Connekt: Activating smarter TV experiences audiences love

About Connekt

Connekt activates smarter TV experiences audiences love. Connekt’s patented, AI-driven platform has powered millions of smart TV ad, content and commerce experiences for partners including LG, Sony, Nielsen, ABC, CBS, Showtime, each of the agency holding companies, and dozens of top brands, like Chipotle, Eli Lilly, P&G, and Target. Connekt’s partners use its platform-based SaaS solutions to make their TV investments more targeted, engaging, transactable and measurable. Connekt is a private company headquartered in San Francisco with offices in Denver and New York. For more information, visit www.connekt.com.

Industries: Technology
Location: United States

Connekt reduced its monthly cloud infrastructure costs by 75% by migrating to Google Cloud Platform services such as App Engine, Compute Engine, and BigQuery.

Google Cloud Results

  • Reduces monthly cloud infrastructure costs by 75%
  • Consolidates 173 virtual machine instances to 2
  • Gains approximately 15 hours/week back to focus on key innovations

Audience connection rate increased from 75% to 90%

Imagine making it possible for live television viewing audiences to check out what brand of tennis racket Serena Williams is using during any given match and where to buy it? Or, when they’re watching college football, and a pizza ad comes on, being able to initiate an order through the television remote or Google Home device, in a moment of heightened awareness. Or, enabling recipes-on-demand from a top cooking show, and then making it possible for TV shoppers to fill a cart with the press of a button and get those ingredients delivered? Imagine the power. Imagine the ROI.

Stop imagining. You are ready. Those are the types of smarter TV experiences audiences love and Connekt makes possible for its partners every day.

Initially, Connekt used a colocation data center to support its high-volume/high-availability platform. But the $3 million annual capital expenditure became cost-prohibitive. In addition, Connekt needed a sizable IT staff to keep the data center running smoothly.

In November 2016, Connekt migrated to a public cloud infrastructure, reducing its network operating costs to about $500,000 annually. Nonetheless, high monthly service bills along with the provider’s lack of autoscaling capabilities at the time proved unsatisfactory. After four months with that provider, Connekt switched its entire infrastructure to Google Cloud Platform (GCP), attracted to the efficiencies GCP offers in autoscaling as well as the significant cost savings it could provide.

“By moving to Google Cloud Platform we’re saving about $200,000 a year, or 75% of what we spent annually on infrastructure costs.”

David Rudnick, Co-founder & CTO, Connekt

Since early 2017, Connekt has been leveraging GCP services that include App Engine for its development environment; Compute Engine for virtual machine instances; BigQuery as its analytics data warehouse, which integrates with Google Analytics 360 and other data sources; and Google Data Studio to share performance data via reports with Connekt customers. The company is also beginning to shift its production environment to Google Kubernetes Engine (GKE) to more evenly scale and distribute viewer engagement spikes.

Saving 75% a year

“What happens on TV isn’t predictable, and we needed a cloud infrastructure that would enable us to scale easily and affordably,” says David Rudnick, Co-founder and Chief Technology Officer for Connekt. “By moving to Google Cloud Platform, we’re saving about $200,000 a year, or 75% of what we spent annually on infrastructure costs. Our old monthly bills were as much as $49,000. With GCP, our biggest monthly bill has been $12,000.”

“With Google Cloud Platform autoscaling, we were able to go from 173 virtual machine instances to only 2. And App Engine allowed us to rebuild our environment rapidly.”

Jim McCombs, VP, Technology Solutions, Connekt

In particular, the autoscaling capabilities of App Engine and Compute Engine are enabling Connekt to significantly reduce its infrastructure costs. “We don’t have to build out and pay for a lot of capacity, whether we end up needing it or not,” says Jim McCombs, VP, Technology Solutions at Connekt. When Connekt migrated from the colocation data center to its first cloud provider, it created one virtual machine instance for each hardware server it had been using, to help ensure it would have the capacity it needed. “With Google Cloud Platform autoscaling, we were able to go from 173 virtual machine instances to only 2,” Jim says. “And App Engine allowed us to rebuild our environment rapidly.”

The substantial cost savings have helped Connekt in several ways. “With the money GCP is saving us, we were able to hire a data scientist to help us build out our machine learning capabilities,” Jim says. “We’ve also been able to invest in more exotic data sources to further enhance our AI and machine learning efforts, which we couldn’t have afforded otherwise.”

Spinning up as needed

Currently, Connekt ingests about 102GB a day of data from its various pipelines. Cloud Pub/Sub ingests the event streams and sends them to Cloud Dataflow for processing and BigQuery for analysis. The data flows occur between 8 and 12 times a day and last from 20 minutes to 1 hour. “Because our data flows are so cyclical, we’re starting to run them through GKE. The high degree of scalability means we can spin up nodes to handle an increase in data flow as needed and spin them back down when they’re not needed,” says Jim.

“By leveraging Google Kubernetes Engine to more evenly scale and distribute the flood of viewer interactions as they happen, we’ve increased the audience connection and completion rate from 75% to 90%.”

Jim McCombs, VP, Technology Solutions, Connekt

Connekt is currently containerizing its production platform on a GKE environment, because of the valleys and peaks that occur daily in its data streams. The company delivers its service based on what’s happening on TV at any given moment.

“If someone is just watching a show, they’re ‘in the valley’,” says Jim. “They’re usually not interacting with our content much, except in some cases, like the cooking show recipe. But when the commercials come on, suddenly viewers are in the ‘peaks,’ because a lot of what we do delivers engagement tied to advertising. By leveraging Google Kubernetes Engine to more evenly scale and distribute the flood of viewer interactions as they happen, we’ve increased the audience connection and completion rate from 75% to 90%.”

Connekt’s implementation of GKE also provides an increased level of always on instances without incurring additional hourly costs. As a result, its platform is better prepared for spikes in data and is reducing costs associated with missed engagement opportunities. “Instead of keeping one or two App Engine instances at the ready, we’re now keeping 10 to 20 instances at the ready with GKE, and at a consistent pricing model,” says Jim.

Gaining time back to focus on key innovations

Fully managed GCP services have enabled Connekt to dramatically reduce the time spent on mundane operational tasks to focus on key innovations. “When we were running our own data center, we had an IT staff of 16 people,” says Jim. “With GCP, we were able to reassign people to other roles and did not need to fill open IT positions. I’m the only IT person on staff and was able to gain approximately 15 hours a week back. I manage the entire system, and I only need to do it a few hours a week.”

Developing a strong ML foundation

Until recently, the majority of Connekt’s machine learning work has revolved around statistical modeling. Having hired a data scientist, the company is upping its efforts to gain even more meaningful, predictive insights from its data streams, thereby delivering greater value to customers who depend on its platform to make TV smarter and more effective, so they can achieve a higher ROI. “With its strength in machine learning, Google is the company we needed to help us drive our efforts in that area,” says David. “We’ve put together a collection of great foundational Google APIs in machine learning which allows us to focus on innovative ML and APIs specific to our needs.”

Connekt is also leveraging Google Cloud machine learning solutions, with a native, fully managed TensorFlow implementation for deep learning. Google is the original developer behind TensorFlow, an open source machine learning framework.

Proactively complying with GDPR

GCP security is integrated throughout the platform and the Google network, which offers peace of mind, especially since Connekt revenues come from the software it runs on GCP.

“Google has also proactively kept us up to date on GDPR,” David says, referring to the European privacy regulation that went into effect in May 2018. “We run commerce on our platform, so we have to comply with privacy regulations. Google helped us figure out what we needed to do to comply with GDPR.”

Helping small companies get big

Google sales and support teams have showed a genuine interest in helping Connekt grow. “Our previous cloud infrastructure provider didn’t give us the attention we need,” says David. “Google gives a rapidly growing company like us precisely what need to win, and their service and attention is phenomenal. We’re already punching above our weight and on a solid path for growth and success.”

Playing a key role in success

Advertisers find it increasingly difficult to reach audiences on TV. Connekt is gaining traction by helping brands achieve greater engagement from their existing TV ads as well as providing them with new opportunities to target viewers. “We’re activating in-content sponsorships that are really cool for our partners in ways that audiences don’t see as intrusive but as an invitation to participate,” says David. For example, there’s a sports tradition in which, after a meaningful win, an athlete playfully dumps a cooler full of a sports drink on the coach’s head. When such a moment occurs, the Connekt platform, because it’s able to identify products within content in real time, could deliver a relevant moment ad in that televised moment.

“Google Cloud Platform is playing an important part in our success,” Jim says. “Without Google App Engine, we wouldn’t have become profitable 18 months after launching. Without GKE, we wouldn’t be able to scale so easily and affordably. And without BigQuery, we wouldn’t have the insights we need to be able to grow our business.”

About Connekt

Connekt activates smarter TV experiences audiences love. Connekt’s patented, AI-driven platform has powered millions of smart TV ad, content and commerce experiences for partners including LG, Sony, Nielsen, ABC, CBS, Showtime, each of the agency holding companies, and dozens of top brands, like Chipotle, Eli Lilly, P&G, and Target. Connekt’s partners use its platform-based SaaS solutions to make their TV investments more targeted, engaging, transactable and measurable. Connekt is a private company headquartered in San Francisco with offices in Denver and New York. For more information, visit www.connekt.com.

Industries: Technology
Location: United States
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Try Kubernetes Engine, BigQuery, and other Cloud Platform products with $300 in free credit and 12 months.

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