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Modern Developer | April 22, 2019

How Booster Fuels Is Changing Habits at the Gas Pump and in App Dev

By: Alexa Morales

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Booster Fuels isn’t a typical tech startup. “We’re in a capital-intensive business. Our trucks cost over $100,000 each,” says CTO Diego Netto, who cofounded the company four years ago in San Mateo, California. “It’s not just electrons—we have physical atoms that we’re transporting. This is more complicated than moving pixels on a page.”

To be precise, Booster Fuels delivers hydrocarbons in the form of gasoline and diesel, sending its signature purple trucks to fill up cars while their owners are at work. “The high-level pitch is: We’re on a mission to bring the gas station to you,” Netto says.

Corporate campuses and giant service fleets have “all these vehicles in one spot all day,” he says. “Why are they paying salaried employees to drive to the gas station and swipe a card?” Shortening the supply chain for gasoline isn’t just more convenient for consumers. It has the potential to eliminate at least a few steps in the hazardous process of delivering fuel. Using a smartphone app, customers can order a tank of gas (which the company calls a “boost”) while they’re parked at work.

“We've given you 20 minutes of your life back. That’s a win for you, a win for the roads and the congestion within your city, and a win for the planet—because every boost takes about 1.4 pounds of carbon out of the air,” says chief marketing officer Bennett Potter. That math is based on Booster delivering gas to high-density parking lots along optimized routes. Last year alone, the company estimates it has prevented about 1.4 million pounds of carbon from being released into the atmosphere.

A Data-Driven, Cloud Native Fueling Service

As great business ideas go, delivering gas is a forehead-slapper. But the company’s ingenuity doesn’t stop there. Unlike many venture capital-funded Silicon Valley startups, Booster Fuels plowed its seed money into not just building a mobile app, but building a platform for more efficient delivery, using routing software that does things like tell a driver the best way to pull into and out of a big company parking lot, combined with vehicle-based GPS tracking and sensors that provide constant data about its fleet of more than 40 trucks in the Bay Area.

“It's our Internet of Things play,” says Netto. “All the telemetry and subsystems on our vehicles are connected through Oracle's second-generation cloud, allowing us to make data-driven decisions and predictions.”

Disrupting the Public Cloud Choice

Just as most customers haven’t given much thought to how they get their gasoline, many startups don’t spend too much time contemplating which cloud to deploy their software to. But as it has grown, Booster Fuels has disrupted its own cloud pipeline—and discovered a better choice from a vendor just down the road.

The MEAN stack of MongoDBExpress.jsAngularJS (or Angular), and Node.js is a popular choice among developer-driven companies, due to the fact that it’s both open source and a productive way to go from prototype to final app. Booster Fuels initially deployed its MEAN stack on Docker Cloud, but kept suffering random outages. “At one point, we went down in the middle of the day for 45 minutes. I vowed to never let that happen again,” Netto says. Determined to migrate to Microsoft Azure with a more robust data center operating system (DC/OS), he locked himself in a room for a week and taught himself DC/OS, which is a trendy open source project for managing cloud infrastructure.

“DC/OS is like an anvil: You can forge anything in the cloud space,” he says. But with that freedom came myriad challenges in managing and upgrading DC/OS on a cluster of servers. “We realized we had a powerful tool—comprised of all these very complex technologies. We ran into overhead just managing our cluster.”

Netto knew it was time to change again. As of mid-February, Booster has replaced DC/OS with Kubernetes, and Microsoft Azure with Oracle Cloud Infrastructure. “We pulled off a migration to Oracle Cloud Infrastructure with less than 15 minutes of downtime,” Netto says, describing a process of switching the intact MEAN stack application to Oracle Cloud (with managed orchestration via Oracle Kubernetes Engine) over two months in four phases. “It culminated in a flawless transition with no interruption of traffic.”

Becoming a Company Running on Oracle

The connection to Oracle was serendipitous. Booster Fuels had been serving customers in the parking lots of Oracle headquarters in Redwood Shores, California, but Netto was still working under the outdated view of Oracle as exclusively a Java and database company. “I started to realize there are some really entrepreneurial people at that company—and they are fighting a perception problem,” he says. “It would be cool to be a part of that.”

Netto was impressed that Oracle’s second-generation cloud is built by people who pioneered commercial cloud offerings at other vendors. Plus, given how lean Booster’s engineering team is, it wanted a close support relationship with its cloud provider. “We have five engineers in the US,” he says. “That’s a pretty lean team, and we wouldn't be able to power our business without leveraging the cloud.”

To get companies started on their clouds, some cloud providers just give a bunch of credits and let you figure it out. Netto saw a different approach from Oracle than from Amazon and Azure. “Oracle didn’t say ‘Take all this free money.’ They said, ‘Let’s build a relationship,’” he says. “That interaction and support is not something any other cloud provider gave us. I was really bought in.” And it convinced him he’d been right about something: “You guys are really going to change perceptions.”

Alexa Weber Morales is director of developer content at Oracle. Morales is the former editor in chief of Software Development magazine and has more than 15 years of experience as a technology content strategist and journalist.

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