Microsoft Windows Azure - Adslot Media & Entertainment Saves Costs Case Study

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  • 1. Windows Azure Customer Solution Case Study Combinatorial Auction Provider Scales Up Quickly, Saves Costs with Cloud Services Overview “With Windows Azure, we’ve reduced … Country or Region: Australia Industry: Media and capital expenditures from $60,000 to entertainment—Advertising $1,000. This significantly lowers the barrier Customer Profile for new customers and makes our Based in Melbourne, Australia, Tradeslot and Adslot bring services more enticing.” business-to-business buyers Tradeslot specializes in designing and building and sellers together through their large scale combinatorial large scale business-to-business and auction platform. They employ government-to-business (G2B) auctions 10 people. platforms; its partner company, Adslot, uses the Business Situation same auction platform to auction online Tradeslot and Adslot sought a solution that would enable them advertising space. The companies use to scale up quickly, reduce computation-heavy combinatorial auction capital expenditures for customers, and provide the algorithms to manage their complex conditional compute power required for bid processes. However, with a lack of compute complex algorithms. power with its existing infrastructure, the Solution companies found it necessary to manually add After evaluating other possibilities, Tradeslot and constraints to auctions. In addition, the companies Adslot chose to use a cloud wanted to reduce capital costs and IT resources computing model and developed solutions on required to set up new server hardware for Windows Azure™. customers. Tradeslot and Adslot implemented Benefits Windows Azure™ and, as a result, reduced capital • Reduced capital costs—U.S. costs for customers—from U.S.$60,000 to only $60,000 to $1,000 • Improved ability to scale up $1,000 for each customer, improved their ability • Improved services for to scale up and improve services for customers, customers • Saved IT resources saved critical IT resources, and delivered a • Delivered trustworthy solution their customers can trust. solution
  • 2. Situation and freight capacity, Based in Australia and formed in environmental commodities, and 2005, Tradeslot designs and industrial commodities, Tradeslot builds large scale business-to- formed a partner company in business and government-to- 2007, Adslot. Using the same business auction platforms. The intellectual property and company has three main areas of technologies as the Tradeslot focus: port and freight capacity, auctioning platform, Adslot is a industrial commodities, and foray into the advertising sales environmental commodities. One process—enabling media of its largest customers is publishers to sell premium ad Consolidated Bulk Handling, inventory to agencies and self- which uses the Tradeslot auction serve advertisers using its platform to auction port capacity proprietary ‘book&bid’ process. for the 10-million ton West Though Adslot is currently Australian wheat export. targeted at online media, the Tradeslot also designed the company plans to apply its Australian government carbon concepts and technology to permit auction platform and has traditional media, such as facilitated more than U.S.$400 television and radio. million in forest timber transactions. The Tradeslot and Adslot auctioning platforms are built on Unlike traditional price-only the Microsoft® .NET Framework auctions that are one- 3.5 and use the Windows Server® dimensional, the Tradeslot 2003 operating system and combinatorial auction platform Microsoft SQL Server® 2005 data allows bidders to place management software. For each expressive bids—critical for of its customers, Tradeslot and effective business-to-business Adslot had to set up servers and transactions. For instance, hosting environments to run the bidders can place price bids with auctions—often at a frantic pace. non-price conditions, such as Setting up an auction with new terms of trade, volume, and servers often took up to two unique lot packages. In addition, months. For these small the seller can add award companies, with only 10 constraints and factor the bids employees between Tradeslot based on qualitative factors. and Adslot, this was also a strain Tradeslot uses large scale on personnel resources. “combinatorial auctioning”—a complicated process that uses In addition, the hardware cost of complex mathematical algorithms setting up an auction for the first and requires significant time is often a barrier for computational resources. customers. Costs associated with initial hardware setup and hosting With its tremendous success in fees could reach U.S.$60,000 in combinatorial auctioning for port some cases, depending on the
  • 3. “Windows Azure auction. “We have cases where putting a strain on precious IT customers say they’re prepared resources, and that would also gives us the ability to try our service and we have to require less capital expenditure tell them that they have to set up for customers. to chase new deals an entire infrastructure to handle with the rock-solid their auction,” says Anthony Du Solution Preez, Founder, Tradeslot and As Tradeslot and Adslot technology Adslot. “It’s hard for them to dip continued to identify unique their toe in the water.” Not only market opportunities to extend infrastructure in are some customers hesitant to the auction platform to other place already. We use Tradeslot and Adslot for the industries, the companies chose first time because of the often to move to a cloud solution— can quickly scale costly capital expenditures, for hosting and managing their Web some customers, whose auctions applications and services on the up and service only run on a quarterly basis for Internet through data centers. customers around two weeks, server investments After comparing other cloud are under-utilized for months at a solutions, such as Amazon Elastic the world with a time. Cloud Computing (EC2), the companies chose Windows The Tradeslot and Adslot auction Azure™, a solution that provides platforms were limited by the application hosting by Microsoft scalability of the hardware. In and that is designed for high some cases, the companies had availability and powerful scaling to to restrict the use of complex match usage needs. mathematical algorithms that require compute-intensive The companies chose Windows processes and that allow highly Azure, in part, because expressive auction functionality. developers can use their existing “We had to put manual skills to develop new solutions constraints on some of our with technologies and tools they auctions and limit how sellers are already familiar with, such as could sell and how bidders could the .NET Framework 3.5 and the bid,” explains Du Preez. “That Microsoft Visual Studio® 2008 has a significant impact on Professional Edition development bidding flexibility which is the system. In addition, Tradeslot and driving factor for increased Adslot found Amazon EC2 to be revenue and cost reduction.” far more complicated and time consuming to develop on than Tradeslot and Adslot needed a Windows Azure. “One of the key solution that would provide the benefits of Windows Azure from a compute processing power it development perspective is that required to run its auctions the roles—such as Web roles and without bid constraints in an effort worker roles—are already to optimize results for its defined,” explains Michael Hart, customers. In addition, the System Architect and Developer companies wanted a solution that Lead at Tradeslot and Adslot. they could scale quickly without
  • 4. “With Amazon EC2, you’re Adslot uses worker roles to host basically starting from scratch.” and scale the compute-heavy combinatorial algorithms used in In addition, by continuing to use their auction platform, as well as Microsoft products and for managing a number of technologies, Tradeslot and additional auction processes, Adslot can grow and scale their such as sending e-mail or Short technology infrastructure with Message Service messages. ease of deployment across Windows Azure Web Roles are complementary products. used for hosting AdSlot’s customer-facing web Adslot is developing three distinct applications. solutions on Windows Azure using its proprietary combinatorial To manage application data, auction technology: Adslot uses Windows Azure Tables, Blob Storage, and Queue • Classified ad sales solution. service. In addition, Adslot is This solution is an automated evaluating Microsoft SQL Azure™ auction-based platform that for adding relational and enables classified publishers, transactional storage capabilities such as ads for automobiles, in the future. Figure 1.Carsales application, jobs, real estate, and travel, powered by Windows Azure. to sell search keywords for Adslot has designed its solution online advertising. to horizontally scale, allowing auction workloads to be broadly • Display ad sales solution. This distributed across a number of solution allows a general Windows Azure instances. This display ad publisher to means the solution can easily engage the buyers with two accommodate more users than types of dynamic pricing: was previously the case. “As the dynamic rate cards, where needs come up, we can add the fixed price varies on real- more servers and more roles in time demand projections, and Windows Azure and take ‘book&bid,’ where ad advantage of on-demand scaling buyers can buy at a fixed to accommodate heavy usage,” price and bid for additional explains Hart. Adslot ran inventory. simulations of its platform where it used 7,000 lots for bid and • Video/television ad sales 4,000 bidders. It used 120 worker solution. This solution is an roles and had all 4,000 users bid automated auction-based on 20 lots at one time—putting sales platform that enables maximum load on the system. television networks to sell ad “What we found is that we’re spots in broadcast on online able to handle that capacity television shows. better on Windows Azure than our previous infrastructure,” continues Hart.
  • 5. time, the lean IT department is Tradeslot and Adslot will continue free to focus on more strategic to develop solutions and expand tasks, thanks to enterprise-class their market reach, adapting their service from Microsoft, and the auction platform for other company can focus on delivering industries—something that was new services instead of difficult to achieve prior to managing IT infrastructure. implementing Windows Azure. Reduced Capital Costs, Lowered Barrier Benefits for New Customers As a result of implementing By implementing Windows Azure, Windows Azure, Tradeslot and Tradeslot and Adslot have Adslot can efficiently implement a eliminated the need to procure, scalable solution for their auction set up, and configure new platform. The companies servers, as well as the need to decreased the capital arrange for hosting services for expenditures required to set up new customers. Instead, the an auction, which lowered the companies can rely on data entry-barrier for new customers. centers hosted by Microsoft. Tradeslot and Adslot can quickly Previously, it cost up to U.S. scale up the solutions and extend $60,000 in hardware, licensing, service offerings to customers, and hosting costs to set up a new while also improving services with auction—a cost that is passed on the powerful compute and to customers without a margin for storage resources offered by Tradeslot and Adslot. “With Windows Azure. At the same Windows Azure, we’ve reduced those capital expenditures from $60,000 to $1,000,” says Du Preez. “This significantly lowers the barrier for new customers and makes our services more enticing.” Improved Ability to Scale Up and Extend Service Offerings Tradeslot and Adslot are always looking for new opportunities to extend their auction platform to new markets. With Windows Azure, the companies can take their intellectual property and adapt their auction platform to new industries, new commodities, and new geographies using existing infrastructure. “Windows Azure gives us the ability to chase new
  • 6. “What used to deals with the rock-solid Tradeslot and Adslot run lean technology infrastructure in place operations—only 10 employees— take two months to already,” explains Du Preez. and efficiency is critical to “We can quickly scale up and success. With Windows Azure, set up can now be service customers around the the companies are able to done in only one world with a single streamline management of the IT infrastructure.” infrastructure that supports their week and we can auction platform, and do not have Improved Services for Customers with to expend critical IT resources on use those precious Powerful Computing setting up and managing a server IT resources to The mathematical algorithms that environment for each customer. the auction platform uses are “All of the work that goes into focus on more complex and require significant setting up an auction—buying, compute and storage resources— configuring, and maintaining strategic tasks, sometimes beyond what its hardware—is huge overhead for such as developing previous infrastructure could us,” says Hart. “What used to manage. As a result, Tradeslot take two months to set up can new services.” and Adslot had to manually add now be done in only one week constraints to its auction and we can use those precious IT systems, limiting some of their resources to focus on more functionality. With the powerful strategic tasks, such as processing capability of Windows developing new services.” Azure, Tradeslot and Adslot can set up auctions for its customers Delivered a Trustworthy Solution without constraints, creating Because Tradeslot and Adslot highly expressive combinatorial work with government agencies auctions to better meet and large enterprises, having a customers’ needs. reliable solution that its customers could trust was a key In addition, the companies can concern for the companies. By add new services to its robust using Windows Azure, with offering, thanks to the CPU and hosting provided by Microsoft storage power offered by data centers, Tradeslot and Windows Azure. “The power of Adslot have the enterprise-class Windows Azure gives us the service they need and the ability to do things that we could confidence of working with a only do with a significant partner that has deep expertise in investment in building and online services. “We win managing our own data center, business because of our such as data mining and business business-to-business auction intelligence,” says Du Preez. expertise, and because we have “We see this as a wonderful the most capable solution growth opportunity for our available,” explains Du Preez. business and what we’re able to “Then, we have to prove that we offer customers.” can deliver the scalability that large businesses need—that’s Saved Critical IT Resources not always easy as a relatively
  • 7. For More Information small company. But with Windows Azure Platform For more information about Windows Azure, we have the The Windows Azure platform Microsoft products and credibility that comes with the provides an excellent foundation services, call the Microsoft Microsoft brand and customers for expanding online product and Sales Information Center at just know that it’s going to service offerings. The main (800) 426-9400. In Canada, call work.” components include: the Microsoft Canada • Windows Azure. Windows Azure Information Centre at (877) is the development, service 568-2495. Customers in the hosting, and service United States and Canada who management environment for are deaf or hard-of-hearing can the Windows Azure platform. reach Microsoft text telephone Windows Azure provides (TTY/TDD) services at (800) developers with on-demand 892-5234. Outside the 50 compute and storage to host, United States and Canada, scale, and manage Web please contact your local applications on the Internet Microsoft subsidiary. To access through Microsoft data information using the World centers. In addition, Windows Wide Web, go to: Azure serves developers’ www.microsoft.com connectivity needs through the following services. For more information about 〉 The Service Bus connects Tradeslot and Adslot products services and applications and services, call (61) 3 9621 across network 1511 or visit the Web sites at: boundaries to help www.tradeslot.com or developers build www.adslot.com distributed applications. 〉 The Access Control Service provides federated, Additional Resources: claims-based access Download: Windows Azure control for REST Web Platform Training Kit services. View: Architecting and Developing for Windows Azure • Microsoft SQL Azure. Microsoft SQL Azure offers the first cloud-based relational and Software and Services • Microsoft Server Product • Windows Azure Platform Portfolio • Windows Azure • Windows Server 2003 • Microsoft SQL Azure Enterprise Edition • Technologies • Microsoft SQL Server 2005 • Microsoft .NET Framework Enterprise Edition 3.5 • ‘Solutions • Microsoft Visual Studio • Software-plus-services • Microsoft Visual Studio 2008 Professional Edition This case study is for informational self-managed database purposes only. MICROSOFT MAKES NO WARRANTIES, EXPRESS OR IMPLIED, IN THIS SUMMARY. Document published November 2009
  • 8. service built on Microsoft SQL Server 2008 technologies. To learn more about the Windows Azure platform, visit: www.windowsazure.com