May 4, 2023

Cluster Interview: Serving relevant recommendations on the go with Aiven for Apache Kafka®

We want to highlight the startups participating in the Cluster Startup Program and building on top of Aiven services. Today, we’re excited to introduce 4.Screen.

Andra Nuta

Andra Nuta

|RSS Feed

Program Manager at Aiven

Introduction

4.screen is a fast growing startup from Munich, Germany. They’re building the world’s first driver interaction platform, powered by Aiven for Apache Kafka®.

4.screen is a part of Aiven’s Cluster program, which gives fast-growing startups access to up to $100,000 of credits for Aiven services. For more information on how to apply, see the Cluster program homepage!

We sat down with Paul-Rogalinski Pinter, Lead Software Engineer at 4.screen, to understand why using managed services and building with open source technologies makes sense for a fast growing startup.

First of all, tell us about 4.screen and the problem you are solving

Let me start by sharing a short story about 4.screen’s name origin. We identified the in-car screen as being the 4th generation of screens, after the TV (#1), the computer screen (#2) and the mobile phone / tablet screen (#3). As time progresses and technology evolves, the interior experience in your car is playing a more important role. This was our premise for starting to explore what we could do as a content provider for in-car user experience, and we naturally identified marketing as a huge opportunity.

So at 4.screen we are building a platform where businesses can connect, interact and engage with drivers. Drivers benefit from a wide variety of useful services such as relevant in-car recommendations, better in-car content and access to exclusive offers.

We launched in Germany in Q3 2022 and are now live in the major European countries with several million vehicles accessible through our API - a US launch will follow later this year.

Why did you choose to use managed data services, rather than manage your infrastructure in house?

Our business is not managing infrastructure, our business is building solutions on top of that.

In our architecture, we like to reuse some components. One of these components that made us seriously consider partnering with Aiven is Kafka. Sure, hosting and managing Kafka in-house might make sense for massive workloads and data volumes. But when you're trying to scale and iterate quickly, it's all about finding ready-made solutions that fit your budget and current stage of growth.

With Aiven, we found a great match. They provide a comprehensive and reliable Kafka hosting and management solution that meets our needs. It allows us to focus on what we do best - building our product and delivering value to our customers - without getting bogged down by the complexities of managing Kafka ourselves.

How did you land on using Aiven, specifically?

All of our infrastructure was hosted on Azure. We explored options for service-to-service asynchronous communication and considered alternatives like hosting our own Kafka or using Confluent. Since we were already using Azure, we focused on external companies to manage Kafka setups.

Ultimately, it came down to choosing between Confluent and Aiven. Our understanding is that Confluent might be targeting a slightly more mature audience, not startups like us. With this in mind, Aiven looked like the perfect match - the right provider for the right growth stage of our company. We see eye to eye on this.

Besides, one huge technical requirement on our side was to run our infrastructure as code, which is possible with Aiven.

What use cases do you have for Aiven?

We utilize Kafka as a backbone for asynchronous communication between microservices and for processing transactions from vehicles. User interactions are tracked as transactions and stored in Kafka topics for later processing, such as billing and analytics, which require quick processing of large volumes of data. We also use Aiven for Redis®* for managing hot data, such as application state for tracking budgets during campaigns. Redis is used for aggregating data quickly when scaling horizontally to manage campaign budgets and make throttling decisions.

Why do you think other startups should use managed services and specifically Aiven?

At our core, we value open source standards, and that's why we've built our SaaS solutions on the shoulders of giants like Kafka®, Redis®, PostgreSQL®, and more. If you're a startup focused on building solutions rather than managing your own infrastructure, finding a reliable partner to handle these services is crucial. That's where Aiven comes in.

One of the key advantages we see in Aiven is their seamless integration with all major cloud providers. It's not about getting locked into a single vendor or cloud provider, but bringing your own infrastructure as a company and letting Aiven provide managed services on top of it. It's a win-win situation that gives you the flexibility and freedom to choose the best cloud environment for your business.

And let's not forget about the importance of infrastructure as code. It's not just important to us, but to countless other companies building on open source software. With Aiven, you can manage your infrastructure as code, ensuring a streamlined and efficient workflow that aligns with modern software development practices.

So, if you're looking for a partner that values open source standards, offers seamless integration with major cloud providers, and understands the significance of infrastructure as code, then Aiven is the ideal choice.

Why is using Open Source Software important to you?

There are two key considerations to keep in mind. Firstly, avoiding vendor lock-in may be a priority for some, and prioritizing open standards over open source software can be important.
Secondly, open source software often defines or implements open standards, which can provide flexibility in switching technologies as long as they are built on the same protocols.
Open source software tends to be more agile, allowing for faster issue resolution and the ability to contribute to the community, in contrast to monolithic vendors offering one-size-fits-all solutions.

How has being part of the Aiven Cluster startup program specifically benefited you?

The credit offering is really helpful to understand what building pieces we can use, and play with them before we build them into our final product. It gives you room to explore different technologies without committing to any plans and buying them right away.

Further reading


Related blogs

Subscribe to the Aiven newsletter

All things open source, plus our product updates and news in a monthly newsletter.