Acoustic Migrates to AWS in 10 Months, Expects 60% Optimization in Cost


Marketing technology company Acoustic has made a name for itself by providing customers with straightforward, powerful tech. Built on an amalgamation of technologies and companies acquired by its former parent company, Acoustic found itself managing a collection of incompatible architectures.

Looking to standardize and modernize its technology stack in the cloud, the company turned to Amazon Web Services (AWS). On AWS, Acoustic quickly discovered a broad suite of managed services that are both powerful and simple to use, including Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2), which provides secure, resizable compute capacity in the cloud. As a result of its migration to AWS, Acoustic discovered many avenues through which it could save costs, improve scalability, boost performance, maintain availability, and facilitate fast innovation.

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To expand compute capacity for our holiday surge, we went from needing 5 months on the previous vendor stack to 6 weeks on AWS. That’s about 70% faster, and we did it for less than 10% of the cost.”

Bill Naughton
Chief Operating Officer and Chief Information Officer, Acoustic

Standardizing in the Cloud

Acoustic, which became a standalone company in 2019, focuses on helping marketers and their brands connect with customers in a more meaningful way. The company offers brands support for email marketing, marketing automation, mobile marketing, marketing analytics, customer experience analytics, and other aspects of digital marketing. Advanced technology is a fundamental part of its business; Acoustic recognized a need to reconcile and modernize disparate architectures across its applications. “We had over 6,300 servers spread across 12 different data centers,” says John Boezeman, chief technology officer of Acoustic. “Part of that was because when these companies were first acquired by our former parent company, their stacks weren’t integrated. We realized that we needed to modernize the stack, get efficiencies of scale, and have much better resiliency, all of which is possible on AWS.”

After weighing the pros and cons of several cloud providers, the team determined that AWS offered the breadth of capabilities that Acoustic needed to build a cohesive, future-proof technology stack. “We were drawn to the scalability potential on AWS, and we were also intrigued by the fact that AWS was heavily investing in its artificial intelligence stack,” says Boezeman. Given the scope of the project, Acoustic wanted to work closely with an experienced cloud migration expert; it found this in ClearScale, an AWS Premier Consulting Partner. As outlined in this case study, Acoustic collaborated with ClearScale on its comprehensive migration and modernization project, enabling Acoustic to seamlessly migrate to AWS, break ties from its legacy IT dependencies, avoid a significant renewal fee, and modernize its infrastructure to leverage advanced AWS technologies.

Acoustic undertook the broad migration to AWS in just 10 months—from August 2019 to June 2020. The company saw the migration as an opportunity not just to lift and shift applications but also to refactor its stack. “We got rid of all the shared infrastructure services that we were running before, and we used AWS services to migrate the tools,” says Boezeman. Looking to adopt a microservice-oriented architecture, the team broke apart application servers and turned them into Kubernetes clustered services. Acoustic used Amazon Managed Streaming for Apache Kafka (Amazon MSK), a fully managed service that facilitates building and running applications that use Apache Kafka to process streaming data. The company also turned to Amazon Elasticsearch Service, a fully managed service that makes it simple to deploy, secure, and run Elasticsearch cost effectively at scale. “We’ve introduced a modern continuous integration / continuous delivery framework and tool sets around the modern cloud-native architecture on AWS,” says Boezeman. “Our cadence is much faster with our agile development model. We also have fewer shared services to manage. I don’t have to worry about Apache Kafka or Elasticsearch updates, because AWS is managing that cadence.”

Taking Advantage of Elasticity on AWS

One of Acoustic’s chief concerns was scalability and elasticity—particularly around Black Friday, when marketing activity spikes, and after the holidays, when activity goes back down. “To expand compute capacity for our holiday surge, we went from needing 5 months on the previous vendor stack to 6 weeks on AWS,” says Bill Naughton, chief operating officer and chief information officer of Acoustic. “That’s about 70 percent faster, and we did it for less than 10 percent of the cost.” The company also saw that the migration to AWS contributed to a 58 percent improvement in the reliability of its stacks during the company’s busiest season. Central to the elasticity and reliability was Amazon EC2, which enabled Acoustic to quickly spin up instances in whichever region it needed. Despite intentionally overprovisioning to prevent outages, the company has seen a 20 percent cost reduction in its total data center costs. As Acoustic continues to optimize on the cloud, it expects to see as much as a 60 percent cost reduction by the fall of 2021.

Another attractive aspect of the AWS environment is how quickly new features are released—for example, Acoustic sees potential in Amazon EC2 R5 Instances, specifically the new Amazon EC2 R5b Instances that AWS announced at re:Invent 2020, having already run promising initial tests. “I’m very happy with what we saw from the performance and criteria,” says Boezeman. As soon as AWS makes the new instance type compatible with io2 storage—satisfying Acoustic’s overall requirements for performance, cost, and resiliency—the company expects to adopt it across various workloads. The company is also evaluating future use of the new Arm-based Amazon EC2 instances powered by AWS Graviton2 processors.

Optimizing Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning to Provide More Robust Insights

By migrating to AWS, Acoustic has standardized and modernized its stack in the cloud. Soon, Acoustic plans to continue optimizing on AWS by rightsizing Amazon EC2 instances and exploring other AWS capabilities. Acoustic is interested in galvanizing its products around a data lake with artificial intelligence capabilities. Using this, the Acoustic team hopes to generate insights that will offer exciting new opportunities in marketing and advertising. Acoustic is interested in using services like Amazon Rekognition, which makes it simple to add image and video analysis to applications using proven, highly scalable deep-learning technology that requires no machine learning expertise to use. The company also sees potential for Amazon SageMaker, which helps data scientists and developers prepare, build, train, and deploy high-quality machine learning models quickly by bringing together a broad set of capabilities that are purpose built for machine learning. “One of our big goals is to make our data lake data layer available to Amazon SageMaker—not only for our use but also for our customers’ use so that their data scientists can access some of that data and configure our products for their use cases,” Boezeman says.

Wherever Acoustic goes from here, it sees AWS as an important part of its future. “When we launched as a standalone company, we were a set of individual products that really didn’t connect with each other,” says Norman Guadagno, chief marketing officer of Acoustic. “Our goal is to create a service that provides integrated value to our customers. We believe that more and more customers will choose applications and solutions that can effectively integrate through simple-to-access interfaces across the cloud provider they’ve chosen. On AWS, we think there’s a lot of long-term benefit for both our customers and Acoustic.”

About Acoustic

Acoustic is an independent marketing cloud with an open platform designed to help brands succeed in a dynamic world. The company lessens the burden of repetitive tasks and equips marketers with powerful marketing technology that is simple to use.

Benefits of AWS

  • Prepared for the 2020 holiday surge 70% faster than in previous years
  • Reduced data center costs by 20%, with 60% savings expected by the fall of 2021
  • Increased reliability by 58%

AWS Services Used

Amazon EC2

Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2) is a web service that provides secure, resizable compute capacity in the cloud. It is designed to make web-scale cloud computing easier for developers.

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Amazon MSK

Amazon MSK is a fully managed service that makes it easy for you to build and run applications that use Apache Kafka to process streaming data.

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Amazon Elasticsearch Service

Amazon Elasticsearch Service is a fully managed service that makes it easy for you to deploy, secure, and run Elasticsearch cost effectively at scale. 

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