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FreeWheel Migrates Key Ad Tech Platforms to AWS, Delivering a Globally Scalable Cloud Transformation

Learn how FreeWheel scales to accommodate rapid growth in ad-serving volume using Amazon EC2.

15 minutes

instead of 6 months to scale for Olympics ad tech workload

99.9% uptime


300 ms or less of latency

for ad-serving sales-order automation

10–20 ms network latency

Up to 20% compute cost saved

through use of AWS Graviton processors


FreeWheel needed an elastic, cost-effective infrastructure to accommodate double-digit growth in its advertising transaction volumes year over year. The infrastructure had to support the ad tech workloads for its large broadcast clients, which spiked significantly during important live events. FreeWheel decided to migrate its key ad tech platforms to the cloud and turned to Amazon Web Services (AWS). Using AWS services, FreeWheel now quickly scales to accommodate its largest publishers, advertisers, and media buyers while maintaining 99.9 percent uptime and providing customers with less than 300 ms of latency for ad-serving sales-order automation.

Opportunity | Using AWS to Optimize FreeWheel’s Flagship Ad Tech Platform  

Acquired by Comcast in 2014, FreeWheel provides comprehensive managed advertising solutions for publishers, advertisers, and media companies. It operated by using a colocation model globally, with multiple physical locations that combined hardware with networking services. The infrastructure was costly to scale to meet the company’s more than 30 percent growth in its advertising transaction volumes year over year. FreeWheel was looking for a solution to streamline and cut costs for its flagship product, the Monetization Rights Management (MRM) solution. MRM is a complete ad sales and management technology that supports three critical workloads for customers.

Its primary workload involves FreeWheel’s ad servers, which make instantaneous decisions about which ads to show online. The company required a manageable way to handle spikes in traffic that occur around major live events such as the Super Bowl. The ad servers generate copious logs that clients collect and analyze to optimize their ad campaigns, resulting in a big data workload. Also, FreeWheel had to run its web application, including user interfaces for clients’ ad operation service teams. “AWS was at the leading edge, and we immediately launched compute resources and high-level services,” says Alex Ng, senior vice president of global operations at FreeWheel. “We could solve some of our growing pains from volume spikes, which were not easy to solve with on-prem infrastructure.”


Our adoption of AWS is deep and broad. Our architecture is more scalable and robust, and it better supports our global business now and in the future.”  

Alex Ng
Senior Vice President of Global Operations, FreeWheel

Solution | Building an Infrastructure That Scales in Minutes on Amazon EC2

In 2017, FreeWheel launched its Cloud First initiative and began its migration to AWS, starting with compute-heavy data-processing workloads. To run its large Apache Hadoop cluster, FreeWheel spun up multiple instances of Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2), which provides secure and resizable compute capacity for virtually any workload. As the company quickly grew, it built in elasticity through the use of Amazon Elastic Kubernetes Service (Amazon EKS), a managed service to run Kubernetes in the cloud and on-premises data centers. “We’ve been able to keep our team size steady while supporting production that is growing in multiple magnitudes,” says Ng. “It’s a big win.”

The company incorporated additional native AWS services. It migrated core databases to Amazon Aurora, designed for unparalleled high performance and availability at a global scale with full MySQL and PostgreSQL compatibility. “Using Amazon Aurora, our databases are globally synchronized,” says Xiaoli Liu, senior director of the FreeWheel site reliability engineering team. “There is very low latency for updates, changes, or usage.”

FreeWheel found that it could implement other applications seamlessly alongside AWS solutions. In 2021, the company acquired Beeswax, whose bidder-as-a-service solutions had been built natively on AWS. Furthermore, FreeWheel’s in-house monitoring solution, which clients use to collect and analyze logs to optimize their ad campaigns, worked well on AWS.

FreeWheel moved its forecasting module and MRM user interface to AWS and further moved toward a serverless architecture based on AWS Lambda, a serverless, event-driven compute service that lets organizations run code for virtually any type of application or backend service without provisioning or managing servers. “We spend more time talking to clients to understand their business requirements instead of focusing on scaling our infrastructure,” says Ng. “We are seeing a very positive change in how our team operates.”

By migrating its on-premises workloads to AWS, FreeWheel scaled to accommodate capacity requirements for the Tokyo Olympic Games in 15 minutes, a process that would have taken 6 months using its legacy MRM infrastructure. For the 2022 FIFA World Cup, the company alerted AWS that it anticipated six million concurrent users so that AWS could adequately prepare network load balancers. “For each match, we spun up thousands of ad servers in a blink,” says Liu. “And when the match concluded, those newly deployed ad servers automatically disappeared to save costs when the peak was gone. That’s the elasticity and flexibility we gain from AWS.” To further improve performance while optimizing cost, FreeWheel converted compute instances for its monitoring, forecasting, and other critical components to AWS Graviton processors, which are based upon Arm architecture and are designed by AWS to deliver the best price performance for cloud workloads running in Amazon EC2. To further reduce costs, FreeWheel implemented Savings Plans, a flexible pricing model that helps reduce the monthly bill by up to 72 percent compared with On-Demand prices, in exchange for a spend commitment. All told, FreeWheel saves up to 20 percent in compute costs using AWS Graviton processors.

Outcome | Optimizing Ad Tech Workloads to Support a Global Business Model

FreeWheel’s MRM footprint covers six AWS Regions, providing network latency of 10–20 ms and 99.9 percent uptime. For redundancy, FreeWheel runs its user interfaces and forecasting engine across multiple Availability Zones so that clients can confidently log into their portals, book their inventories, and run more accurate campaigns. FreeWheel deploys its ad-serving modules from within the same Region as end users so that ads load quickly on consumers’ devices. “We are very proud that our ad-serving sales-order automation is always below 300 ms,” says Liu. “That’s a very high standard in the industry.”

By the end of 2023, FreeWheel plans to close most data centers, migrating additional platforms and applications to AWS. “Our adoption of AWS is deep and broad,” Ng says. “Our architecture is more scalable and robust, and it better supports our global business now and in the future.”

About FreeWheel

FreeWheel, a Comcast company, provides comprehensive ad platforms for publishers, advertisers, and media buyers. Powered by video content, data, and technology, FreeWheel
facilitates transactions across all screens, data types, and sales channels.

AWS Services Used

Amazon EC2

Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2) offers the broadest and deepest compute platform, with over 600 instances and choice of the latest processor, storage, networking, operating system, and purchase model to help you best match the needs of your workload.

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AWS Graviton Processors

AWS Graviton processors are designed by AWS to deliver the best price performance for your cloud workloads running in Amazon EC2.

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Amazon Aurora

Amazon Aurora provides built-in security, continuous backups, serverless compute, up to 15 read replicas, automated multi-Region replication, and integrations with other AWS services.

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AWS Lambda

AWS Lambda is a serverless, event-driven compute service that lets you run code for virtually any type of application or backend service without provisioning or managing servers.

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