Microsoft Windows Azure - Sobees Professional Services Attract Customers Case Study
Windows AzureCustomer Solution Case Study00Social Media Service Provider Expands Offering, Attracts Customers with Cloud Services<br />OverviewCountry or Region: SwitzerlandIndustry: Professional services—Software developmentCustomer ProfileHeadquartered in Lausanne, Switzerland, Sobees is a software development company that specializes in aggregating social media data for both consumers and businesses. It has seven employees.Business SituationFaced with a growing business and the potential to attract millions of new customers, Sobees wanted to replace its hosting model with a reliable, scalable cloud services solution.SolutionSobees migrated to the Windows Azure platform, and also developed a new service that it will offer on the Microsoft technology code-named “Dallas.”BenefitsScales quicklyImproves reliability and performanceImproves ability to focus on business logicMaintains expenses, even while increasing business“We have 10 times the number of customers now. To provide the same service to the same number of customers …without Windows Azure would have easily cost three times as much.”Francois Bochatay, CEO and Cofounder, SobeesSobees develops software that customers can use to manage all of their social media information streams with a single application. The aggregator is popular among consumers who use applications such as Twitter and Facebook, and it recently earned a spot as the leading application on the Yahoo! Mail portal in Europe. With that exposure, and the potential to acquire millions of new customers, Sobees wasn’t confident that the small hosting company it used could provide the reliability and scalability it needed. Sobees migrated its solution to the Windows Azure platform and also developed a new service on Windows Azure, which it plans to make available to other companies through the Microsoft technology code-named “Dallas.” By choosing Windows Azure, Sobees improved the scalability, reliability, and performance of its applications, and maintained costs, even with ten times more business.<br />Situation<br />Based in Switzerland, Sobees develops software that consumers can use to aggregate social media applications into a single view. With the Sobees applications, customers can connect to their favorite social media applications—such as Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and MySpace—to read RSS feeds, see friends’ status, update their own status, and share photos from one window. The small company, with only seven employees, has developed one of the most widely used social media aggregators, with one million users. In addition to its social media aggregator, Sobees also develops a real-time search platform that taps into top search engines, such as Microsoft Bing, and aggregates results into five categories: social media, video, image, web, and news. <br />Sobees built its application on the Microsoft .NET Framework 3.5 and 4 and uses Windows Presentation Foundation and the Microsoft Silverlight 3 and 4 browser plug-in to deliver its graphical user interface in several different forms: a web-based application, a desktop application, a Tablet PC, and a mobile phone application. To host its applications on the Internet, the company rented web servers and database servers through a third-party hosting provider in Switzerland. <br />However, as the company acquired new partnerships with other companies, and as its customer base grew, Sobees lacked confidence that its small hosting provider could keep up with expected volume. For instance, in 2009, the Sobees social media aggregator was placed on the Yahoo! Mail portal in the United Kingdom. Sobees is now one of the most-downloaded applications on that portal, and Yahoo! has since rolled out the application to some of the other countries in Europe, including Germany, France, Italy, and Spain. Through its placement on Yahoo!, Sobees is exposed to more than 25 million users—representing a potentially dramatic increase in the number of Sobees customers. As a result, the company wanted to ensure that it had a reliable hosting solution. <br />“We know that a smaller hosting company has much fewer resources than a larger company, and, as a result, we couldn’t be assured that if something went wrong, that it would get fixed immediately,” explains Francois Bochatay, CEO and Cofounder of Sobees. “If the small hoster went down in the middle of the night and our service stopped working as a result, we can’t wait several hours for personnel to be called in to fix it. We need to have a certain level of reliability when it comes to growing our business and serving millions of customers.” <br />In addition to reliability, Sobees wanted a solution that scaled with ease, to handle the increased number of users it had started to attract—especially as it integrates with other services that bring the potential for millions more customers. Also, recognizing the importance of social media to businesses, Sobees has developed and plans to launch a new business-to-business social media aggregator that makes it possible for companies to monitor relevant Twitter feeds. With the growing number of users for its existing services, and as the company creates new services, it wanted a scalable platform that would enable it to quickly scale up its compute and storage needs, without the costly expense of procuring new hardware or the need to spend considerable time managing infrastructure. “We don’t want to worry about IT issues,” explains Vincent Rithner, CTO and Cofounder of Sobees. “We want to spend our time doing what we do best and continue to develop new services and improve existing services.”<br />“With Windows Azure, we don’t have to worry about scalability at all.”Vincent Rithner, CTO and Cofounder, Sobees<br />Finally, though Sobees initially had customers primarily based in Europe, as the company grew, it attracted customers in the United States and around the world. However, the small hosting company based in Switzerland did not have other data center locations, and customers outside Europe often experienced delays when using the Sobees service. “We started to experience latency, particularly with our customers in the United States,” says Bochatay. “When it became clear that we needed a new solution, it also was clear that we needed one with a worldwide data center presence to ensure the same level of service for our customers no matter where they are located around the globe.”<br />Solution<br />In June 2009, Sobees evaluated the Windows Azure platform with the Community Technology Preview release of the technology. Windows Azure is a cloud services operating system that serves as the development, service hosting, and service management environment for the Windows Azure platform. It provides developers with on-demand compute and storage to host, scale, and manage web applications on the Internet through Microsoft data centers.<br />Sobees considered other cloud services providers, including Amazon.com, in addition to hosting with an Internet service provider, but decided on Windows Azure for several reasons. With a worldwide Microsoft data center presence, Windows Azure offered the reliability and performance that Sobees sought in a solution. In addition, the on-demand scalability was a key deciding factor for Sobees. Finally, but equally important, was the compatibility of Windows Azure with the Sobees service. “Reliable, scalable hosting is only one part of the equation,” explains Rithner. “But no one can compete with Windows Azure when it comes to compatibility with the .NET Framework. That is very important to us, not only for development, but also for debugging and monitoring. The integration of the platform and tools offered a great and unique experience through development, deployment, and the update processes. Adopting Windows Azure was an easy choice.” <br />Migrating Existing Applications<br />Sobees started by migrating its existing customer-facing applications—the social media aggregator and the real-time search platform—to Windows Azure. The migration process was quick and simple, taking one developer only a few days to complete. The developer simply created web roles in Windows Azure to host the Microsoft ASP.NET webpages. As demand for the services increases, developers can easily add new web roles and scale up with just a couple of clicks. <br />Developing New Service<br />In addition to using Windows Azure for its existing applications, Sobees used the Windows Azure platform for its new business-to-business service, which it expects to launch in June 2010. The new service sits on top of the social networks Twitter and Facebook and some news feeds. With full access to the Twitter and Facebook application programming interfaces (APIs), Sobees developed its own API and application to enable businesses to monitor Twitter and Facebook feeds and manage posts based on user-set criteria.<br />In addition to using web roles for the front-end web application, Sobees is using worker roles in Windows Azure to process queries. To connect the Sobees console to the Sobees business-to-business service in Windows Azure, Sobees uses the Windows Azure platform AppFabric Service Bus. In addition, it uses Microsoft SQL Azure to store relational data, such as criteria set by each customer for managing Twitter and Facebook posts. SQL Azure offers the first cloud-based relational and self-managed database service built on Microsoft SQL Server 2008 technologies. <br />Extending Service to Other Developers<br />After Sobees launches its new business-to-business application, it plans to make the API available to other developers and companies through the Microsoft technology code-named “Dallas” using the open data (OData) protocol and data provider. "
is a new service that makes it possible for developers and information workers to easily discover, purchase, and manage premium data subscriptions in the Windows Azure platform. “We’re using the service we’ve developed first for our own application,” says Bochatay. “But we also want to publish our service in ‘Dallas’ to allow others to purchase our services for their own needs.”“It’s important to us that we can say our data is hosted with Microsoft—it’s a name we trust, it’s a name our customers trust.”Francois Bochatay, CEO and Cofounder, Sobees<br />Benefits<br />Since migrating its existing applications and developing a new service on the Windows Azure platform, Sobees is confident that it has a reliable solution—one that not only scales quickly to meet demand, but also delivers superior performance, no matter where customers are located. Sobees is now able to focus on its business and on developing and publishing new services for the marketplace, instead of managing technology infrastructure. At the same time, by using the Windows Azure platform, the company has increased the number of customers its infrastructure can manage, but without incurring additional costs. <br />Scales Quickly<br />As the company’s business grew, Sobees was concerned that it did not have the infrastructure to support the millions of customers that its services were attracting. Now, by using Windows Azure, Sobees enjoys rapid scalability and can create new web role instances in a matter of minutes to handle increased compute needs. “With Windows Azure, we don’t have to worry about scalability at all,” says Rithner. “When I know we’re approaching our limits, I can simply add another instance and I’m done. The ability to do that is key for us.”<br />Improves Reliability and Performance<br />Whereas previously, Sobees had wavering confidence in its hosting provider to offer enterprise-level service, the growing company now relies on Microsoft data centers to host its data. “It’s important to us that we can say our data is hosted with Microsoft—it’s a name we trust, it’s a name our customers trust. Even though we are a small company with only seven employees, we have the Microsoft name behind us,” says Bochatay.<br />In addition, thanks to the worldwide data-center presence that Microsoft offers, Sobees customers get the same, exceptional service no matter where they are physically located. Explains Bochatay, “Compared to before we implemented Windows Azure, customers in the United States are very happy with the performance of Sobees.”<br />Improves Ability to Focus on Business<br />By using Windows Azure and hosting through Microsoft data centers, Sobees can maintain its focus where its expertise lies: in developing social media applications and services. “We don’t want to manage IT infrastructure,” says Rithner. “We run lean operations, and there isn’t another hoster or cloud services provider out there that can deliver what Windows Azure does.”<br />Also, developers at Sobees were able to migrate its existing applications and develop a new service quickly, because they were able to rely on their existing knowledge. “We did not have to learn a lot of new technology when it came to Windows Azure, and we were able to get up and running quickly with our existing skills,” explains Rithner. <br />Finally, Sobees is able to offer its API to other companies through Microsoft “Dallas” without worrying about managing subscriptions. “We could deliver our API to other companies to adapt for their own use, but managing it would be very difficult,” says Bochatay. “The fact that Windows Azure and ‘Dallas’ take care of all of that for us is critical—and the ability to offer our services through a reliable service and with a trusted company is big for us.”<br />“We run lean operations, and there isn’t another hoster or cloud services provider out there that can deliver what Windows Azure does.”Vincent Rithner, CTO and Cofounder, Sobees<br />Maintains Expenses, Even While Increasing Business<br />Sobees has seen a tenfold increase in the number of customers it serves since it began implementing Windows Azure and delivering new services built on the platform. However, because the company avoided the costs associated with procuring, managing, and maintaining hardware for its infrastructure, Sobees has absorbed its growing customer base without increasing its costs. “We’re paying the same amount today with Windows Azure that we were previously,” says Bochatay. “However, we have 10 times the number of customers now. To provide the same service to the same number of customers using a traditional model without Windows Azure would have easily cost three times as much.”<br />Software and ServicesWindows Azure PlatformWindows AzureAppFabric Service BusMicrosoft “Dallas”Microsoft SQL AzureTechnologiesMicrosoft ASP.NETMicrosoft .NET Framework 3.5Microsoft .NET Framework 4Microsoft Silverlight 3Microsoft Silverlight 4This case study is for informational purposes only. MICROSOFT MAKES NO WARRANTIES, EXPRESS OR IMPLIED, IN THIS SUMMARY.Document published June 2010For More InformationFor more information about Microsoft products and services, call the Microsoft Sales Information Center at (800) 426-9400. In Canada, call the Microsoft Canada Information Centre at (877) 568-2495. Customers in the United States and Canada who are deaf or hard-of-hearing can reach Microsoft text telephone (TTY/TDD) services at (800) 892-5234. Outside the 50 United States and Canada, please contact your local Microsoft subsidiary. To access information using the World Wide Web, go to:www.microsoft.com For more information about Sobees products and services, call (+41) 21 6938761 or visit the website at: www.sobees.comAdditional Resources:Training: Channel9 Windows Azure Training Course Download: Windows Azure Training Kit Download: Windows Azure SDK White paper: Security Best Practices for Developing on the Windows Azure Platform Windows Azure Platform<br />The Windows Azure platform provides an excellent foundation for expanding online product and service offerings. The main components include:<br />Windows Azure. Windows Azure is the development, service hosting, and service management environment for the Windows Azure platform. Windows Azure provides developers with on-demand compute and storage to host, scale, and manage Web applications on the Internet through Microsoft data centers.<br />Microsoft SQL Azure. Microsoft SQL Azure offers the first cloud-based relational and self-managed database service built on Microsoft SQL Server 2008 technologies.<br />Windows Azure platform AppFabric. With Windows Azure platform AppFabric, developers can build and manage applications more easily both on-premises and in the cloud.<br />AppFabric Service Bus connects services and applications across network boundaries to help developers build distributed applications.<br />AppFabric Access Control provides federated, claims-based access control for REST Web services.<br />Microsoft "
Developers and information workers can use the new service code-named Dallas to easily discover, purchase, and manage premium data subscriptions in the Windows Azure platform.<br />To learn more about the Windows Azure platform, visit: <br />www.windowsazure.com <br />