Last week, AdRoll CTO Valentino Volonghi spoke at Amazon Web Services AWS Summit on how we’ve used AWS technologies and innovations to help scale our business worldwide. Check out the video and Valentino’s commentary below:

AdRoll is a marketing platform that helps businesses of all sizes, and marketers of all experience levels, run high-performance marketing campaigns around the world. We work with over 20,000 customers in more than 150 countries, which means we end up with a lot of requests, and a lot of data, to work with.

Our core product offering is based on a simple idea: that individuals who have demonstrated interest in your product and offerings are more likely to convert down the line than those who haven’t. Thus, investment in retargeting—serving ads to users who have already visited your site or interacted with your brand—will deliver higher returns than other methods of targeted marketing.

But while the idea is simple, the technology behind it can get very complicated very quickly. Our product operates through real-time bidding (RTB), a media marketplace that relies on machine learning to make millions of auctions for individual ad impressions every second. When you’re operating with RTB, you quickly realize that the technology is latency bound. In other words, the speed at which we can operate is physically constrained by the time it takes for computers and networks to send signals back and forth.

Everything we do is intended to be in real time in the strictest sense of the word. Our platform processes over 60 billion bid requests per day, and each one of these requests must be responded to within 100 milliseconds or less, no matter where you are in the world.

There’s no easy way around this problem—physics simply gets in the way. Light in fiber moves at 200,000 km/second. So a ray of light going between Paris and New York will take 60 milliseconds or more to travel round-trip. Unfortunately, we only have 100 milliseconds to bid on ad impressions for our advertisers. This means that a majority of that time would be lost to network latency. It’s just not fast enough for the number of bid requests we receive and process daily.

When we were a small startup, we made the decision to invest in product and innovation rather than going around the world, setting up data centers or securing bandwidth contracts to solve for the latency problem. This is when we first turned to AWS Cloud Services. We used their platform to quickly scale globally so we could spend our time focusing on our core product, and how to make it work best for advertisers.

The next challenge we came upon was an issue of storage. Simply put, we were collecting a lot of data very quickly, and needed a storage solution that was easily accessible at the speed we demanded. We needed a globally scaled database that could answer 1 million requests per second, that wouldn’t be slowed or hindered by the amount of data we were storing or how often we were querying. That’s when we turned to DynamoDB—and the 1 million requests per second that we’re now processing are each returned in 5 milliseconds or less, even now when we’re storing over half a trillion objects in DynamoDB.

Of course, as our company continues to grow globally, just having storage for our data is not enough. We also need to make sure that all our teams can access this data and use it. We’re currently storing over 8PB of data in our Amazon S3 buckets, and over 17 million files each month. Unlike many other industries, however, in ad tech we have to very frequently access this data to generate our Machine Learning models or provide analytics for our users. Ultimately, this means that our own infrastructure, machine learning jobs, map reduce tasks, etc. generate over 10B requests each month on our buckets.

We’re always looking at new technologies and innovations to help manage our dataset and allow us to operate more efficiently. By partnering with Amazon AWS, we’ve been given incredible leeway to focus on our product, without worrying about building and maintaining the necessary infrastructure to support a business like ours.

Want to learn more about Engineering and innovation at AdRoll? Check out our careers page.