BrightRoll provides an independent, unified video advertising platform that delivers digital video advertising across the web, mobile devices, and connected TV. As a leading marketplace for programmatic video advertising, BrightRoll uses diverse technologies to help advertisers improve performance and simplify the complexity of video advertising while helping publishers maximize yield and enable the delivery of advanced ad formats across screens. The BrightRoll technology platform powers video advertising for more than 80 of the top 100 US advertisers, including Kellogg and Wrigley, as well as third-party buyers such as Rocket Fuel. BrightRoll is headquartered in San Francisco, CA, and has offices across the United States, and international operations in Canada and Europe.
The ChallengeFounded in 2006, BrightRoll has used Amazon Web Services (AWS) since 2008. Prior to AWS, the company was renting or leasing servers from an Internet service provider (ISP) in San Francisco. “The on-premises solution was okay, but we were a smaller company back then,” explains Kenneth Cheung, Senior Director of Engineering. “Initially, we used AWS for testing and to build prototypes. Once we realized the benefits of cloud computing and understood that Amazon.com runs on the same technology, we had the confidence to move our infrastructure to the AWS Cloud, and never looked back.”
Why Amazon Web Services
“AWS is the perfect infrastructure and technology service provider for entrepreneurial companies, both in terms of cost efficiency and the ability to scale into demand,” says Christopher Amen-Kroeger, Senior Vice President of Engineering. “We use AWS for every part of our environment, from custom delivery to elastic compute to heavy lifting of software stacks.”
Billions of Ads, Petabytes of Data
BrightRoll collects and analyzes more than 30 billion data points per day about video advertising in order to help advertisers reach the right audiences and uses a variety of AWS services to process data at this scale. Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2) provides compute capacity and Amazon Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3) stores multiple petabytes (PB) of compressed, mission-critical data. Data stored in Amazon S3 is processed using about 4,500 Amazon EC2 virtual cores, which is compute efficient. BrightRoll uses Amazon Simple Queue Service (Amazon SQS) for job queuing and AWS CloudFormation to create dynamic test environments that enable the company’s continuous release model.
Over the years, BrightRoll has developed increasingly sophisticated and comprehensive digital advertising solutions running on the AWS platform. For example, the CODiE award-winning BrightRoll programmatic interface automates the purchase of digital video advertising. It connects buyers to an ecosystem of more than 15,000 websites and mobile apps, 350 partners and 500 million monthly global unique viewers. Processing more than 20 billion video advertising events per day, the platform uses a combination of Amazon EC2, Amazon Elastic Map Reduce (Amazon EMR), Amazon S3, and Amazon CloudFront to manage more than 25 billion video inventory requests per month across the four screens.
BrightRoll delivers nearly 3 billion video ads per month around the globe, and is consistently ranked among the top companies in video ads served by comScore Video Metrix. Its previous content delivery network (CDN) provider experienced challenges matching BrightRoll growth and the company switched to Amazon CloudFront as soon as the service became available. It took the BrightRoll team less than two weeks to migrate to Amazon CloudFront. “We had to make a few code changes but it was an easy transition,” says Cheung. “We can scale to deliver many hundreds of petabytes of content over the course of a year.” In 2013, BrightRoll delivered more than 23 petabytes of content and expects to double that figure in the coming year.
Large-scale Computing for Targeted Audiences
Big data computations are extremely important in the video advertising business and advertisers often look for audiences based on demographic criteria, for example gender, age, or geography. BrightRoll reaches 98% of all online video ad viewers, capturing usage data across multiple devices from iPhones and tablets to connected TVs. Amazon EMR helps BrightRoll process large quantities of data with precise, global distribution without the expense of a dedicated infrastructure.
"The number of cluster nodes changes by customer,” explains Amen-Kroeger. “Amazon EMR gives us the elasticity to respond to business demand in a cost-efficient way. Some jobs only cost hundreds of dollars to run, which gives you an idea of how inexpensive Amazon EMR can be to use. For example, in one part of the company’s geographic reporting stack, BrightRoll processes more than five terabytes (TB) of data per day. The reporting processed in that stack is critical to enabling ads targeting by geography and costs less than $100 per day.”
BrightRoll marketplace uses real-time supply and demand to set pricing for each ad dynamically within very tight latency constraints. Bidding is complete in less than 100 milliseconds across a wide number of different companies including advertising technology companies, networks, and demand-side platforms. “The marketplace requires data calculations that use more than 275,000 normalized Amazon EMR hours to compute multiple data points, including pricing aggregates,” explains Amer-Kroeger. “We use a multi-petabyte, Amazon S3 deployment for the data feeds latency-constrained real time bidding (RTB) environments—the largest in the online video advertising industry.”
“If AWS didn’t exist, BrightRoll would be a different company,” says Cheung. “AWS allows us to focus on growing the business and not managing an infrastructure. We’ve been able to leverage the elasticity and flexibility that the AWS Cloud offers in design, daily work, and methodology. I can spin up instances in minutes on AWS to test concepts or deploy new features. A physical infrastructure doesn’t have that flexibility. It could take between four and eight weeks to purchase new servers, which take the wind out of any momentum we might have. AWS helps us to keep momentum.”
“If you need an infrastructure to compete with verticals like Apple, Facebook, and Google, you have a handful of options,” says Amen-Kroeger. “Only Amazon CloudFront has the scalable infrastructure to allow a growing enterprise to deliver massive amounts of content without committing to massive capital and cost outlays. We’re saving at least 25 percent using Amazon CloudFront compared to our previous CDN."
“BrightRoll grew up using AWS to become the leading independent video ad technology platform,” he continues. “The solutions, elasticity, and flexibility that AWS offers have become part of the way BrightRoll grows and develops technology.”