Emarsys: Building a real-time data and AI platform with Google Cloud

About Emarsys

Emarsys is one of the world's largest independent marketing platform companies, enabling truly personalized, one-to-one interactions between marketers and customers across all channels.

Industries: Technology
Location: EMEA

About Aliz

Aliz is a big data and machine learning Specialized Google partner with offices in Budapest and Singapore, helping companies to gain valuable insights, save costs, and fuel growth.

Emarsys used Cloud Pub/Sub, Cloud Dataflow, Cloud Bigtable, and BigQuery to build a scalable digital marketing platform incorporating real-time analytics and real-time AI models.

Google Cloud results

  • Stores data indefinitely without the need to pay for, configure, and maintain new hardware
  • Expands the scalability of its AI platform, while reducing costs by 70%, with Google Kubernetes Engine
  • Provides real-time predictions on more than 1.4 billion people, enabling clients to respond instantly to consumer behavior

Processed 250K events per second during Black Friday peak

With access to more data than ever before, companies have never been better positioned to adopt precision marketing methods and target the right customers at the right time. Emarsys, a digital marketing platform, enables its clients to collect, analyze, and act on a wide variety of data. From websites to mobile apps to emails, Emarsys’ customers can handle data from all its digital channels on a single, easy-to-use platform. Emarsys also makes sure that customers receive the highest quality data possible, making for smarter decisions and better business practices.

“We were close to the limits of our internal data warehouse, scalability-wise. We didn’t want to get to the point where we’d have to delete data or cancel projects. In Google Cloud we saw a platform that could scale with our ambitions and be optimized for AI and real-time solutions.”

Levente Otti, Head of Data, Emarsys

Since launching as an email solutions provider in 2000, Emarsys has grown into the world’s largest independent digital marketing platform, with more than 2,500 clients worldwide and reaching more than 1.4 billion people. By 2016, the company felt that its existing data warehouse platform was close to its limits, affecting not just day-to-day operations but also important strategic goals.

“We were close to the limits of our internal data warehouse, scalability-wise. We didn’t want to get to the point where we’d have to delete data or cancel projects,” says Levente Otti, Head of Data at Emarsys. “In Google Cloud, we saw a platform that could scale with our ambitions and be optimized for AI and real-time solutions.”

Minimal maintenance, unlimited scale with Google Cloud

Digital marketing is a highly competitive environment. Emarsys works alongside big players with a huge market share on the one hand and smaller, specialist companies on the other. It has thrived by successfully combining the all-inclusive offerings of the former with the agility of the latter, constantly looking for ways to innovate and improve. In recent years, the company had started to feel that the ability to handle large quantities of data was no longer enough. The next challenge was speed. “We truly believe that in the future, everything will be done in real time, including data processing, analytics, and AI predictive models,” Levente says.

At the start of 2016, Emarsys’ existing data warehouse was a software-as-a-service solution running on-premises, which required hardware and software maintenance in order to keep up with the company’s growing appetite for data-heavy use cases such as prediction and analytics. The existing platform had proven its worth processing large amounts of data in batches, but its real-time capabilities were limited. Moreover, Emarsys had begun to experiment with AI technology, but found that its data warehouse couldn’t scale to accommodate some of the more resource-intensive processes, such as training the predictive models. The company decided that it needed a new, cloud-based data platform.

After evaluating some of the leading cloud providers, Emarsys chose Google Cloud for its mature AI capabilities and its ease of use. “With the other solutions, we still had to rent virtual machines and hardware and be responsible for maintenance. At the time, Google Cloud was the only provider that could take that management overhead away from us, while keeping customers accounted for on every query level,” Levente says.

To implement its new data platform, Emarsys teamed up with Google Cloud Partner Aliz. Over a series of meetings, workshops, and architecture reviews, Aliz helped Emarsys navigate the Google Cloud ecosystem to find the right products for the solution it was looking for. “Aliz really helped us set off in the right direction,” explains Levente.

“With Google BigQuery, we can run queries which process terabytes of data, in seconds. We can also develop our own user-defined functions, incorporating Bayesian statistics into our predictive algorithms. That means we can take into account historical data, resulting in much more accurate predictions in a scalable way within seconds.”

Levente Otti, Head of Data, Emarsys

Emarsys’ new data platform would actually be two: one platform for batch processing data and one for real-time analysis and interactions. Firstly, a proprietary publishing component gathered all the data points from Emarsys’ various channels including the website, mobile, emails, and custom events. With Cloud Pub/Sub and Cloud Dataflow, Emarsys transported and processed the data into BigQuery, which allows for further work and reviews that take into account errors or delayed events. After this, the data was exported to the main batch processing platform, which ran on BigQuery. For the real-time analytics, Emarsys used Cloud Bigtable to access data and Cloud Dataflow to pipeline it into the real-time platform, which could communicate with AI components or interaction components via an API to deliver real-time interactions with customers.

On top of the overall data infrastructure, Emarsys built a new AI platform with Google Cloud components. Training the predictive models had been an issue in the past due to the large number of resources required, so Emarsys chose to use Google Kubernetes Engine clusters, which can scale up and down on demand, without the need for hardware configuration or management. The trained models were held securely in Cloud Storage. From here, they were integrated with BigQuery for power and flexibility, allowing Emarsys to improve not just the speed of its AI predictions but also the quality.

“With Google BigQuery, we can run queries which process terabytes of data, in seconds,” shares Levente. “We can also develop our own user-defined functions incorporating Bayesian statistics into our predictive algorithms. That means we can take into account historical data, resulting in much more accurate predictions in a scalable way within seconds.”

Real-time insight, long-term satisfaction

Google Cloud enabled Emarsys to build a scalable data and AI platform that delivers powerful, actionable insights in real time. According to Levente, the company wanted to spend less time managing overload and more time considering how it should handle data. An immediate result of the new platform has been that data is now available in a scalable way, without hardware additions and management.

“With Google Cloud, we’ve been able to build a truly real-time data platform. The norm used to be daily batch processing of data. Now, if an event happens, marketing actions can be executed within seconds, and customers can react immediately. That makes us very competitive in our market.”

Levente Otti, Head of Data, Emarsys

The clear and innovative pricing schemes of Google Cloud have also brought a new level of accountability to Emarsys’ costs in a way that wasn’t possible with its on-premises infrastructure. “Now that we only pay for what we use, we can assign costs to specific customers or queries, which has a huge impact on our pricing and product development strategies,” says Levente.

Thanks to the power of BigQuery and the scale at which it can handle data, Emarsys can now apply its analytics and AI tools to their full potential. “It’s very important to enable our clients to create the best possible experience for customers,” says Levente. At the same time, the company has cut its AI platform costs by 70% with Kubernetes while increasing scalability compared to the previous solution. The whole data platform was built to be scalable, and its first big test came during the retail peak of Black Friday, when it comfortably handled 250,000 events per second. “Perhaps the biggest impact on the business came with the real-time nature of the new platform,” says Levente.

“With Google Cloud, we’ve been able to build a truly real-time data platform,” he explains. “The norm used to be daily batch processing of data. Now, if an event happens, marketing actions can be executed within seconds, and customers can react immediately. That makes us very competitive in our market.”

Since implementing the new platform, Emarsys has continued to innovate with it and is about to release a new Real-Time Decision Framework, which will provide customers with even more real-time products and tools. The company continues to work with Aliz and Google Cloud, exploring other products such as Google BigQuery ML and TensorFlow to improve its AI processes. “We had a problem that we wanted to tackle now, and for us, Google Cloud was the best way of doing that,” says Levente. “But it was also about looking ahead. We felt that Google Cloud offered us the best way of future-proofing our platform.”

Emarsys data and AI platform
Emarsys data and AI platform

About Emarsys

Emarsys is one of the world's largest independent marketing platform companies, enabling truly personalized, one-to-one interactions between marketers and customers across all channels.

Industries: Technology
Location: EMEA

About Aliz

Aliz is a big data and machine learning Specialized Google partner with offices in Budapest and Singapore, helping companies to gain valuable insights, save costs, and fuel growth.