Now more than ever

Bill Odell, Aerospike Chief Marketing Officer Blog, Technology, Business

Digital transformation may have once been something discussed only in tech circles, but the pandemic has shown that the world has changed and everyone — from school children to doctors — need digital in order to live their lives.

Since the early weeks of the coronavirus, ecommerce demand spiked as never before, with millions ordering groceries, hand sanitizer, toilet paper and exercise equipment. When it became clear that we were living a new normal, the need for digital transformation was critical in all facets of our lives, whether it was the online education of school children, doctor’s visits via video chat or small businesses applying for online loans with their local banks.

But there is another, larger story here:This unprecedented stampede to online goods and services underscores what many have been touting for years: Digital transformation can’t wait. It must be done now if any company – no matter the industry or the size – wants to survive now and thrive in the future.

One of the problems is that although many companies are in the midst of some sort of digital transformation, many are still in the early – are only partly formed – stages. Various business needs, security concerns and capital expenditures and operating expenses have stymied more than one digital transformation initiative.

As the pandemic continues to wreak havoc on the world’s economy – and scientists predict others could be in our future – the question becomes: Can you afford to wait any longer?

Can any company afford to take a wait-and-see approach when it comes to its digital transformation? Consider that Wayfair, Amazon, DraftKings and Chewy are among the big winners during COVID-19, while the big losers are companies that don’t have robust online offerings like deep discounters TJX brands and Aldi’s, along with big names like JP Penney and Sears that have declared bankruptcy.

Recently, IDC did a survey in China that asked 32 CXOs in 10 industries about the value of IT and digital transformation in the battle against the coronavirus outbreak. The survey asked how it impacted corporate business and new digital transformation efforts after the pandemic.

The negative results:

  • A major drop in sales performance
  • Inability to resume production
  • Could not visit customers

The positive results:

  • A recognition of the value of digital transformation and information technology among all employees
  • Improved long-distance collaboration
  • A gain in online marketing and business development

There is no doubt that there are new challenges to be met. More than a dozen global companies announced in early March that they would miss their financial goals for the upcoming quarter because of the combined supply chain disruptions and declining consumer demand, Gartner reports.

“This is a wake-up call for organizations that have placed too much focus on daily operational needs at the expense of investing in digital business and long-term resilience,” says Sandy Shen, senior director analyst at Gartner. “Businesses that can shift technology capacity and investments to digital platforms will mitigate the impact of the outbreak and keep their companies running smoothly now, and over the long term.”

While there has been an unprecedented run on staples such as toilet paper and hand sanitizer, the pandemic is also shifting more consumers online for other goods and services. For example, Italy has seen a surge in online learning, while companies like Zoom have changed office meetings around the world. Telemedicine has blossomed as doctors consult with other medical personnel online, sharing X-rays or test results. Even gyms are offering virtual exercise classes for those who have found they like working out at home.

“Once the coronavirus passes, the enterprises that were unable to transform enough to rise to the needs of customers during the crisis will no longer be viable. Only the ones that are able to maintain their digital backbones to keep a laser focus on customer needs will remain,” writes Jason Bloomberg, founder and president of analyst firm Intellyx.

At a time when businesses need a greater ability to gather intelligence, make decisions and process large volumes of operational data in real time, solutions such as the recently introduced Aerospike Database 5 and Aerospike Cloud can help with the push toward digital.

Specifically, Aerospike Database 5 features multi-site clustering that uniquely combines strong consistency with support for large scale, globally distributed transactional applications that require very low latency. Aerospike Cloud is a family of software products and services that allow customers to compose their own database service, through components for deployment, orchestration, management, alerting and monitoring. 

Containing costs

Nearly three-fourths of global organizations reported that they worried their revenues would be adversely impacted in the next year if their digital transformation projects failed, and those cost estimates were before the pandemic.

Now, Microsoft founder Bill Gates says that he believes the COVID-19 will offer companies no choice but to continue to push digitally if they want to survive. Even when some social distancing restrictions are lifted, consumers are likely to still be fearful of being in large crowds and may still rely greatly on online goods and services, he says.

One company that has found a way to embrace digital and contain and reduce capital expenditures and operating expenses is Signal.

Signal is a leading SaaS provider of data onboarding and real-time identity resolution. Its technology platform empowers people-based marketers to enhance their customer experience by providing relevance across all channels, anytime and anywhere.

The company decided to replace its existing data store because it was expensive, unreliable, nonperforming and had large and unpredictable latency response and uptime. Such problems were affecting every element of its business processes and the bottom line. 

As issues and incidents continued to get more severe because of its unreliable data store, Signal turned to Aerospike.

Aerospike not only offered Signal a low total cost of ownership, high performance at scale and ease of scale overall, but Signal also saw these benefits:

  • Total cost of ownership reduction of 68 percent over three years, with savings in the millions of dollars
  • Server count slashed from 450 to 60
  • Performance improved 100x at the 99th percentile
  • Business processes executing in one-tenth the time, or better
  • More time to focus on strategic, forward-looking projects

“With Aerospike, we’ve now cleared the roadmap and we’re just focused on adding new functionality to our platform for our customers,” says Jason Yanowitz, EVP, Chief Technology Officer for Signal.

At Aerospike’s recent NextGen Now virtual summit, companies like Charles Schwab, PayPal, DBS Bank and Quantcast related similar stories of how they were also seeking improvements such as greater scalability and persistent memory, high availability, strong consistency, improved performance and lower costs. They all report they found their solutions with Aerospike. 

Optimal uptime

With the uncertainty of how the coronavirus will ultimately affect industries and individual businesses, more businesses will need as much reliability as possible in their digital business.

For companies like So-net Media Networks, that won’t be an issue as it has had eight years of uninterrupted service since it began using Aerospike.

The cutting-edge marketing and advertising technology company owned by Sony Network Communications uses Aerospike for its VALIS-Engine, AI/ML models and its Logicad demand-side platform for real-time bidding auctions, says Takahiro Yasuda, chief architect at So-net Media Networks.

“Our business has been continuously growing with Aerospike,” Yasuda says. “Our speed, scalability and stability are very well, and our hardware, operation and running costs are low.”

That consistent, long-running uptime provided by Aerospike has also paid off for AppNexus, a major advertising technology global powerhouse that was started a decade ago in a Manhattan apartment. AppNexus has used Aerospike since its beginning, says Timothy Smith, senior vice president and general manager of global technical infrastructure and operations for AppNexus.

Aerospike is one of the key operational systems core components of the AppNexus infrastructure, namely, the cookie store.  This cookie store now houses tens of billions of objects with millions of read/write operations per second spanning a half-dozen geographically distributed data centers.  

“We don’t view Aerospike as vendors.  There are very few companies we work with we give direct access to our servers. Aerospike was the first and still has access to this day. We trust their people. They’re very easy to work with,” Smith says.

Linear scalability

Companies must also consider that processing big data in real time for artificial intelligence, machine learning and the Internet of Things (IoT) poses significant infrastructure challenges.

Whether it’s for autonomous vehicles, connected devices or scientific research, legacy NoSQL solutions often struggle at hyperscale. Businesses must ensure that the performance does not degrade and performs the same – or linearly – no matter the number of additional servers that are added in order to handle the load.

With Aerospike, companies can easily add or remove nodes to adjust throughput or storage capacity with linear scalability, even while under production load. For those seeking scale readiness, TCO reduction and the DevOps load minimized, Aerospike offers the right solution.

One of those companies that needs scalability is The Trade Desk, an advertising technology platform. 

Matt Cochran, director of data engineering at The Trade Desk, says that the number of queries per second can be about 10 million, which requires the company to evaluate and decide for customers which ones are going to be the most effective for them.

“So, the read side of our platform is incredibly important for us to maintain that scale. What that leads to is challenges where we have to optimize our storage so that it’s ready for those requests,” Cochran says.

He says by using Aerospike, The Trade Desk has been able to put all the data onto one record, which can also be used for other cases besides the one that they’re working on in Cassandra. 

“I like Aerospike’s concept of their data storage in it gives us a lot of flexibility in how we approach organizing our data, how we approach using our data in different ways,” he says. “From an application point of view, it’s very flexible. It’s been very convenient to use in a lot of ways. And it also suggests new ideas to us, too.”

Some other examples of Aerospike’s ability to help companies reach their goals:

  • Wayfair. The company’s platform leverages Aerospike for customer scoring and segmentation, tracking events online, “listening” to customer activity for market decisions, onsite advertising and recommendation engines, says Ken Bakunas, NoSQL Data Architect. He adds that in the process of implementing Aerospike, Wayfair was able to cut its server footprint to one-eighth of what it had been, keeping up its commitment to superior customer service.
  • Quantcast. Kristi Tsukida, staff engineer at Quantcast, says that the ad tech company works on targeting ads in real time, but was limited by its legacy system that wasn’t flexible enough for the company to be able to change what features were being stored.and make better offerings to customers. With Aerospike, Quantcast is now able to “make more datasets available at bid time so that we can make better decisions about who to target ads to and which sites are valuable to different marketers.”
  • Charles Schwab. While mainframes are good at scaling, they come at a steep price, says Venkat Thamminana, vice president, portfolio management technology. Charles Schawb wanted to modernize its applications, and build faster, cheaper and highly scalable solutions, which they found was possible with Aerospike.

As the global pandemic wreaks havoc on businesses around the world, it’s no longer a matter of when – but how fast – companies can adopt real-time digital transformations that are key to their survival. Any waiting game may be the death knell for them.

Learn More

NextGen Now Virtual Summit '20

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    Bill Odell, Aerospike Chief Marketing Officer

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    Bill Odell has spent over 25 years in the trenches launching new products, building businesses and leading high performance marketing organizations. He is passionate about helping educate customers on how to apply new technology solutions that help drive transformative business outcomes. Bill has held executive positions at Cisco, Dell Software and SonicWall as well as multiple category-creating growth stage B2B technology companies.