Now, imagine doing all of this within 100 milliseconds, and you know what it's like to run PubWise, a programmatic ad management platform. In just one-tenth of a second, the company allows ad buyers and sellers to carry out ultra-secure and transparent transactions. It processes nearly 500 million transactions every minute.
How does PubWise pull off such stunningly fast transactions on such an astoundingly large scale? The short answer is that it uses "a ton of network bandwidth and we make servers very hot," as Dwight Ringdahl, the company's CRO, puts it.
Keep reading for the longer answer as we unpack what PubWise's platform does and the role that Equinix plays in making it tick.
A new take on ad tech
The problem that PubWise solves is simple enough. Digital content owners want to sell ad space on their sites, and businesses want to place ads. PubWise provides an exchange that brings buyers and sellers together, allowing them to complete transactions in an automated, programmatic way.
In addition to serving as a place for ad space buyers and sellers to connect, PubWise also valides that both parties are legitimate, reviews the ad content that buyers want to display and ensures that the digital content that appears alongside sellers' ad space is relevant for the buyers' target audiences. The company's ultimate goal is ensuring that buyers and sellers of digital advertising space can connect quickly, reliably and efficiently, in a way that delivers maximum value for all stakeholders.
In addition, it aims to bring transparency to the programmatic advertising process by allowing ad space buyers to determine exactly how their cash was spent and what the impact was. If you know much about programmatic advertising, you know that's a big deal, because a lack of visibility into programmatic advertising decisions has traditionally hampered stakeholders' ability to optimize advertising outcomes.
A compute-intensive, network-intensive and engineering-intensive endeavor
Processing complex transactions in fractions of a second is no mean feat. To pull it off, PubWise relies on Equinix Metal, a networked bare-metal as-a service solution hosted in Equinix's global data centers.
Because Equinix data centers are connected to each other, as well as to external partners and providers, via dedicated direct network infrastructure, Equinix enables ultra-low latency data transfers – a key requirement for PubWise, and one that would be virtually impossible to meet using standard Internet infrastructure instead of dedicated network connections. "When you only have 100 milliseconds to do something complicated, you can't waste 20 or 30 milliseconds routing packets from one data center to another," Ringdahl says.
In addition, dedicated bare-metal servers give PubWise the compute power it needs to achieve highly reliable transactions. "We can't afford to have a noisy neighbor," Ringdahl explains, referring to the risk that multiple workloads running on a shared server or virtual machine might deprive PubWise of the compute capacity it needs to process transactions so rapidly. With Equinix, the company gets compute resources dedicated just to its transactions.
Maintaining the server and network performance required to sustain high transaction speeds can be challenging, too. Ringdahl says that PubWise benefits in this respect from engineering services that Equinix provides. "We outsource the whole IT platform," he explains. "Instead of having five or six 100,000-dollar employees on my staff to maintain my servers, I can just make a call to Equinix" when PubWise needs IT help.
All of the above means that Equinix helps PubWise achieve a level of performance that just wouldn't be possible in public cloud environments, where network bandwidth and latency are not as robust and where dedicated bare-metal servers options are more limited because they are not a major offering for public cloud providers.
The icing on the cake is that Equinix is able to provide these benefits at a lower total cost than PubWise would incur in the public cloud, according to Ringdahl. The company's data egress bill alone is about one-sixth what Ringdahl estimates it would be in a public cloud. Coupled with the fact that Equinix Metals on-demand consumption allows PubWise to spin servers up and down as needed – a feature that is particularly beneficial from a cost perspective, given that activity on the PubWise platform varies significantly during different seasons – low networking costs mean that Equinix allows PubWise to do what it does better, faster and cheaper.
How a seasoned technology veteran does his computing
Ringdahl recognizes value when he sees it. As a serial entrepreneur in the truest sense of the term, he has been around the block more than once, and he knows what it takes to run complex software efficiently at scale.
His career originated in the Air Force, where he worked on software to manage weapons systems and saw service during Desert Storm in the early 1990s. He went on to found a software development company that built real-time stock trading and billing systems. He then sold that business and launched a new venture that eventually turned into a social media platform.
That experience tipped him off to some of the problems in the digital advertising space, especially how difficult it was for content publishers to make money selling ad space. So he wrote an ad exchange platform application, called Zenovia, to bring buyers and sellers together more efficiently. PubWise purchased a license for that platform, a decision that ultimately led Ringdahl to decide to join the company in his current role.
Ringdahl's long experience in the tech industry means he has a strong perspective on what works and what doesn't from an infrastructure standpoint. In the past, operating the software platforms that powered his businesses required contracts with hardware vendors that exceeded $10 million. On top of that, Ringdahl employed armies of engineers to maintain all of his servers.
Switching to Equinix Metal allowed Ringdahl to cease paying tens of millions of dollars in hardware acquisition and management costs and instead rely on hardware sourced via an as-a-service model. Today, he has no major hardware acquisition costs, and he can support everything with a team of under a dozen engineers.
Conclusion: Democratizing technology
We think PubWise's story is cool because it shows off just how incredibly well software can perform when it's connected to the right infrastructure.
But what we also like is how PubWise highlights what Ringdahl calls "a democratized technology layer that everyone can use." What he means is that by taking advantage of bare-metal server instances and high-performance networks, companies like PubWise – which handles a lot of transactions, but is by no means a huge, hyperscaling tech company – are able to benefit from the same infrastructure technology as the world's largest companies
With a solution like Metal, Ringdahl says, "everyone can operate like they're Google."
That makes us proud, and we're so pleased we can help make outcomes like these possible for businesses big and small.
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