Editor’s note: We’re hearing here how martech provider Wunderkind easily met the scaling demands of their growing customer base on multiple use cases with Cloud Bigtable and other Google Cloud data solutions.
Wunderkind is a performance marketing channel and we mostly have two kinds of customers: online retailers, and publishers like Gizmodo Media Group, Reader’s Digest, The New York Post and more. We help retailers boost their e-commerce revenue through real-time messaging solutions designed for email, SMS, onsite, and advertising. Brands want to provide a one-to-one experience to more of their customers, and we use our extensive history with best practices in email marketing and technology to help brands reach more customers through targeted messaging and personalized shopping experiences. With publishers, it’s a different value proposition, we use the same platform to provide a non disruptive and personalized ad experience for their website. For example, if you are on their site and then you left, we might show an ad tailored to you when you come back later – depending on the campaign.
After running into limitations with our legacy database system, we turned to Cloud Bigtable and Google Cloud, which helped us be more flexible and easily scale for high traffic demand – which can be a stable 40,000 requests per second, and meet the needs of our growing number of data use cases.
Three different databases power our core product
In our core offering, companies send us user events from their websites. We store these events and later decide (using our secret sauce) if and how to reach out to those users on behalf of our customers. Because many of our customers are retailers, Black Friday and Cyber Monday are big traffic days for us as. On such days, we can get 31 billion events, sometimes as many as 200K events per second. We show 1.6 billion impressions that have seen close to 1 billion pageviews. And at the end of all this, we securely send about 100 million emails. We noticed the same thing for election time; traffic reached the same high volume. We need scalable solutions to support this level of traffic as well as the elasticity to let us pay only for what we use, and that’s where Google Cloud comes in.
So how does this work? Our externally facing APIs, which are running on Google Kubernetes Engine, receive those user events—up to hundreds of thousand per second. All the components in our architecture need to be able to handle this demand. So from our APIs, those events go to Pub/Sub, Dataflow and from there they are written to Bigtable and BigQuery, Google Cloud’s serverless, and highly scalable data warehouse. This business user activity data underpins almost all our products. Events can be things like product views or additions to shopping carts. When we store this data in Bigtable, we use a combination of email address and the customer ID as the Bigtable key and we record the event details in that record.
What do we do with this information next? It’s important to mention that we also mark the last time we received an event about a user in Memorystore for Redis, Google Cloud’s fully managed Redis service. This is important because we have another service that is periodically checking Memorystore for users that have not been active for a campaign-specific period of time (it can be 30 minutes, for example), then deciding whether to reach out to them.
How we decide when we reach out is an intelligent part of our product offering, based on the channel, message, product, etc. When we do reach out, we use Memorystore for Redis as a rate limiter or token bucket. In order not to overwhelm the email or texting providers we send API requests to, we throttle those requests using Memorystore. (We prefer to preemptively throttle the outgoing API requests as opposed to handling errors later.)
When we do reach out, often we will need details for a specific product—let’s say if the website belongs to a retailer. We usually get that information from the retailer through various channels and we store product information in Cloud SQL for MySQL. We pull that information when we need to send an email with product information, and we use Memorystore for Redis to cache that information, since many of the products are repeatedly called. Our Cloud SQL instance has 16 vCPUs, 60GBs of memory and 0.5TB of disk space and when we perform those product information updates, we have about a thousand write transactions per second. We are also in the process of migrating some tables from a self managed MySQL instance, and we keep those tables synchronized with Cloud SQL using Datastream.
Our user history database was originally stored in AWS DynamoDB, but we were running into problems with how they structured the data, and we’d often get hot shards but with no way to determine how or why. That led to our decision to migrate to Bigtable. We set up the migration first by writing the data to two locations from Pub/Sub, performed some backfill of data until that was up and running, and then started working on the reading. We performed this over a few short months, then switched everything to Bigtable.
So, as mentioned, we are using Bigtable for multiple databases. The instance that stores our user events has about 30 TB with about 50 nodes.
A second use case for Bigtable is for user profile management, where we track, for example, user attributes based on subscription activity, whether they’ve opted in or out of various lists, and where we apply list-specific rules that determine which targeted emails we send out to users.
Our very own URL shortener
Our third use case for Bigtable is our URL shortener. When our customers build out campaigns and choose a URL, we append tracking information to the query string of the URLs and they become long. Many times, we are sending them via SMS texts, so the URLs need to be short. We originally used an external solution, but made the determination that they couldn’t support our future demands. Our calls tend to be very bursty in nature, and we needed to plan for a future state of supporting higher throughput. We use a separate table in Bigtable for this shortened URL. We generate the short slug that is 62 bit-encoded and use it as the rowkey. We use the long slug as a Protobuf-encoded data structure in one of the row cells and we also have a cell for counting how many times it was used. We use Bigtable’s atomic increment to increase that counter to track how many times the short slug was used.
When the user receives a text message on their phone, they click the short URL, which goes through to us, and we expand it to the long slug (from Bigtable) and redirect them to the appropriate site location. Obviously, for the URL shortener use case, we need to make the conversion very quickly. Bigtable’s low latency helps us meet that demand and we can scale it up to meet higher throughput demands.
Meeting the future with Google Cloud
Our business has grown considerably, and as we keep signing up new clients, we need to scale up accordingly, and Bigtable has met our scaling demands easily. With Bigtable and other Google Cloud products powering our data architecture, we’ve met the demand of incredibly high traffic days in the last year, including Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Traffic for these events went much higher than expected, and Bigtable was there, helping us easily scale on demand.
We are working on leveraging a more cloud native approach and using Google Cloud managed services like GKE, Dataflow, pub/sub, Cloud SQL , Memorystore, BigQuery and more. Google has those 1st party products and we don’t see the value in rolling out or self managing such solutions ourselves..
Thanks to Google Cloud, we now have reliable and flexible data solutions that will help us meet the needs of our growing customer base, and delight their users with fast, responsive, personalized shopping messaging and experiences.