Cloud Computing Case Study
SundaySky Delivers Smarter Video in the Cloud (Cont'd)
We are not your average hosting customer. We are very demanding, very specific about our needs. AT&T Cloud Architect is able to accommodate us just fine.”
- Dror Harel, Vice President of Professional Services and Operations, SundaySky
Flexible, highly reliable, dedicated computing capacity for generating personalized video using real-time data
AT&T Cloud Architect provides scalable hosting solution
Ability to quickly adjust compute capacity to match demand, and maintain targeted response times
SundaySky, the creator of SmartVideo, helps customer-centric brands engage people with personalized, real-time video experiences at every step of the customer lifecycle. The SundaySky platform generates hundreds of thousands of SmartVideos daily, powering customer acquisition, support, growth and loyalty initiatives for leaders in e-commerce, telecommunications, insurance, banking and travel. SundaySky customers have proven that SmartVideo viewers are more engaged, profitable and loyal, as program performance is measurable and optimized for incremental impact on key business metrics. SundaySky is headquartered in New York City with offices in Tel Aviv and London.
The company’s SmartVideo platform is resource-intensive, requiring massive computing capacity to deliver video at high volumes in real time -- which can sometimes fluctuate widely. While traditional hardware-based hosting services provided dependable baseline capacity, SundaySky required alternative options for quickly scaling up, or scaling down computing power to accommodate ebbs and flows in customer needs.
To supplement its conventional dedicated-server cloud infrastructure, SundaySky now uses AT&T Cloud Architect to support select video applications that may have variable volume or demand additional provisions for security and reliability. With AT&T Cloud Architect, SundaySky can go online and turn up server capacity for its video generation software in about an hour, as needed.
Personalized Video, Created on the Spot
When SundaySky representatives demonstrate the company’s unique personalized video creation technology, the reaction of major marketers is almost always the same. “They invariably say, ‘Wow, I didn't know that's possible’" says Dror Harel, Vice President of Professional Services and Operations for SundaySky.
With the AT&T Cloud Architect, we saw a way to turn up new capacity in about an hour if need be, with more flexible commitment terms -- all as the volume demands.”
- Dror Harel, Vice President of Professional Services and Operations, SundaySky
The company is offering an entirely new way to merge the visual impact of video with the proven appeal of data-driven personalized communications. While companies have long recognized the special power of video -- for everything from instruction to product marketing and promotion — it has always been a static medium. You created a video, usually at significant cost, and then played it over and over again to all comers.
But back in 2011, the founders of SundaySky had a different idea. What if it were possible to create a personalized video on the fly for each viewer, based on customer profile, historical and situational data attributes? And what if the process was automated so it could be done in real time, at low cost? That is exactly what SundaySky brought to market with its SmartVideo platform.
“We developed a software-based video generation engine that creates a unique video for each individual viewer in real time, and immediately delivers it to the viewer,” said Harel. “The video is generated on the fly based on a wide range of data and logic parameters, covering any scenario that the data supports. One viewer’s video may be 90 seconds long, while another’s is two minutes long.
SundaySky’s approach involves building a video from literally thousands of discrete sound and visual elements, ranging from pre-recorded phrases, words, or even parts of words, to a full spectrum of live footage, graphics, texts and audio elements. “When a viewer clicks on a video, the logic in our platform immediately makes a whole range of decisions about what to include and how to assemble it -- precisely for that viewer,” said Harel.
A Wide Range of Applications
SundaySky’s SmartVideo platform has found ready acceptance in a wide range of applications for leading marketers worldwide thanks to its ability to deliver an effective and engaging customer experience at relatively low cost. To date, SundaySky has generated and deliver more than 160 million personalized videos for large brands on three continents.
“Customers utilize this technology for onboarding new customers, for avoiding churn, for conducting promotions, and for pre-roll ads,” said Harel. “We serve many industries including retail, telecommunications, travel, insurance and healthcare. It’s remarkably versatile.”
In a typical customer service application, for example, a cable TV provider might send all new subscribers a special email with their first bill, which includes a link to a video to step the customer through their actual bill. This includes personalized information of the relevant amounts, dates, packages, promotions and services. SundaySky customers report that these personalized video bills can reduce the number of billing-related calls to the customer service contact center by 20 percent.
What’s more, the end viewers seem to appreciate the visual help. “We routinely allow viewers to send comments to the customer via surveys within the videos, and 80 to 90 percent of viewers cite their experience as favorable, said Harel.
In other cases, a marketer might use SmartVideo to promote new offers, or recommend better solutions to new customers. E-commerce companies are also employing SmartVideo to create fully personalized pre-roll ads based on past purchases, previous searches, loyalty points and a wide range of other contextual data.
An added benefit of the SundaySky solution is the ability to provide detailed metrics to customers. “Our process automatically tracks exactly what happens on each video view,” said Harel. “Did the viewer watch all the way through? When did he stop viewing? Did he click through to pay the bill or buy a new product? Better still, we can set up tests that allow the customer to determine whether a male or female voice is more effective or which way of presenting an offer generates better results. The medium provides a great deal of useful intelligence to marketers.”
Keeping the Video Flowing
Clearly generating many thousands of videos per hour requires substantial computing horsepower. “For more conventional server applications, you might be talking about supporting something like 1,000 transactions per second,” said Harel. “But with our engine, even the most powerful servers can support only a small fraction of these, which shows how intensive our requirements are. Just one of our ‘requests’ involves a huge amount of capacity.”
SundaySky’s business model is based on delivering completed video views, so the company is very careful to assure that there is adequate computing capacity for receiving requests and delivering on them. The company uses a combination of dedicated, hardware-based hosting, as well as virtualized server environments to provide diversity and to support different client needs. “If we don’t deliver, we don’t get paid,” said Harel.
About a year ago, Harel and his team looked into the AT&T Cloud Architect service as a way of supplementing the existing computing infrastructure, especially for clients that may have variable capacity needs, or unique security requirements. “While using dedicated physical servers in a traditional hosting solution can be cost-effective, the arrangement is not very flexible,” said Harel. “If I want to add capacity, it generally takes two to three weeks to deploy new servers. With the AT&T Cloud Architect, we saw a way to turn up new capacity in about an hour if need be, with more flexible commitment terms -- all as the volume demands."
Harel also notes that the AT&T Cloud Architect solution could accommodate certain security requirements, specifically when the application involves personal customer information. “I get the flexibility of fast provisioning, but also a measure of control and assurance that you only typically get in a dedicated server hosting environment. And if needed, I can go online and increase capacity.”
It was also important to SundaySky that AT&T Cloud Architect support its rather unique computing needs -- especially in terms of enterprise-grade reliability and high-volume output. “We are not your average hosting customer. We are very demanding, very specific about our needs,” said Harel. “AT&T Cloud Architect is able to accommodate us just fine.
“AT&T makes sure that we get the best solution out there. They work with us when we have an issue, and ensure we are best utilizing the Cloud Architect capabilities.”
For SundaySky, the foreseeable future is all about growth. In the past year, the company virtually doubled its staff, with every prospect of continuing on that trajectory.
According to Harel, one of the major initiatives at SundaySky is to build greater elasticity into its infrastructure in an automated fashion. The company can expand and contract its compute capacity at will, in response to customer requirements. “AT&T Cloud Architect will be a part of that. And as we grow, we will be also looking into AT&T content distribution network capabilities. AT&T will continue to be a part of our company’s growth.”