OpenX bets future is serverless in move to Google Cloud Platform

OpenX goes serverless in move to GCP

Programmatic adtech company OpenX is moving its exchange entirely onto the Google Cloud Platform (GCP), making it the first major exchange to go completely serverless.

The move aims to help OpenX focus on growth areas like people-based marketing, video and connected TV.

To do this, OpenX chief executive officer Tim Cadogan told The Drum that the company needed to take a fresh look at its underlying technology infrastructure in order to make its programmatic offerings "more valuable" in 2019.

“For us to develop true people-based marketing product value proposition, we need a new infrastructure. We should move onto a public cloud to benefit from the speed, the scale, the sophistication, and to enable us to focus our efforts completely on new code and software development and not on maintaining and housekeeping, which is what we had about 25% of the tech team doing,” said Cadogan.

The restructure started last December when OpenX laid off 100 staffers in its engineering, product and technology departments.

Cadogan said some company restructuring was necessary to “make sure the teams are set up to use” the new capability, which is expected to be fully integrated by the end of this year’s second quarter.

The collaboration with GCP is for five years at $110m. Dallas Lawrence, chief brand and communications officer at OpenX, told The Drum that the move to the cloud costs less than running its own servers because of the company’s immense scale, but realizes that not all exchanges can afford the move.

“Lots of players would like to go into the cloud... but it's just too expensive for the smaller players to do it because they're not at scale... they’d become priced out of the market. They're in a really awful catch-22. They can't afford to get into it but they have to because, otherwise, they'll become irrelevant.

“We think this will set off a land grab race, and that this is the new benchmark of table stakes. You have to operate at speed, efficiency, closeness to the publisher and the demand-side of Google, and if you don't...you aren't going to be able to compete in the adtech space.”

OpenX believes a move to the cloud will improve its offerings in five ways: greater speed, scalability, global reach, future-proofing and people-based marketing.

According to Lawrence, OpenX will open new offices in Singapore and Australia in the first half of the year because it will have the ability to “turn on” those markets, instead of having to set up server farms in regional areas.

OpenX announced in June of last year it was opening a Singapore office. According the company, OpenX is currently in market in Singapore but has not physically opened an office, so moving to the cloud will hopefully scale up those efforts.

Other than the burden of needing to be physically close to servers in order to operate in a given market, OpenX chief technology officer Paul Ryan likened them to millstones.

“When you buy [servers], they're already out of date, and you're a generation or two behind after just three years. If you're buying at sub-scale volumes, you're not getting great deals on it either. In a sense, we're drafting on the buying power of Google as they expand their worldwide footprint and expand their service offerings,” Ryan told The Drum.

According to Lawrence, OpenX will begin rolling out people-based marketing products around the beginning of Q2, 2019.

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