Pictured: John McClean, systems architect, AOL in Dublin

Java 8 at core of AOL’s journey into programmatic (video)

28 Jul 2015

Oracle’s Java 8 software language is at the heart of AOL’s move towards programmatic advertising and AOL’s Dublin operation is spearheading this movement.

Last week, AOL’s SVP in charge of product strategy Mike Treon told programmatic will drive a whole tsunami of change, requiring different skills and mindsets across the technology and media industries.

AOL’s 170-strong operation in Dublin is in the vanguard of a major shift in the online and media giant’s transformation of its ad delivery systems

AOL’s Dublin operation has the distinction of being one of the few online advertising giants in Dublin with the bulk of its workforce focused on core development.

Over the past year, the company’s workforce has been transitioning to Oracle’s Java 8 software language.

‘AOL Dublin is hands dirty in delivering products that are delivered to production and which serve millions of queries per day across billions and billions of data points’


“Java 8 is the biggest release of the Java language in the last 10 years,” explains John McClean, software architect at AOL in Dublin. “It introduces some new ideas from functional programming to Java. It is introducing quite a significant change to the Java language in a way that Java programmers will program. A lot of that is being driven by changes in the hardware market.

“If you think back to things like Moore’s Law, which has has held for the last 30 or 40 years, where the number of transistors per square inch has been doubling every two years. That meant that the processing power of our hardware has been doubling roughly every two years.

“That has continued to hold over the last 10 or 15 years but the nature of it has changed. Now we are living in this multi-core world, where previously our CPUs got faster and they could execute programmes and sequence faster and faster every two years.

“Now they are not quite getting faster but they are getting extra cores, which means they can execute the same amount of work but in parallel so they multiply up by parallel execution.

“In order to take advantage of that extra power in processing we now need to write our software so that it can execute in parallel across multiple cores. Java 8 is an evolution of the Java language that makes it a little bit easier for developers to write code that will execute well in parallel.”

Scaling the programmatic mountain

McClean explained that currently AOL processes between 15bn and 20bn bid requests per day and this is projected to increase to more than 60bn over the next six months.

To cope with the challenge, AOL has been hosting weekly workshops on Java 8 as well as bringing in Java 8 experts such as Raul-Gabriel Urma author of Java 8 in Action and Richard Warburton, author of Java 8 Lambdas.

“We’ve had talks with Mike [Treon] about programmatic and how everything in digital marketing is being automated, not just right across the scale of the data but the scale of the requests coming in from clients.

“We really need to take advantage of these multi-core architectures. We’ve been wholeheartedly moving into the Java 8 world.”

In terms of upskilling existing workers at AOL in Dublin, AOL is hiring a variety of people, including software engineers, QA, operations and technical managers, as well as system architects.

“There are no sales or tech support roles like you might get in other centres in Dublin. The engineers that work here are really hands-on, building that programmatic future for AOL.

“We are working on One Central, the front-end web app, we are working on the back-end systems that handle the volumes at scale, and we are working right across the tech stack for programmatic services,” McClean concluded.

“AOL Dublin is hands dirty in delivering products that are delivered to production and which serve millions of queries per day across billions and billions of data points.”

John McClean will be hosting a Java 8 meet-up at AOL’s Dublin buildings on 11 August

John Kennedy
By John Kennedy

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years. His interests include all things technological, music, movies, reading, history, gaming and losing the occasional game of poker.

Loading now, one moment please! Loading