At a minimum, we’ve seen 25% operating expenditure savings purely on compute by going ‘all in’ on AWS. 

Founded in 1999 and headquartered in Sydney, Global Red specializes in lifecycle marketing, including managing customer data, executing campaigns, and extracting insights from data. When a marketing campaign is underway, Global Red collects data from a range of sources including web, advertising, email, short message services (SMS), and point-of-sale (POS) terminals. The data collected is then fed to its predictive modelling, data exploration, and reporting systems. About half of Global Red’s 75-person workforce operates in technology and data-science roles. The business has expanded its footprint in the region through an office in Singapore.  

Global Red initially ran applications, up to 30 customer databases, and information for its business across the Asia-Pacific Region in two hosted data centers—one in Australia and the other in New Zealand. While the hosted infrastructure could support Global Red’s short-term compute requirements, forecasted traffic and customer growth coupled with the increasing availability of innovative cloud-based infrastructure services made moving to the cloud appealing to the ambitious firm. “By working with a global cloud provider that could deliver services such as the collection and processing of large data streams in real time, highly scalable compute resources, relational database services, and object storage, we could develop valuable marketing as a service IP,” says Kartik Rao, chief information officer at Global Red. “This IP would include real-time and predictive analytics, forecasting, and data collection and aggregation tools capable of capturing billions of events every month.”

Global Red also wanted to use the cloud to improve its agility and competitiveness by adopting continuous integration and deployment. One of Global Red's main business lines is a trading desk—Accumedia—that buys display advertising on behalf of its customers. For each advertising campaign, the business captures enormous volumes of data in a database and uses data-science algorithms to determine the most effective ad placements at any point in time. Adjustments are made in near real time to the buy based on what the algorithm shows.

“In our hosted data centers, it would take us up to six weeks to onboard a brand new client, create the databases, ensure we had sufficient infrastructure capacity for the project, and load-test to ensure we could scale as required. In a demanding, fast-moving market, this was too long,” Rao says.

“Now we can onboard clients with different data needs onto a single platform in a matter of weeks. This is great for our clients because we can focus our attention on extracting marketing outcomes and generating real ROI, rather than spend an enormous amount of effort building bespoke data ingestion pipelines,” he adds.

Global Red was already aware of the global reach of Amazon Web Services (AWS) and its reputation for rapidly developing new products and services, prompting the business to opt against evaluating other cloud providers. The business re-architected its applications and platforms to run in a microservices architecture and optimize their performance in the AWS environment. Global Red is now all in on AWS infrastructure in the Amazon Asia Pacific (Sydney) and Amazon Asia Pacific (Singapore) Regions. This includes its Red Data platform that ingests streaming data such as clickstreams, ad impressions or page views, or batch data delivered from Amazon Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3) such as product feeds and transaction files from Global Red’s customers. All compute workloads, including analysis and business intelligence undertaken through Tableau and Splunk, are running in Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2) instances. These instances are segregated into Auto Scaling groups to provide the elasticity to support demand spikes.

Global Red is using Amazon CloudFront to deliver static content such as JavaScript, CSS, and HTML quickly to users from a range of edge locations, and Amazon Relational Database Service (Amazon RDS) to run customer databases that were previously deployed on a physical infrastructure, while AWS Identity and Access Management (IAM) provides role-based access to customer data for the agency’s employees. Amazon Simple Queue Service (Amazon SQS) performs a crucial role in queueing tasks and minimizing the risk of coupling within Global Red’s microservices architecture, and Amazon Simple Notification Service (Amazon SNS) pushes out health and lifecycle notifications to applications and users. Amazon Kinesis enables dozens of Global Red team members to process customized data streams for individual customers, while AWS CloudFormation operates in combination with third-party tools to create scalable environments comprising related AWS resources. Amazon CloudWatch is also integrated with third-party tools to undertake infrastructure logging, monitoring, and alerts. Rao is extremely keen to adopt AWS Lambda when AWS makes the service available in Sydney.

AWS played an important role in Global Red optimizing its cloud architecture. “When we were investing about AU$1 million (US$700,000) developing a secure data platform that could ingest and report on terabytes of data per day, we worked very closely with AWS technical and account team members to create the right cloud architecture. The team took time to validate our architecture and other planning material before our in-house infrastructure team did the heavy lifting of creating our AWS environment,” says Rao.

Global Red has sent its technical team members to AWS boot camps to build their expertise in the cloud, and several team members have achieved AWS certification. “AWS for us is a long-term proposition, so it is in our best interest that our team members are highly familiar with AWS as a platform,” Rao says.

The figure below illustrates Global Red’s environment in AWS:

Global Red’s decision to use AWS tools and technologies has enabled the business to effectively discount infrastructure as a concern and focus instead on issues such as developing intellectual property and building products that customers will pay for. And while lowering infrastructure costs was not a key priority for Global Red in selecting AWS, the decision has still delivered a sizable financial reward. “At a minimum, we’ve seen 25 percent operating expenditure savings purely on compute by going all in on AWS,” says Rao. Meanwhile, the business is achieving availability in excess of 99.9 percent, giving clients certainty that the Global Red platform will be available as required.

The scripting, automation, and scalability of AWS has reduced the time required for Global Red to bring new customers onboard to services such as Accumedia by 50 percent. The elasticity of AWS allows the business to seamlessly support special events of large clients that can see their traffic increase by up to 800 percent over the course of an hour. Global Red can either rely on the services by AWS to automate the increase in capacity to support the additional traffic, or adjust the size of Auto Scaling groups.

By running AWS infrastructure in the Amazon Asia Pacific (Singapore) Region as well as the Amazon Asia Pacific (Sydney) Region, Global Red has improved application response times for clients in South East Asia. “We have shaved 150 to 200 milliseconds per request for businesses in South East Asia,” says Rao.

Rao describes working with AWS as extremely positive. “The support and advice we receive from AWS in Sydney has helped us achieve highly positive returns from our massive investments in research and development,” he says. “That advice ranges from the partners we should work with based on what we are trying to accomplish, to the optimum architecture for our service. AWS has been really valuable to us.”  

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