Audible Scales Up for Business Customers with Help from Amazon Neptune
Audible is the world’s largest seller and producer of audiobooks, with millions of customers worldwide enjoying more than 525,000 audio programs on topics ranging from entertainment to education. Audible has been a subsidiary of Amazon since 2008. After years of success in the consumer market, the company saw increasing demand in an untapped customer segment in the audio space: businesses. Reacting to the changing priorities of their staff, businesses began to place a higher institutional emphasis on supporting their employees through corporate culture, work-life balance, and professional development.
Enter Audible for Business, a professional development offering for teams that helps companies and their employees explore the most essential skills in business today—from leadership to communication to mindset—no matter where they are. To meet demand, Audible for Business needed to enable business customers to easily scale access to Audible for Business to multiple users on their teams. In need of a new kind of database solution, Audible turned to Amazon Web Services (AWS) for a backend architecture that would help enterprise customers find success with Audible and to scale access—in some cases to hundreds of thousands of end users per customer.
A graph database is optimized for our use case. Amazon Neptune solved what we were trying to solve.”
Software Engineer, Audible for Business
Deciding on a Database Solution
“We had some specific requirements,” says Mayank Gupta, software engineer for Audible for Business. For example, Audible for Business needed its enterprise customers’ administrators to maintain their own sets of end users, such as adding or removing end users from the platform. It also required a database that would scale to seamlessly manage the complex network of relationships between its growing number of client administrators and their end users.
Originally, Gupta and his team leaned toward combining a relational database with a search and analytics engine. But juggling multiple systems would be a burden to Audible’s team in the long run, and with AWS products like Amazon DynamoDB and Amazon Relational Database Service (Amazon RDS) already in use by Audible’s consumer business, opting for another database service from AWS was a logical choice. The team chose the graph service Amazon Neptune, which is a fast, reliable, fully managed graph database service that makes it easy to build and run applications that work with highly connected datasets.
“A graph database gives us more flexibility than the relational systems,” says Gupta. “We might need to do a lot of joins on our tables [in a relational model], and that would have caused high latency of a lot of our business logic. A graph database is optimized for our use case. Amazon Neptune solved what we were trying to solve.” Specifically, Amazon Neptune provided flexibility to model structures unique to the Audible for Business parameters, enabled a focus on joins without the need for writing too many join queries across groups within a business, and streamlined the use of Audible across business and consumer groups.
Checking All the Boxes with Amazon Neptune
A graph database was not just a simpler solution—it was more flexible as well. Amazon Neptune was designed to store billions of relationships and query the graph with millisecond latency. Its flexibility in schema made it the ideal option for handling the complex relationships between Audible for Business’s enterprise customers and those customers’ end users. Since no two institutions run exactly the same, the graph database enables businesses to manage their accounts instead of forcing them to conform to a predefined schema.
With Amazon Neptune, Audible for Business can also provide scalability to every customer when and how it’s needed. For example, each business customer may have up to hundreds of thousands of end users that can belong to multiple groups, and each group could have its own permissions. The graph database keeps track of every customer vertex; the one-to-many relationship, or edge, between the customer vertex and its correlating vertices of end users; customer permissions vertices; and customer activations on an activation edge. For Audible for Business, that translated to an intricate network that could handle 5,000 transactions per second, all neatly housed within Amazon Neptune’s graph database. Audible for Business also provides search and sort functionalities within each business’s customer domain and configuration.
Being able to put security and compliance first was also a deciding factor in choosing Amazon Neptune. “The biggest selling point was complete encryption for storing data. That was a requirement,” says Gupta. For example, using AWS Key Management Service (KMS) to create and control keys used to encrypt data with Amazon Neptune, the Audible for Business team had data encryption in transit and at rest.
Addressing Customer Pain Points
The move to Amazon Neptune wasn’t just valuable for the Audible for Business service—its customers also saw changes for the better. In the past, the Audible for Business team controlled user management. Now, through the use of the Admin Portal, business customers can take those decisions into their own hands, controlling the application in a new and exciting way. “They can now do everything themselves,” says Kristina Flora, Audible for Business’s product marketing manager. “They can change who’s invited to the program. They can add or remove end users at will. They don’t have to wait for us.”
Flora says Amazon Neptune solved multiple problems in one go: “The two main things this application helped customers do was manage their end users at scale and access reporting that was automated and robust.”
Customers now also have access to automated reporting of team activity with Audible for Business in the form of easily digested graphs and visualizations. To make that experience even simpler, Audible for Business is beta testing the practice of streaming directly from Amazon Neptune to its data warehouse using AWS Lambda and Amazon Kinesis Data Streams, which streams data in real time, effectively scaling the data flow pipeline and enabling further additions of new downstream systems, such as using another data layer with changing business requirements. “Amazon Neptune helped give our team more flexibility,” says Flora, “so we could take our product to the next level for our customers.”
Looking to the Future
In addition to the scalability, flexibility, and security Amazon Neptune already offers, Technical Program Manager Julian Gallo says the team at Audible is most excited about new functionalities being added to enhance scaling and automation. Because of Amazon Neptune, Audible for Business has hit the ground running and tapped into an up-and-coming market: helping businesses support their team members in new and significant ways.
To learn more about Amazon Neptune and other AWS purpose-built databases, visit https://aws.amazon.com/products/databases/.
Audible, an Amazon.com subsidiary, is the largest producer and provider of premium digital spoken audio content, offering more than 525,000 programs from leading publishers. Audible for Business, the enterprise arm of Audible, offers teams of all sizes handpicked titles and workshops that explore productivity, enrichment, and development.
Benefits of AWS
- Scalable to thousands of customers
- 4 million edges and vertices total
- Ability to support hundreds of thousands of end users
- 5K transactions per second
- A single-source solution
AWS Services Used
Amazon DynamoDB is a key-value and document database that delivers single-digit millisecond performance at any scale.
Amazon Relational Database Service (Amazon RDS) makes it easy to set up, operate, and scale a relational database in the cloud.
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