October 10, 2013

JBA, based in Melbourne, Australia, is a customer-centric digital consultancy that specializes in developing customer understanding, providing experience optimization, behavioral targeting, and multichannel conversion. Their main customers are multi-channel retailers with eCommerce operations that want to gain deeper insights on their customers (such as reasons for shopping cart abandonment and retargeting). JBA uses Riak as a core part of this behavioral analysis and remarketing tool.

JBA started developing their behavioral analysis products 18 months ago and Riak has been in production since the beginning. When they first developed their flagship tool, they needed a key/value database to easily store all the user behavior data. On top of that, they needed a system that would scale easily, had Python integration for data analysis, would work well with other systems already in their stack, and was operationally simple for their small team. They assessed Riak, Cassandra, DynamoDB and MongoDB, but decided Riak was a better fit for their needs. Riak’s Python client library made it easy to work with, it’s built for scale, their operations team can easily manage the cluster using Riak’s command line tools, and they could even run it in AWS (as they were already using AWS heavily).

JBA currently has ten nodes in their cluster, all running on smaller Amazon instances. The ability to run on low-powered instances and simply scale up as needed versus having fewer high-powered instances has been vital to them. Since they primarily deal with online retailers, JBA can scale up to account for holiday sales cycles or new product releases and then scale back down. This flexibility helps to manage their costs.

They store over 10 million objects in Riak, with each object representing a customer state or a shopping cart. “We never have to worry about how much we’re storing because we can just scale out to cope with capacity issues,” said Matt Black, Senior Developer at JBA. “Riak gives us the ability to both store a lot of data but also look at objects in isolation. This is perfect for us because we rarely look at the whole data set in aggregate; we’re more interested in the state of individual users.”

JBA is also evaluating where else they can use Riak within the company, especially as they expand their behavioral analysis tools. They are firm believers in using the right tool for the job and currently also use MySQL for structured data, Hadoop for large scale MapReduce, and RabbitMQ for messaging. “Riak has done the job we set out to do. We’ve been very happy with it and we’re looking for more ways to integrate Riak into our business,” said JBA CTO, Andrew Fisher.

For more information about JBA, visit their site at www.jbadigital.com/