SendGrid Hits Peak Performance, Pain-Free Deployment with Pantheon

Cloud-based email service SendGrid chose WordPress on Pantheon for reliable performance and a workflow with best practices built in.

Summary

Founded in 2009, SendGrid is a cloud-based email service responsible for sending billions of emails for some of the best and brightest companies in the world.

Like every game-changing innovation, SendGrid was born out of frustration. Three engineers got tired of seeing their application emails go undelivered. So they built an app to fix the problem: SendGrid, a cloud-based service that is driving digital conversations at scale, sending over 30 billion emails per month to 1.7 billion unique email addresses in over 100 countries.

SendGrid experienced growing pains of its own as the company transitioned from startup to an enterprise-level organization. Their marketing site was built in Ruby on Rails and hosted on SendGrid’s own servers. Aging hardware and the lack of a Dev-Test-Live workflow made deploying changes unpredictable. The marketing team had to rely on the DevOps team to keep the site up—which meant stealing time from product development.

SendGrid switched to WordPress on Pantheon for more reliable deployment and a more efficient workflow. Pantheon met those goals and added enhanced security, more peace of mind, and dramatically improved performance as a bonus.

Pantheon has such a great platform for doing dev, test and staging in parallel. Staging for WordPress has been a long-standing issue, a difficult problem to solve. When I got into Pantheon’s environment, it was so natural. It really nailed that core issue for us.

—Nathan Jacobson, Web Developer, SendGrid

SendGrid homepage screenshot

Before Pantheon: Aging Hardware, Murky Workflow

As a cloud-based SaaS company, SendGrid needed their ops team focused on maintaining and improving the core offering. But the marketing site was critical to bring in new clients and make sure existing clients had the best possible experience.  

The ops team ended up splitting time between the two, with marketing frequently at the back of the queue. “We felt like we were constantly burdening our ops and product engineering teams to ask for assistance,” says User Experience Leader Katrina Lindholm. If something went wrong with deploying a feature or changing content, a fix could take hours or days.

As SendGrid’s infrastructure aged, maintaining the site became increasingly challenging. Sometimes deployments would fail purely for lack of processing power. At times a deployment would seem to go smoothly, but issues would crop up once the site went live.

SendGrid decided that in order to grow the business, they needed to modernize both their CMS and their infrastructure. After evaluating CMS options, the team decided to migrate to WordPress. Now all they needed was an infrastructure that could take the pressure off their internal ops team and provide stability and reliability.

Choosing Pantheon: The Experts Agree

The team at SendGrid didn’t want to make a major infrastructure decision lightly. They pulled in stakeholders from across the company, including those with the most technical experience. In the final analysis, the workflow on Pantheon was a deciding factor. The team saw an opportunity to create a stable environment for multiple content editors, eliminating a content bottleneck at the same time they improved the infrastructure.

SendGrid enlisted a third-party agency to help with migration. The team created an inventory of all the pages—they had inherited a lot and needed to make decisions on what was static,what was template, what to keep,and what not to keep. They also had to separate the SaaS product from the website. As launch day neared, they used Pantheon’s test environments to monitor the site’s behavior.

The team was prepared to deal with issues when the site went live. But the migration and launch were remarkably easy.

We had a War Room ready on launch day. Then we pushed the button...and there was no war. It was seamless.

—Nathan Jacobson, Web Developer, SendGrid

With Pantheon: Unparalleled Peace of Mind

SendGrid saw marked performance improvements immediately after migrating. The team quickly adapted to the Dev-Test-Live environments, enjoying the security and stability of the new workflow.

On Pantheon, deployments are no longer a nail-biting experience. “It was always a nerve-wracking experience to push ‘deploy’ on the command line in the previous environment, and it just isn’t anymore,” Jacobson says. “We know it’s not going to fail and it will replicate the experience we had in the test environment. That peace of mind is really wonderful.” If the team does find a bug during a content update, they can deploy a fix almost instantaneously.

The backup system on Pantheon helps with peace of mind, too. Jacobson says, “We did break the site once last year, and I was able to use the backup feature with just a click of a button. Having that easy reversion saved us big-time. We have only used it once, but the fact that feature is there is a constant reassurance.”

The Future on Pantheon: Building, Not Fixing

With their infrastructure secure, the team at SendGrid is free to focus their attention on creating an even better product and better experience for customers and prospects alike. “We’re spending our time building features instead of preventing things from breaking,” Lindholm says.

With Pantheon, SendGrid’s top-notch email service now has a website to match. And with truly scalable hosting, the company can continue to grow without outgrowing their infrastructure.

Benefits

  • Reliable deployment thanks to Dev-Test-Live workflow

  • Marked performance improvement over their old hardware

  • Decreased reliance on their in-house ops team

  • Ability for the whole team to edit content—eliminating bottlenecks