Datadog Customer TextNow Saves 93% on Data Transfer Fees Using AWS PrivateLink
Providing a mobile application for messaging and calling, TextNow believes that communication belongs to everyone. Since 2009, the company has provided customers with free phone numbers and unlimited calls and texts in North America. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit in March 2020, companies began to cut digital advertising spending. “Our advertising business is our main revenue driver,” says Andres Ivanov, software technical manager at TextNow. “We needed a plan that would help us regain profit.”
TextNow began exploring how it could save money on Amazon Web Services (AWS) and found an opportunity to reduce data transfer fees by using AWS PrivateLink Ready Partner Datadog. AWS PrivateLink enables businesses to establish private connectivity between virtual private clouds and services hosted on AWS or on premises without exposing data to the public internet. By securing traffic over a private network, TextNow increased data security and reduced data transfer fees by 93 percent.
Using AWS PrivateLink, we reduced our data transfer fees by 93%. That’s
amazing for us and a key driver for what we’re doing with this new solution.
Software Technical Manager, TextNow
Finding Cost Optimization Opportunities
Founded by two university students as a way to reduce their phone bills, TextNow started as a Voice over Internet Protocol application that gave users a US phone number with which to call or text over wireless internet. TextNow still offers that service, but it has grown to become a true mobile virtual network operator—customers can buy SIM cards and access free wireless service from TextNow on a nationwide long-term evolution network. Customers have downloaded its mobile application more than 200 million times globally and 18 million times in the US during 2020. TextNow’s combined applications receive around 20,000 requests per second on public endpoints during peak times.
With companies reducing ad spending, TextNow’s leadership team moved quickly to identify a solution by working with Datadog, a software as a service–based monitoring and security solution for cloud-scale applications. TextNow has been using Datadog for application performance monitoring and its growing list of networking and logging features since 2019. Because of the changes in revenue it was facing during the COVID-19 pandemic, TextNow identified ways it could further optimize its AWS costs. “Once we started analyzing the bill, we realized that one of the highest cloud costs for companies with millions of monthly active users comes from data transfer fees,” Ivanov says.
TextNow used Datadog Network Performance Monitoring to identify and optimize its highest throughput applications. In the US East AWS Regions, for example, data transfer over the public internet cost $0.09 per 1 GB—which amounted to $5,000–$10,000 in monthly costs for TextNow. “For a rapidly growing startup, spending $10,000 per month on data transfer, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, was just too much,” Ivanov says. By using AWS PrivateLink to send data over a private network, TextNow could avoid unnecessary hops over the public internet. And with Datadog, it could validate and measure the success of that architectural change. “Before, we were communicating with a couple of partners over the public internet or our own colocation data centers, and sometimes that required hopping across five to six different internet providers around the globe. That made it really hard to debug,” says Ivanov. Now, TextNow’s data remains within the database on AWS, resulting in a faster, cheaper, and more secure data transfer.
Using AWS PrivateLink to Reduce Costs and Increase Security
Getting set up on AWS PrivateLink was simple. Because TextNow uses infrastructure as code, introducing the endpoint across all its accounts only required a 5-minute code change. The engineering team did not need to modify routing tables. Instead, it simply created an endpoint associated with the virtual private cloud and enabled the Domain Name System host names. “From there, the magic happened virtually on its own,” says Ivanov. “We are an active enterprise customer of AWS, so we engaged the AWS Support team whenever we needed help. And we really love the support so far.” The simple setup and management enable the TextNow team to spend less time on networking efforts and more time innovating for customers.
Using AWS PrivateLink and Datadog, TextNow has also improved the cost of data transfer. In the US East AWS Regions, for instance, each 1 GB of data it transfers now costs $0.01 instead of $0.09. “Using AWS PrivateLink, we reduced our data transfer fees by 93 percent. That’s amazing for us and a key driver for what we’re doing with this new solution,” says Ivanov.
Aside from achieving savings by using AWS PrivateLink and Datadog, TextNow has also improved the security of its monitoring and alerting infrastructure. “Our customers’ security has always been a top priority,” says Ivanov. “I think this solution will help our customers, as well as our team, sleep better at night knowing that this data is not on the public internet." TextNow is exploring how to connect to other independent software vendor products through AWS PrivateLink, providing greater security for those connections.
Finally, using AWS PrivateLink in conjunction with Datadog will help the TextNow team save maintenance time. “Using AWS PrivateLink will help us drastically with debugging,” says Ivanov. “Our traffic strictly stays within the AWS network. It’s not going anywhere, which makes it very simple to debug and work with.”
Increasing Traffic and Expanding Infrastructure
TextNow plans to double its traffic and expand its infrastructure in 2021. The company is planning to scale to new regions for high availability and reliability purposes. It also intends to further increase its security posture by hiring a new security team and using Datadog Security Monitoring integrated with services on AWS, including AWS Network Firewall and Amazon GuardDuty. AWS Network Firewall is a managed service that makes it simple to deploy essential network protections for all of a company’s virtual private clouds on AWS. And Amazon GuardDuty is a threat detection service that continuously monitors for malicious activity and unauthorized behavior to protect AWS accounts, workloads, and stored data.
Moving to AWS PrivateLink ahead of time and keeping data transfer fees low will help facilitate the fast growth that the company has planned. “Companies don’t have a lot of time to deal with cost reduction and optimizations when they’re growing,” Ivanov explains. “Our data transfer fees would have skyrocketed had we not implemented this solution before the start of our growth period. On AWS PrivateLink, TextNow won’t need to take a step back to figure out how to reduce those costs when it starts its expansion.”
Founded in 2009 by two university students, mobile app TextNow is on a mission to help connect customers through communications technology for free or as close to free as possible.
- Reduced data transfer fees by 93%
- Increased security of user data
- Connected to AWS PrivateLink in just 5 minutes
- Increased staff productivity
AWS Services Used
AWS PrivateLink provides private connectivity between VPCs, AWS services, and your on-premises networks, without exposing your traffic to the public internet. AWS PrivateLink makes it easy to connect services across different accounts and VPCs to significantly simplify your network architecture.
AWS Network Firewall
AWS Network Firewall is a managed service that makes it easy to deploy essential network protections for all of your Amazon Virtual Private Clouds (VPCs). The service can be setup with just a few clicks and scales automatically with your network traffic, so you don't have to worry about deploying and managing any infrastructure.
Amazon GuardDuty is a threat detection service that continuously monitors for malicious activity and unauthorized behavior to protect your AWS accounts, workloads, and data stored in Amazon S3. With the cloud, the collection and aggregation of account and network activities is simplified, but it can be time consuming for security teams to continuously analyze event log data for potential threats.
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