2.0 Platform

A holistic assessment of the technical impact of new business operations must consider full-chain stability, link monitoring, potential interdependencies or conflicts, code corruption, quality control, and failure analysis.

Building the TMF 2.0 Framework

The architecture of the platform was designed around three principles to ensure the autonomy and integrity at each level and of each logical unit:

Plug-in Architecture for Platform Segregation and Business Customization

A plug-in style architecture was adopted to separate businesses from the platform. The platform provides a mechanism to enable the registration of business party’s plug-in packages during runtime. Business code is allowed only in a plug-in package, which is kept strictly separate from the platform code. The business packages’ code configuration library is also separate from the platform’s code library, and is provided to a container for loading through a two-party package.

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Business Specification

This is the bottom layer, which deals with trade specifications. These include Alibaba’s trade business entity models, business domain definition, and bootstrap specification for different environments. Based on these specifications, we can easily build market-specific solutions, for example, a Chinese solution for Tmall or an AE solution for AliExpress.

Solution Realization

The middle layer is solution realization, which is sub-divided into basic realization and market-specific solutions. Since Alibaba is an international business, it must construct different market-specific solutions with their own business rules and logic. These varied solutions choose from a combination of different basic solution realizations, each with their own processes and rules, many of which overlap. Here, relevant aspects of existing solutions can simply be reused rather than recreated, and more attention can be focused on market-specific requirements.

Business Customization

The top layer is business customization, developed keeping in mind the many subdivisions of customized rules with their own business logic even within even single markets. At this layer, the Alibaba tech team assemble customized business packages according to the underlying needs to realize distinct business logic and rules.

Unified Business Identity Program through the Full-chain

Separating businesses and the platform is not enough — sub-businesses must also be separated through a unified business identity (similar to an ID number) that remains unique throughout the entire transaction link. This is much more effective than simply using filtering, an approach used in traditional Service Provider Interface (SPI) architectures which does not distinguish between business identities at all.

Segregation of management domain and operation domain

Once the business identity has been determined, it is necessary to define the business itself. This involves separating the business domain, where business logic is defined, and the operations domain, where it is executed.

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The TMF2.0 Key Concept Models

The TMF 2.0 framework’s extensive functions are leveraged through a 2-pipeline usage model for business configuration and operations. This model is shown in the figure below.

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Business dimension-oriented operation and maintenance protection

After businesses are separated from the platform and given a unified business identity, we can ensure reliability from the following dimensional perspectives:

1) Fault monitoring by business dimensions

In the absence of a unified business identity, transaction failure monitoring tends to be rough since only trading volume trends can be observed. The transaction volume, especially for new and small ones, is usually very small, making it difficult to monitor and analyze discrepancies in a timely manner. Due to this, faults are often detected when they’re flagged in customer complaints.

2) Cluster deployment by business dimensions

The unified business identity also allows dimension-based clustered deployment. It can not only achieve physical isolation between key businesses and other businesses, but can also further satisfy the requirements of new small businesses for rapid iterative releases.

3) Stability guarantee by business dimensions

The unified business identity facilitates dimension-based implementation of differentiated promotion protections with varied QoS (Quality of Service) strategies. For example, targeted traffic restriction, dimension-based establishment and monitoring of performance baselines, and the construction of a query link monitoring view according to global or business dimensions.

Results

The TMF 2.0 trading platform has transformed new business rollout at Alibaba in three areas. Firstly, it has drastically reduced business-need assessment time, reducing the average time to just 12 days. To take the 4S automotive business as an example, the process took a minimum of one month under the previous system, while under the new system it took just seven days. For the Wudaokou business, the process was reduced from two months to twelve working days, and for ele.me the time was cut from two weeks to two days.

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