Microsoft Windows Azure - Active Web Solutions A Software Engineering Company Help Save Lives Case Study


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Microsoft Windows Azure - Active Web Solutions A Software Engineering Company Help Save Lives Case Study

  1. 1. Windows Azure Customer Solution Case Study Developer Scales Search-and- Rescue Application to Help Save More Lives at Sea Overview “Our original architecture supported Country or Region: United Kingdom Industry: Professional services— 10,000 vessels, but the Windows Azure Software engineering platform enables us to support hundreds Customer Profile of thousands or even millions of vessels, Active Web Solutions (AWS), based in Ipswich, United without any capital expenses.” Kingdom, is a Microsoft® Gold Responding to high numbers of deaths at sea in Certified Partner that specializes in Web application the fishing industry, the Royal National Lifeboat and custom software Institution contracted Active Web Solutions (AWS) development. It has 35 employees. to create an automated sea-safety application. AWS developed a location-based service Business Situation AWS needed a way to scale its infrastructure, code-named GeoPoint, which successful sea-safety transmits position data to a centralized tracking application so that more lives could be saved, but wanted to and alerting system. AWS used GeoPoint to build avoid an expensive MOB Guardian, a search-and-rescue application development effort and costly infrastructure expansion. for fishing vessels. To extend GeoPoint to more scenarios, AWS migrated it to the Windows Azure™ Solution AWS migrated its application to platform. By hosting GeoPoint in the “cloud,” in the Windows Azure™ platform Microsoft® data centers, AWS attained massive and used the Service Bus and Access Control Service to scalability, richer functionality, and lower provide global communications infrastructure costs. AWS was able to quickly scalability. convert its application to a hosted service and Benefits avoid the expense of building and managing a • Massive scalability • New market opportunities data center. AWS also has the flexibility and • Lower infrastructure, scalability to offer GeoPoint to many more management costs • Faster time-to-market markets.
  2. 2. “Our original Situation Here’s how MOB Guardian Fishing is a dangerous business. works: Individual crew members infrastructure could Authorities estimate that every are outfitted with wearable year 24,000 crew members personal safety devices that stay handle drown, worldwide. In the waters in constant radio contact with a approximately surrounding the United Kingdom, base unit fitted to the vessel. an estimated 350 fishing crew Falling overboard breaks radio 10,000 boats, but lost their lives at sea between contact and automatically 1996 and 2007, according to the triggers an onboard alarm we wanted to offer Royal National Lifeboat Institution simultaneous to sending a signal, MOB Guardian to (RNLI). These figures do not via satellite, to the search-and- include drowning related to rescue service. The onshore the 500,000 leisure leisure and other non-fishing alarm includes the position and craft. details of the casualty, typically craft in the U.K. within two minutes of the incident, and the millions of The RNLI wanted to improve so the emergency services can these sobering statistics by immediately initiate the rescue. marine users creating an automated alerting system that would keep fishing In its first 18 months of operation, boats and individual crew MOB Guardian has helped to members in continuous contact save nine lives. AWS signed a 10- with its search and rescue year contract with the RNLI to services. So, in 2006, the RNLI host the back-end infrastructure engaged Active Web Solutions for MOB Guardian—approximately (AWS), a Microsoft® Gold Certified 15 servers, originally distributed Partner and software developer, across two U.K. data centers for to build the automated system. resilience. As more people adopt AWS created a location-based MOB Guardian, however, AWS service infrastructure, code- saw that it would approach the named GeoPoint, which transmits physical limits on the number of position data to a centralized vessels that it could monitor tracking system and combined it using its hosting infrastructure. with a variety of decision-support and other systems to enable “Our original infrastructure could location-aware scenarios. Using handle approximately 10,000 GeoPoint as the foundation, AWS boats, but we wanted to offer then built MOB Guardian, a MOB Guardian to the 500,000 search-and-rescue application for leisure craft in the U.K. and the fishing vessels, in 2008 (MOB millions of marine users stands for “man overboard”). worldwide,” explains Richard U.K. fishing crews gradually Anscombe, Commercial Director began to adopt it. for Active Web Solutions. “Even smaller boats that cannot afford the MOB Guardian unit that sits
  3. 3. on the boat could use a mobile user interface, back-end phone as a transmitter. The services, or databases. Whatever scalability limitation lay in the we did to scale the solution back-end infrastructure. We are a needed to support these original small company with only 35 investments.” employees, and we would find it hard to accommodate the Last, but certainly not least, the massive infrastructure that would RNLI needed to keep prices low be required to offer MOB to encourage more fishing crews Guardian more broadly.” to adopt MOB Guardian, and to extend the service to the leisure As AWS began to consider ways marine market. to scale MOB Guardian, it realized that it needed to Solution preserve its investment in AWS had worked closely with existing code, and users’ Microsoft during the original investment in existing MOB development of MOB Guardian, Guardian hardware. “We could and the application’s major not reinstall MOB Guardian units components are based on The GeoPoint location-based services platform uses the already in the field or modify the Microsoft software—the Windows Service Bus in Windows messaging protocol between the Server® 2003 operating system Azure to transmit alerts to vessels and their services,” says and Microsoft SQL Server® 2005 search-and-rescue Richard Prodger, Technical database software—and built in applications. Director for Active Web Solutions. the Microsoft Visual Studio® “We also did not have the time or development system. In early budget to rewrite the desktop 2008, Microsoft told AWS about the Windows Azure™ platform, adding that, when it was available, it would be perfect for MOB Guardian and other GeoPoint applications. The Windows Azure platform is a cloud-computing services platform hosted in Microsoft data centers that provides computing, storage, communications, and authentication services for creating scalable, pay-as-you-go Internet services. It includes Windows Azure, a cloud services operating system; Microsoft SQL Azure™ cloud database services; the Service Bus and Access
  4. 4. Azure platform in Microsoft data centers. Accordingly, emergency alerts are no longer passed by satellite to physical servers at AWS, but rather are received by satellite using the Simple Mail Transfer Protocol (SMTP) and delivered to a number of message queues. Multiple service instances read from the queues, process the messages, and store the data in Windows Azure table storage. Emergency alarms are then relayed through the Service Bus to the end-user monitoring application in the search and rescue operations center. AWS administrators also use the Service Bus to manage Windows Azure services from a central Control Service components; and network management system online table and blob storage. (NMS), where they can easily see which services are running, Cloud-Based System current service performance, and In August 2008, when Microsoft how many instances of each released an early version of the service are running. Windows Azure platform, AWS Troubleshooting a performance built a prototype of its location- issue is usually as easy as based infrastructure running on provisioning additional Windows Windows Azure. In late 2009, Azure computing capacity within AWS completed the production the NMS and watching service version of its Windows Azure– levels improve as a result. hosted version of GeoPoint, identifying it as a location-based AWS uses another Windows service that could be used in any Azure platform developer service, type of search-and-rescue the Access Control Service, to environment. enable highly secure communications between Instead of running on Windows GeoPoint and a number of on- Server–based servers at AWS premises applications for like its previous iteration, debugging and monitoring. The GeoPoint runs on the Windows Access Control Service provides
  5. 5. an easy way to manage move to the Windows Azure authentication and authorization platform, AWS wanted to instead of applications and services push messages to a smart client, through standards-based identity but this would have required providers. Authorization decisions reengineering the application and can be pulled out of the much development work. application and placed in a set of “Instead,” Prodger explains, rules that can translate incoming “with the Service Bus, we were security claims into claims that able to route messages from the applications understand. Windows Azure platform directly to the client applications and Rapid Migration to Cloud circumvent the technical For AWS, implementing GeoPoint challenge of pushing messages was primarily an exercise in through a firewall.” migration. Developers had to write very little new code and Cross-Firewall Connection to On-Premises were able to transfer their Databases existing skills with service- A second and related win from oriented architecture to the using the Service Bus was the Windows Azure platform. “By ability to connect cloud-based Search-and-rescue teams use following a few simple guidelines GeoPoint to on-premises a graphical user interface and using Microsoft development databases without exposing the created by AWS to see tools, we moved the majority of data to the public Internet. For precisely where troubled the application from our data example, identification boats and crew members center to the Windows Azure information about individual are. platform in a matter of weeks,” fishing crew members resides in Prodger says. “The switchover a highly secure and confidential from the original architecture to database that only needs to be the Windows Azure platform accessed in the event of a involved only network search-and-rescue operation. To configuration changes to route make this data securely available messages to the Service Bus.” to GeoPoint, AWS developed an add-in called SocketShifter, which No Changes to Front-End Application automatically bridges arbitrary One key advantage of using the Transmission Control Service Bus is that it eliminated Protocol/Internet Protocol the need to modify the desktop (TCP/IP) endpoints and handles application that the RNLI search- any intermediate firewall and-rescue operation team uses traversal. This mechanism allows to interact with GeoPoint. In the an on-premises SQL Server original scheme, the client database to be accessed from applications polled the back-end the cloud. servers to see if there were any alarms waiting for it. With the In-Depth Diagnostics
  6. 6. “I can sit at my The third big win for AWS from monitor and manage its Windows using the Service Bus was the Azure–based application. “I can desk and use ability to build sophisticated sit at my desk and use existing diagnostics tools for its new network management tools to existing network hosted application. “Once your see what’s going on inside the management tools application is running in a cloud and control our Microsoft data center rather than application,” Prodger says. “It to see what’s your own, it’s difficult to would have been a lot harder and troubleshoot issues at a granular a lot more expensive to do this going on inside the level,” Prodger says. “We without the Service Bus, which cloud and control needed to come up with a provides a means for routing mechanism for giving us that level those messages and traversing our application. It of control.” firewalls coming and going. Because this agent is based on would have been a In the Microsoft .NET Framework, the SNMP standard, we can use lot harder … to do Microsoft has created any network management tool to established techniques for doing monitor our application.” this without the this using the .NET TraceListener features. Tracing is a form of Soon, AWS plans to create a debugging that allows developers custom Microsoft System Center to track the health of applications. Operations Manager 2007 A trace listener collects, stores, management pack for GeoPoint and routes tracing messages. so that it can use the familiar AWS used the Service Bus and System Center Operations Access Control Service to build a Manager as its central monitoring TraceListener in the cloud, for console. monitoring and diagnosing issues with the GeoPoint infrastructure. Benefits If something goes wrong with a By moving its sea-safety GeoPoint server at the Microsoft application from an on-premises data center, AWS can see infrastructure bound by physical precisely what the problem is. server scalability constraints to an Internet service, AWS has To then fix that problem, which removed limitations for market requires taking control of the growth—and provided several GeoPoint application that is new capabilities. AWS avoided a running in the Microsoft data million-dollar data center center, AWS built a custom investment to scale the Simple Network Management application and, using the Service Protocol (SNMP) agent. This Bus, eliminated three to six agent connects through the months of development effort. Service Bus to an AWS With a highly scalable computing management interface through platform, AWS can provide which AWS administrators can excellent performance, no matter
  7. 7. “We can have a how many people and vessels the of requests and message system is monitoring. volumes.” much bigger server Massive Scalability New Market Opportunities infrastructure The most valuable benefit to AWS can even move beyond without worrying AWS, and the RNLI, of moving search-and-rescue to address GeoPoint to the Windows Azure the leisure boating and other about buying, platform is the ease with which it markets. For example, AWS plans can now scale the application. to build a Web application that managing, or “Our original architecture enables boaters to interact with patching servers. supported 10,000 vessels, but the the GeoPoint application during Windows Azure platform enables their vacation—for trip tracking as We would have had us to support hundreds of well as safety. Pleasure sailors or thousands or even millions of yachters might access GeoPoint to invest up to a vessels, without any capital from Facebook, for example, to million dollars to ... expenses,” Prodger says. “To see a map of where they’ve scale the application, we will been or to log their trip once they make our solution a simply provision more computing get home. Of course, if they fell in capacity and add more message the water, GeoPoint would also global offering.” queues from the Windows Azure generate a rescue message, but platform Web portal.” AWS could offer other services as a bonus. “With Access Control In fact, by using the Windows Service, we wouldn’t have to Azure platform and developer force users to create another set services, AWS has been able to of authentication credentials for transform the original fishing such a scenario,” Prodger says. vessel–focused MOB Guardian “We could let them use their application into a broader Facebook credentials as their geolocation services platform GeoPoint ID.” that has more extensive capabilities and can be marketed Lower Infrastructure, Management Costs to many more customers. With Windows Azure, AWS has avoided the huge capital expense “If a guy falls off a boat in the of scaling out a physical on- North Pacific, or a climber in the premises infrastructure. “We can Colorado Rockies gets buried by have a much bigger server snow, GeoPoint could infrastructure without worrying immediately route the alarm about buying, managing, or messages to the appropriate patching servers,” Prodger says. search-and-rescue organization “We would have had to invest up anywhere in the world,” Prodger to a million dollars to scale out says. “With the Service Bus, we the physical infrastructure to will be able to handle those kinds make our solution a global offering.”
  8. 8. The company avoids high IT The company will continue to staffing costs, as well, since it realize development and time-to- shifts server management tasks market savings as it enhances to Microsoft. “Microsoft handles GeoPoint. “Having a consistent all operating system updates and and flexible communications and upgrades, which occur without authentication framework downtime,” Prodger adds. eliminates the need to build a number of point-to-point solutions AWS also sees reduced Internet for each usage scenario,” service provider fees as it pays Prodger adds. only for the Windows Azure platform resources that it uses. In Improved Performance this respect, AWS can make the With the Windows Azure platform, infrastructure a variable cost and AWS has vast processing thereby improve profitability. “We scalability for GeoPoint. “Not a have been able to convert our single point in the application is fixed monthly hosting fees to a throttled by performance,” variable cost that grows based Prodger says. “If the message on volume,” Anscombe says. load goes up, we create new “We now pay only for the CPU, instances of our application, and storage, and networking the Windows Azure platform resources that we use.” dynamically copes with the Correspondingly, by lowering scaling. That would have been internal costs, AWS is able to very hard to do with another keep costs low for its price- platform.” sensitive customers while maintaining profitability. Faster Time-to-Market AWS also slashed development costs by using Windows Azure platform developer services. “Using the Service Bus and Access Control Service saved us three to six months of development effort,” Prodger says. “More importantly, without these services, we would have come up with a solution that was far less flexible—if we would have been able to create something at all.”
  9. 9. For More Information Windows Azure Platform For more information about The Windows Azure platform To learn more about the Windows Microsoft products and provides an excellent foundation Azure platform, visit: services, call the Microsoft for expanding online product and Sales Information Center at service offerings. The main (800) 426-9400. In Canada, call 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’ connectivity needs through the following services. For more information about 〉 The Service Bus connects Active Web Solutions products services and applications and services, call (44) 1473 across network boundaries 834560 or visit the Web site at to help developers build distributed applications. 〉 The Access Control Service provides federated, claims- based access control for REST Web services. • Microsoft SQL Azure. Microsoft SQL Azure offers the first cloud-based relational and self-managed database service built on Microsoft SQL Server 2008 technologies. Software and Services • Microsoft Visual Studio • Windows Azure Platform • Microsoft Visual Studio 2008 • Windows Azure • Access Control Service • Microsoft SQL Azure • Service Bus This case study is for informational purposes only. MICROSOFT MAKES NO WARRANTIES, EXPRESS OR IMPLIED, IN THIS SUMMARY. Document published November 2009