Cloud technology brings scalability to Indian mobile advertising co

When you are in the online ads game, you need scalability on tap. An in-depth case study of how Vserv went aboard Amazon EC2 to gain from cloud technology.

As cloud technology matures in India, it is worthwhile to examine and study how organizations go about the adoption process. One such organization that has taken the plunge is Indian mobile advertising company Vserv. Elaborating on its cloud technology requirement, Ashay Padwal, director and CTO at Vserv, says, “When we launched in July 2010, we needed cloud technology to scale our online services as per our requirements. High uptime, low latency and redundancy were other concerns.”

Vserv assists mobile site advertisers, publishers and app developers in exploring the mobile medium’s potential for monetizing their assets and inventories. Established in January 2010, Vserv has offices in the U.S., Ireland, India, Turkey, Singapore and France. It collects inventories by tying up with large firms such as Nokia, Reebok and Nike, among others. Vserv’s partners thus range from advertisers and app developers to publishers. The roles played by Vserv’s partners can be summarized in the following manner:

  • Mobile site publishers use codes from Vserv to display ads on their pages.
  • Mobile application developers use tools and codes from Vserv to display ads within the applications they develop.
  • Advertisers run campaigns using inventories collected by Vserv.

Cloud technology need and evaluation

Vserv’s aim was to enable its partners to register online, and obtain ads from the inventory. “If a cricket score app site visits Vserv, registers, and picks a piece of code for its site, the user will connect to ads from our server for each page view on the app site,” explains Padwal. Services have to be commensurate with the traffic received by Vserv’s partners.

According to Padwal, Vserv’s partners have fluctuating traffic that is difficult to predict. At time of its launch, Vserv opted for a mix of cloud technology and physical servers in order to scale its services due to this reason.

An in-house panel at Vserv evaluated cloud service providers for the globally spread infrastructure. In addition to Amazon Web Services EC2 (Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud) for the U.S. and India, Gandi Hosting and Radore Hosting were evaluated for Europe, North Africa and the Middle East.

Vserv evaluated and deployed Rackspace and Amazon Web Services in the U.S.; for India/Asia-Pacific, the company implemented Tata Communications’ InstaCompute and Amazon EC2. Vserv chose Amazon EC2 because of cost benefits and offered services. “Instead of having multiple edge locations, we now have high elasticity in terms of scaling, without any capex requirements. We were also looking for decent redundancy and backup services from our provider,” says Padwal.

Cloud technology

Although Vserv is now comfortable with cloud technology, the adoption phase was challenging. “Cloud technology is much evolved. There aren’t many who have opted for cloud technology in India, hence there’s a learning curve. However, we receive good support from our cloud providers,” explains Padwal.

Vserv decided on a mix of cloud technology and physical servers, spending Rs. 2 lakh [Rs 2,00,000] for the physical servers located in Turkey and India. Vserv has opted for a pay-as-you-go model, with no upfront charges applicable on the cloud services. “After deducting infrastructure costs, we have a decent bottom line,” says Padwal. Vserv’s cloud service expenditure for the month of June 2011 has been to the tune of Rs. 20 lakh [Rs. 2 million].

Amazon’s cloud service provides Vserv with horizontal scaling, along with inbuilt load balancers and the option to add more servers or instances as per requirement. Different configurations for server, memory and compute can be obtained depending on need.  “Based on my services and cost effectiveness, I have to take a call on the best suited instance,” says Padwal.

The SLA commitment from AWS stipulates that it will take measures to make Amazon EC2 available with an annual uptime percentage of at least 99.95% during the service year. If not, Vserv will be eligible for a specified amount of service credit.

The Amazon cloud technology services model offers the choice of booking reserved instances or spot instances. The former requires a payment of one-third of the amount upfront, resulting in a lower cost per hour, while the latter involves spot bidding for particular servers. Vserv has opted for the on-demand instance. “We will explore an ideal mix of reserved and spot as part of our future plan,” says Padwal.

Benefits of cloud technology

1)      High scalability: Vserv has benefited most from the scalability that cloud technology offers, without upfront investment or capex for a dedicated server. Padwal feels that this is essential, given Vserv’s online business model.

2)      Near 100% uptime: Vserv has cloud infrastructure in four different locations; downtime issues at one location are easily offset, as the traffic invokes services from another site.

3)      Redundancy in the overall architecture: With cloud technology, Vserv has been able to incorporate redundancy without any substantial additional cost.

4)      Accessibility with low latency: Vserv’s publishing and developing partners have their servers located across the globe. The company needs to have its services in close proximity to the partner’s servers, to reduce latency.

With the use of cloud technology, Vserv claims to have the least latency when compared with the competition, due to its wide geographical presence. “This has been a success factor for Vserv. We stand third in India in terms of business, even though we were late entrants. Through cloud architecture, our latency is less than 100 milliseconds. Our competitors are not able to get their latency below 350 milliseconds,” says Padwal.

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