ITV is the UK’s largest commercial broadcaster, entertaining and connecting with millions of people globally. When they set out to build a new B2B SaaS platform, they called on AWS experts The Scale Factory to bring agility and strong technical capability to the project.
ITV builds their video advertising platform with The Scale Factory and AWS
Planet V, ITV’s scaled programmatic addressable advertising platform, is the home for premium video advertising in the UK. It’s a marketplace where agencies and brands can take control of creating and managing video advertising campaigns.
Having already proven the business model using a third party platform, ITV now recognised the need to focus on providing their advertisers with empowering, friendly tools, to give them the best user experience possible. That meant building a brand new solution, from the ground up, using modern software delivery practices to enable experimentation and rapid iteration.
ITV started building a development team ready to get stuck into this challenge, and needed some guidance on how best to get this solution up and running on AWS.
A trusted partnership with longevity
ITV and The Scale Factory have a long history together: experts from The Scale Factory, including founder and CEO Jon Topper, have collaborated with teams at ITV since 2011, working on key technology initiatives such as their initial adoption of Linux and DevOps, and their first foray into the AWS cloud.
“The Scale Factory have always deeply focused on the specific set of AWS-centric tech, Continuous Delivery and DevOps mindset we need” said James Hewines, ITV’s Director of Technology and Change. “If there’s anyone else with a stronger position of leadership in that space, we’re not aware of them! The Scale Factory were able to rapidly deploy an expert team, and then adapt the shape of this flexibly as the needs of the work shifted over time”.
Partnership is important to Hewines: “We seek to build deep relationships with key technical partners with complete openness, a strong focus on capability building and shared engineering values. Not only were The Scale Factory actively open to this, they brought their own ideas and values in a way that helped us grow as a team”.
Making solid choices
The Planet V team, along with guidance from The Scale Factory, settled on a number of key tenets that would drive their architectural choices.
The first key tenet was to build as serverless a solution as possible. Serverless is a great match for SaaS platforms, which often experience variable user demand. With serverless technologies like AWS Lambda and AWS Step Functions, scaling up and down based on demand is automatic, so the platform can handle any level of traffic without manual intervention, and platform costs then scale directly with usage.
The second tenet was to buy instead of building where possible. As well as AWS services such as Amazon Cognito, AWS AppSync, and Amazon X-Ray, the Planet V platform uses SaaS services such as GitHub, LaunchDarkly, and Datadog. Consuming services, instead of writing code to achieve the same outcomes, means the team can move more quickly and deliver value sooner. It also reduces the number of components they have to operate and maintain themselves.
Finally, the team knew they had to prioritise observability. It’s good practice to build monitoring and logging into any platform from day one, so that developers can gain insight into the behaviour and performance of their applications. This is even more crucial with serverless workloads, as these can become complex, with many interdependent components and services. By adopting AWS X-Ray, Amazon CloudWatch, and DataDog early in the project, and making sure every developer had access to these tools, the team quickly built a culture of visibility and insight, making troubleshooting and performance tuning easier.
Together with The Scale Factory, ITV have built a fully automated CI/CD pipeline and cloud environment which is both versatile and rigorously in compliance with the auditability and security needs of a publicly traded enterprise.
“Our experience has been overwhelmingly positive”, says Richard Reid, ITV’s Head of Engineering, “and the technical expertise offered by The Scale Factory is unparalleled”.
“Collaboration and knowledge sharing has been key to the success of this project”, Reid continued. “Experts from The Scale Factory embedded with ITV’s engineering teams, working side-by-side on new features, while sharing skills and experience”.
What ITV said...
The Scale Factory have always deeply focused on the specific set of AWS-centric tech, Continuous Delivery and DevOps mindset we need.
If there’s anyone else with a stronger position of leadership in that space, we’re not aware of them! The Scale Factory were able to rapidly deploy an expert team, and then adapt the shape of this flexibly as the needs of the work shifted over time.
Our experience has been overwhelmingly positive and the technical expertise offered by The Scale Factory is unparalleled
Collaboration and knowledge sharing has been key to the success of this project. Experts from The Scale Factory embedded with ITV’s engineering teams, working side-by-side on new features, while sharing skills and experience.
Towards future growth
Today almost all of ITV’s digital business flows through Planet V. It’s a critical service, growing fast.
Planet V dynamically inserts advertising into the streams of 37 million ITVX viewers, targeted on 20,000 different data points. Along with the data behind it, this platform gives ITV a competitive edge, generating revenues of £411 million in 2022, with digital advertising growing 17% year-on-year.
The Planet V team can now deliver software around 20 times per week on average, enabled by a suite of automated tests covering 97% of the codebase. In the six months since going live in November 2022, only two high priority incidents got through to production, an extremely low number for any new platform.
“We’ve chosen to work with The Scale Factory and AWS for further greenfield initiatives” says Reid, continuing ITV’s long standing partnership with The Scale Factory. “We’ve recently started work on bootstrapping a new set of infrastructure focused around our linear advertising business, leveraging the key technology choices and engineering practices that enabled the success of Planet V”.