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Azerion Doubles Revenue, Halves Hosting Costs as It Migrates Acquisitions to AWS

2021

Azerion, a leading pan-European technology, entertainment, and media company, needed to reinforce its fast-paced growth strategy by using a single solution to manage a patchwork of technology infrastructures. Each time Azerion acquired a new company, it also acquired a new technology stack, ultimately resulting in a significant amount of technical debt as the team struggled to manage different infrastructures. The company addressed this challenge by creating a cloud center of excellence to help the companies it acquires migrate to Amazon Web Services (AWS) smoothly and efficiently.

Its approach to cloud standardization has enabled Azerion to worry less about managing different technology stacks and pivot its attention toward growth and innovation under a unified stack on AWS. By incorporating AWS hosting into its acquisition strategy, Azerion saved as much as 50 percent on hosting costs while doubling revenue. And with this new infrastructure in place, Azerion is confident it can only improve on its acquisition pipeline and sustain rapid growth long term.

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When we calculate the return on investment for a company we are going to acquire, we factor in the simplification and relative low cost of hosting on AWS.”

Umut Akpinar
CEO, Azerion

Consolidating Infrastructure in the Cloud

Serving more than 500 million users with its technology and 87 million monthly active users with its games, Azerion is a media and technology company that offers Europe safe, appropriate, and relevant entertainment content and online advertising solutions. Its mission is to engage users while helping advertisers and publishers connect with them in a meaningful and valuable way. Azerion’s business model centers on the acquisition of new companies and prompt reconstruction of their tech infrastructure to save on hosting costs.

As a digital company, Azerion naturally places much of its focus on hosting. “We need hosting for every game and every advertisement technology product,” says Umut Akpinar, CEO of Azerion. “Hosting is a part of our earning model and is key for success. Sometime in our fourth year, we found out that we had a lot of different hosting providers. Some were great quality, like AWS, but some were very low quality. And we found that the inconsistency in quality was decreasing the speed of our company’s growth.” With hosting so critical to its operations, Azerion decided it would be prudent to streamline its tech stack by relying on a single cloud provider rather than attempting to manage several different cloud and on-premises infrastructures. The company examined different cloud providers and ultimately decided to operate exclusively on AWS.

Using Managed Services to Reduce Costs and Simplify

Azerion quickly discovered ways to reduce hosting costs on AWS. One is a robust use of Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2) Spot Instances, by which the company can take advantage of unused Amazon EC2 capacity at up to a 90 percent discount compared to Amazon EC2 On-Demand Instance prices. AzerionOne, for example—the Azerion ad tech activity that sees as many as 60 million ad requests a day—uses up to 200 instances in high-traffic regions during busy hours. Since AzerionOne must be able to scale down during low-traffic periods, Azerion migrated a part of its fleet to Spot Instances. “We are flexible in how we can spin up and scale down all these instances pretty quickly,” says Gerben Papo, product director of cloud and security at Azerion. “Spot Instances work great for us because we don’t really need the continuously persistent storage to be available all the time.”

Also involved in the solution is Amazon EMR, the industry-leading cloud big data platform for processing vast amounts of data using open-source tools like Apache Spark. “During the night we process all logs on Amazon EMR,” says Papo. “Most of the time these jobs run for 10 minutes to an hour—plenty of time to make use of Spot Instances.” As Azerion architected this solution, AWS team members were available to help the company derive the greatest possible benefit. “When we made the move to Amazon EMR, we had a lot of help from AWS,” says Daan Boekestein, product vice president of ad tech at Azerion. “There were people here who had doubts before we moved, but Amazon EMR has proved to be really successful: we halved the cost and reduced the complexity; we sped up data availability; and we can scale much more simply.”

Azerion has also benefited from using database services from AWS, including Amazon Relational Database Service (Amazon RDS), which makes it simple to set up, operate, and scale a relational database in the cloud, and Amazon ElastiCache, which enables the team to seamlessly set up, run, and scale popular open-source compatible in-memory data stores in the cloud. The company also uses the load balancing capability of Amazon Elastic Block Store (Amazon EBS), a simple-to-use, high-performance block storage service designed for use alongside Amazon EC2 for both throughput and transaction-intensive workloads at any scale. “We use as many Amazon ElastiCache or Amazon RDS instances as we can,” says Papo.

All told, the use of AWS has resulted in a number of benefits for Azerion and its subsidiaries. “If you look at our operation now and compare it with 2 years ago, our cost has decreased by at least 50 percent,” says Akpinar. “And you can measure simplification by looking at the number of people who manage hosting in the past versus now. Previously, we had 15–20 people managing hosting, but now only four or five people provide services to 40 operating units, resulting in a total revenue of €250 million.”

Azerion’s AWS-powered solutions have become valuable assets in its process of acquiring businesses. “When we calculate the return on investment for a company we are going to acquire, we factor in the simplification and relative low cost of hosting on AWS,” says Akpinar. Using its AWS-backed model, Azerion was able to reduce the hosting cost for one of its acquired businesses from about €150,000 a month to about €50,000 a month, or about 67 percent.

Expanding and Innovating within the Cloud

After incorporating AWS into an acquisition strategy that involves the simultaneous simplification of technology stacks and reduction in costs, Azerion is poised to again double its revenue in 2021 and beyond. The company expects to see further benefits as it expands its infrastructure on AWS. For instance, Azerion participated in an AWS-hosted Amazon SageMaker Immersion Day. The team already sees opportunities for Amazon SageMaker—a fully managed service that provides every developer and data scientist with the ability to build, train, and deploy machine learning models quickly—to support its existing machine learning efforts.

As Azerion continues to grow, it expects its AWS environment will play a key role in enabling further innovation. “We’ve seen a number of benefits since we started using AWS,” says Boekestein. “Many of the tasks that people did—simple things like database administration, for example—we have moved to managed services from AWS. This means people could be trained or refocused to become DevOps engineers or serve in other critical roles.”

To learn more, visit aws.amazon.com/emr.


About Azerion

Azerion is a media and technology company that offers Europe safe, appropriate, and relevant entertainment content and online advertising. The company serves over 500 million users with its technology and 87 million monthly active users across 16,000 game titles.

Benefits of AWS

  • Reduced hosting costs by 50%
  • Doubled revenue in 1 year
  • Reduced hosting staff from 15–20 to 4 or 5
  • Reduced hosting cost for one company by 67%

AWS Services Used

Amazon EC2 Spot Instances

Amazon EC2 Spot Instances let you take advantage of unused EC2 capacity in the AWS Cloud.

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Amazon EMR

Amazon EMR is the industry-leading cloud big data platform for processing vast amounts of data using open source tools such as Apache Spark, Apache Hive, Apache HBase, Apache Flink, Apache Hudi, and Presto.

Learn more »

Amazon RDS

Amazon RDS makes it easy to set up, operate, and scale a relational database in the cloud.

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Amazon EBS

Amazon EBS is an easy to use, high-performance, block-storage service designed for use with Amazon EC2 for both throughput and transaction intensive workloads at any scale. 

Learn more »


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