Search Marketing Leader Eases Infrastructure Growing Pains with GoGrid
Based in Sydney, Australia, Excite Digital Media (Excite) delivers search engine marketing (SEM) services to a global clientele. The company helps search engine providers, advertising networks, and publishers reach targeted audiences with banner and in-text ads and sponsored XML feeds. By working with Excite, online publishers gain access to the high-quality, targeted ads they need to drive click-throughs and revenue. The company’s proven ability to optimize targeting has driven rapid growth in the number of websites it serves. GoGrid is helping Excite keep pace—without the capital expense drain associated with purchasing hardware.
“My technology team helps Excite stay ahead of the competition by continually delivering feature innovations that make SEM easier for advertisers and publishers,” says Evan Balafas, chief executive officer for Excite. “Smooth operations are just as important as innovation. That’s where we look to GoGrid. GoGrid hosts our infrastructure and keeps it running smoothly all of the time.”
A More Standardized Infrastructure
Excite tried a number of infrastructure strategies before moving to GoGrid. It housed some of its infrastructure at its own offices. Several servers and databases resided at a co-location facility. The company even turned to an infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) provider to host some solutions and data. But as the company grew, its informal approach had several drawbacks.
“Our infrastructure decision-making was a little decentralized, which has some advantages in terms of agility and experimentation,” says Balafas. “Managing an ad hoc infrastructure can be inefficient, however. Just keeping up with hardware purchases using a piecemeal approach is challenging, but we didn’t want to get locked in to a proprietary cloud environment. At the same time, we wanted to limit the amount of capital devoted to hardware. We were going in two directions. It was time to settle on a consistent infrastructure strategy.”
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Faced with the choice of bringing its infrastructure entirely in-house or using IaaS, Excite quickly settled on moving to the cloud. The Excite team felt that acquiring and managing hardware presented an unnecessary capital and human resources burden, so the team focused on finding the right IaaS provider. Already using one of the largest IaaS providers on a small scale, the team was familiar with cloud computing capabilities and environments. GoGrid attracted the team’s attention for its ability to accommodate a variety of approaches and the many international points of presence offered by the GoGrid Content Delivery Network (CDN).
“GoGrid’s hybrid architecture, where you can use both virtualized cloud servers and dedicated machines, is very flexible,” explains Balafas. “It lets us use the database technology we prefer and the approaches to data management that we find effective. The provider we used in the past offered only elastic compute nodes, and we sacrificed a lot of control.”
Since turning to GoGrid, Balafas has identified an additional service advantage. “We’re in close contact with our account and support teams,” he adds. “The response we get to questions and issues is fast. I feel that the GoGrid team has our back, and they understand how vital it is for us not to worry about our infrastructure.”
An International Hub
The Excite infrastructure on GoGrid serves as a hub for the complex interactions among publishers, distribution partners, and advertising networks that are the essence of the company’s services. Cloud servers process the queries that connect web traffic with targeted ads. Dedicated hardware runs the databases that help optimize targeting and keep track of publishers’ accounts. Load balancers spread traffic across servers to drive performance. Excite also maintains a staging environment on GoGrid to test its innovations. GoGrid’s proximity to the main data centers for Yahoo! and Ask.com, two of Excite’s key distribution partners, helps reduce the risk of latency. The GoGrid CDN, which includes global points of presence, provides a further performance boost.
Fewer Growth Pains
Excite operates in the space between advertising networks and publishers. If its infrastructure breaks down or it runs out of bandwidth, business suffers. And given that the company is expanding rapidly, Excite needs to know that its growth will not outstrip its bandwidth. GoGrid supports the company’s growth by making it easy to add capacity.
“With GoGrid, you can add and remove cloud servers in minutes,” says Balafas. “We definitely do more adding than subtracting, but our traffic is bursty. GoGrid scales to meet our needs. We’ve never experienced running out of space. We just grow and grow—without worrying about hardware. When you operate your own hardware, planning is a constant concern. It’s great to look at our growth projections without having to figure out where I’m going to source all that hardware.”
Focus on the Business
The combination of service, flexibility, and responsiveness that Excite gets from GoGrid has a tangible impact throughout the business. Rather than spending time planning hardware needs months in advance, the company’s IT team can devote its energy to developing software innovations that will keep fueling growth. Just as important, Excite isn’t tying up capital in hardware. Instead, it has more to invest in direct contributors to growth, such as hiring developers who can spur innovation or sales resources to attract and serve new clients.
“Time and resources that go into infrastructure and maintenance aren’t available for feature development,” says Balafas. “In your best-run data center, you have highly skilled people who spend most of their time making sure all the lights are green. We let GoGrid do that for us, and they do a great job. The performance is there along with service and reliability. Our team is able to spend almost 100 percent of its time adding value to our services.”
Using GoGrid, Excite Digital Media has been able to:
- Focus more time and energy on innovation
- Grow rapidly without investing in hardware
- Devote more capital to developing new features and winning new customers
- Take advantage of a reliable, flexible, high-performance infrastructure
“In your best-run data center, you have highly skilled people who spend most of their time making sure all the lights are green. We let GoGrid do that for us, and they do a great job. The performance is there along with service and reliability.”
– Evan Balafas, CEO
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