Crayon Data Case Study


Singapore-based Crayon Data provides a big-data based recommendation engine called Maya, that enables organizations to present highly personalized choices to customers. The engine captures and stores data from a range of sources, and uses analytics tools to map the tastes of millions of people. “We enable merchants to simplify consumers’ lifestyle choices by capturing their preferences and behaviors, and presenting relevant options to them,” says Bhaskar Vulapalli, head of strategy and partnerships at Crayon Data. The business has marketed Maya to banks, airlines, and hotels, as well as companies in other industry segments. Its clients span across India, Indonesia, Singapore, the United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

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AWS Marketplace allowed me to try various software products before I could finalize and subscribe to the one I needed. A process that could be completed in only three days."

Bhaskar Vulapalli
Head of Strategy and Partnerships, Crayon Data

The Challenge

To meet its internal service-level agreements and clients’ requirements, Crayon Data established several criteria for the infrastructure running Maya. The infrastructure had to be scalable to support forecast growth, with high performance and availability.

The business also needed to control costs and minimize the allocation of resources to tasks such as infrastructure monitoring and management. “We decided very early that we required a cloud service that enables us to run our engine and associated systems with low overhead. In addition, we wanted a service that allows us to avoid investing extensive upfront capital in servers, storage, and networking equipment,” says Vulapalli.

The service had to support fast software development cycles, and run individual deployments of Maya in secure environments—customized to each Crayon Data client. “We have to run multiple virtual instance types to meet these varying client needs. The ability to switch instances, associated services, and security protocols off and on within minutes to meet changing client requirements is key as well,” says Vulapalli.

Furthermore, Crayon Data had to ensure consistency between these individual client environments to minimize its maintenance overhead. These environments had to be delivered in a few hours to support the Crayon Data strategy of offering a free pilot to businesses to convince them of the value of its service.

Building on these initial requirements, Crayon Data wanted to access software products to complement and improve the efficiency of its technology stack. However, the business could not afford to dedicate valuable management and developer resources to identifying, procuring, and testing these products. Crayon Data did not want to be locked into usage contracts that may extend several months beyond the useful life of the software to its operations. Finally, Crayon Data did not want to expend administrative resources on managing multiple vendor relationships, including making individual payments to multiple software vendors.

Why Amazon Web Services

Crayon Data reviewed the cloud services available in the market and decided on an Amazon Web Services (AWS) infrastructure to run Maya.

Being a software platform, Crayon Data has strong requirements for a number of different software products and has deployed 10 software solutions from AWS Marketplace to use internally. Usage is not always predetermined or planned and often needs to be used immediately and for an intermittent time period. “Initially, we saw AWS Marketplace as an opportunity to improve our software-deployment capabilities and refine our payment model,” says Vulapalli. “But when we evaluated what was available on the marketplace, we also found a wide range of software—including databases clustering, storage, application development, and caching products—that helped meet our needs. For example, we worked with SoftNAS to extend our native AWS storage to a fully-featured NAS filer.” AWS Marketplace offered Crayon Data not just the strong choice of leading third-party software, but also the ability to purchase and deploy immediately through the same platform.

The business is running Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2) instances to provide resizable compute capacity, coupled with Amazon Elastic Block Store (Amazon EBS) volumes that provide the availability, durability, and performance required for the engine. Amazon Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3) enables Crayon Data to store the data used by Maya to provide recommendations to consumers on behalf of client businesses. On the security front, AWS Shield provides protection against DDoS attacks, while AWS Certificate Manager provides a simple, easy way of managing the security certificates required for Maya deployments. AWS Identity and Access Management (IAM) enables Crayon Data to control access to the AWS services required to run Maya for clients.

The Benefits

By using AWS and AWS Marketplace, Crayon Data has been able to operate efficiently while providing a richly functional product that meets client demands. AWS Marketplace provided a centralized online location for the business to find, buy, deploy, and manage software that allows Crayon Data to use the software they want faster and easier. In particular, the business avoided laborious procurement requirements and can now access software on a subscription basis.

“Without AWS Marketplace, I would have had to trial a range of products before selecting one that might meet our needs. I would then have to take up to six weeks to get comfortable with the selected product, while negotiating a contract for the software could take another three weeks,” Vulapalli says. With AWS Marketplace, the trial and subscription process can be completed in three days.

Furthermore, the business can reuse its existing AWS payment terms to do this. Vulapalli estimates the overall reduction in procurement and subscription time across the 10 SaaS products procured from AWS Marketplace at about six months per year--time that is now allocated to valuable development activities.

The products available in AWS Marketplace have enabled Crayon Data to optimize storage and compute capacity, improve the quality of coding, and reduce testing cycles from 1.5 weeks for each release to about two days. The benefits of the SaaS products available in AWS Marketplace have supplemented the cost, performance, and availability rewards of using existing services offered by AWS. “When we conducted an assessment in late 2016, we were achieving up to 20 percent better performance through AWS than through a rival cloud-service provider. At the same time, we found AWS was at least 10 percent cheaper than the closest competition,” says Vulapalli.

Crayon Data is now well-positioned to realize its longer-term growth ambitions. “The AWS infrastructure is core to our value proposition, and the range of software available in AWS Marketplace is both easy to procure, deploy, and creates a more efficient software usage model for us. We look forward to growing and achieving greater efficiencies with AWS and AWS Marketplace well into the future,” says Vulapalli.

About Crayon Data

Crayon Data is a growing big-data analytics company based in Singapore. The company's mission is to make it simple for everyone to see, touch and use the information that will make a difference in our lives.

Benefits of AWS

  • Reduces testing cycle from one and one-half weeks to two days for every release
  • Trials and subscribes to software products in two days compared to nine weeks for traditional procurement 
  • Reduces costs by 10 percent and improves performance by 20 percent over competing solutions

AWS Services Used

AWS Marketplace

AWS Marketplace is a digital catalog with thousands of software listings from independent software vendors that make it easy to find, test, buy, and deploy software that runs on AWS.

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Amazon EC2

Secure and resizable compute capacity in the cloud. Launch applications when needed without upfront commitments.

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Amazon EBS

Amazon Elastic Block Store (EBS) is an easy to use, high performance block storage service designed for use with Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2).

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AWS Shield

AWS Shield is a managed Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) protection service that safeguards applications running on AWS.

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