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Microsoft Windows Azure - Guppers Professional Services Case Study


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Microsoft Windows Azure - Guppers Professional Services Case Study

  1. 1. Windows AzureCustomer Solution Case Study00Mobile Data Services Quickly and Cost-Effectively Scale with Cloud Services Solution<br />OverviewCountry or Region: United StatesIndustry: Professional services—Software developmentCustomer ProfileGuppers enables businesses to take advantage of mobility, cloud computing, and social networking to exchange business data through email and short message service (SMS) messaging.Business SituationGuppers wanted a cloud services solution for its hosting and storage environment that would offer cost-effective scalability and improved performance for multinational customers. SolutionThe company migrated its hosting environment to the Windows Azure platform and migrated its storage environment from Amazon S3 to Windows Azure storage services. BenefitsScales rapidly, cost-effectivelyAvoids capital and operational expensesSimplifies, fast developmentReduces latency to improve services“As we grow, Windows Azure grows with us, and we can keep the same margins…. We don’t have to worry as much about fluctuations in a turbulent economy because we only pay for what we use.”Andy Harjanto, Cofounder, GuppersGuppers is a small company that delivers access to business data from any mobile phone. The company’s service is delivered through cloud computing—the hosting of applications online through data centers. Previously, Guppers relied on a third-party data center for its website and application hosting, and Amazon Simple Storage Service (S3) for its cloud storage. However, as the company grew and acquired more multinational customers, it struggled to scale up its infrastructure quickly enough to handle spikes in demand. It also was faced with latency and application performance issues. To address these problems, Guppers implemented the Windows Azure platform for its hosting and storage solutions. As a result, the company can quickly scale up while avoiding certain capital and operational expenses. It also has simplified development and reduced latency to deliver better services to customers.<br />Situation<br />Founded in 2008, Guppers is a small, start-up company that offers a service by which customers can access data through email and short message service (SMS) messaging on their mobile devices, in addition to open mobile platforms such as Windows Phone 7. Guppers was built with three principles in mind: mobility, cloud computing, and social networking. <br />The company originally created its service for consumers, but the leadership team at Guppers quickly realized that its service had tremendous relevance to businesses. Now, Guppers focuses on helping businesses enrich collaboration by giving them a vehicle to deliver business information—such as pricing and inventory levels—to employees from any mobile phone. The company primarily serves small and midsize businesses, but also wants to accommodate several multinational enterprises that have expressed interest in its service. <br />To receive business data via email or SMS, customers set up their organization and populate new data on the Guppers web-based application, or they synchronize existing data stores with the Guppers service. Customers can set up the Guppers service to handle almost any business process that involves a data exchange. For instance, instead of calling the office from the field, a sales agent can simply send an SMS message with the relevant query identifiers and receive inventory information on the phone. In another instance, a school can enable students to retrieve grades through SMS or email messages, instead of calling the administrative office with grade inquiries. <br />Guppers built its service using the Microsoft .NET Framework and the Microsoft Visual Studio 2010 development system. Guppers also relies on Windows Communication Foundation, a unified programming model from Microsoft for building service-oriented applications that transact and integrate across platforms. It uses the Microsoft Silverlight 3 browser plug-in for webpages with heavy client-side computation to deliver high performance and a rich user experience. To support the mobile phone component of its service, Guppers connects to mobile telecommunications providers around the globe.<br />In addition, Guppers strongly relies on cloud computing—the hosting of online applications through data centers. The company rented web servers and back-up database servers in a data center located in New York, and used contingent staff members to maintain the servers or troubleshoot problems on an as-needed basis. The company also used Amazon Simple Storage Service (S3) for data storage in the cloud. With Amazon S3, however, Guppers had to maintain file caches locally to improve performance, which was time consuming and resulted in inefficient scaling. <br />In fact, when the company initially launched its service, it received good press coverage—and experienced a surge in traffic to its website. Unfortunately, the team at Guppers could not copy virtual servers to package for Amazon S3 fast enough, so the servers crashed and the website went down, temporarily leaving customers without the Guppers service they rely on. The company realized that to keep up with demand, it would have to add backup storage servers at the data center—a cost-prohibitive endeavor.<br />Guppers also needed its service to be more responsive and reliable. As the company started to acquire multinational customers, latency for its web-based interface became an issue Guppers had with the N.Y. data center that processed all of its website traffic. “In some cases, it took customers up to six seconds to load a single webpage,” says Andy Harjanto, Cofounder of Guppers. “If the customer was using the web-based interface to upload or download a file, it was even worse. It was unacceptable.” <br />Though Guppers wanted a technology solution that offered both cost-efficient scalability and improved response times, it also needed one that was familiar to developers. As a small start-up company, Guppers wanted its developers to use their existing skills and focus on product development and business logic, rather than learning new technologies. <br />Solution<br />In September 2009, Guppers implemented the Windows Azure platform for both its web-based application and its storage needs. Windows Azure is a cloud services operating system that serves as 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 through Microsoft data centers. <br />“We don’t have to worry about scalability at all now.”Andy Harjanto, Cofounder, Guppers<br />It took only two days for two developers to migrate the Guppers hosting environment and Amazon S3 storage to Windows Azure. By November 2009, Guppers had migrated its entire service and all of its customers to the Windows Azure platform. <br />Scalable Architecture<br />Guppers uses Windows Azure web roles to process the traffic for its web-based application and can quickly scale up additional web roles to handle the steady increase in traffic the company is seeing as its business expands. It can also scale up web roles to handle traffic during peak periods, such as after a press release, and then easily scale down. <br />To process SMS and email traffic, Guppers uses Windows Azure worker roles. When customers use the Guppers service to exchange data, requests are added to Queue Storage, where worker roles pick up and process the requests. Document files are added to Windows Azure Blob Storage; messages are stored in Windows Azure Table Storage. “Both the Blob Storage and the Table Storage components of Windows Azure are also very scalable, which is great for Guppers, because we cannot predict how many SMS messages will be sent at any time, or how many documents might be exchanged,” explains Harjanto. <br />To achieve even higher bandwidth with its Blob Storage, and to ensure that its customers around the world can upload and download files without latency, Guppers plans to implement the Windows Azure Content Delivery Network. The Content Delivery Network caches blob content to strategically placed locations around the world to provide maximum bandwidth for customers.<br />Guppers also uses Microsoft SQL Azure, a cloud-based relational database service, for storing its user and account information. Now, instead of using on-premises SQL Server database servers as backup for data stored in the cloud with Amazon S3, Guppers is confidently hosting its relational database and storage solution completely in the cloud and has eliminated its on-premises backup database servers. <br />Connectivity Across Platforms and Services<br />Key to the company’s success is its ability to connect to telecommunications companies’ infrastructures, as well as to customers’ data centers. In some cases, telecommunications partners do not want to open a firewall to allow connections or customers, particularly small customers that do not have static IP addresses that would allow secure connections to the Guppers service. In these instances, Guppers uses the AppFabric Service Bus in the Windows Azure platform to expose its applications across network boundaries. <br />“Since implementing Windows Azure, latency issues are a thing of the past, and we no longer worry about poor performance. Our website and service are now on par with popular, high-traffic, enterprise websites.”Andy Harjanto, Cofounder, Guppers<br />Benefits<br />Since implementing Windows Azure as its hosting environment and to replace its previous cloud storage solution, Guppers has improved its ability to scale its service with a cost-effective model. In addition, by relying on cloud services from Microsoft, the company avoided capital expenditures associated with procuring hardware, as well as the additional operational costs of hiring staff to manage its infrastructure. The company rapidly migrated its solution to Windows Azure, a move that is helping to reduce the latency of its service and improve application performance. <br />Scales Rapidly, Cost-Effectively <br />Previously, Guppers had to copy multiple virtual machines in order to scale up its infrastructure to handle unpredictable burst traffic for SMS messages. Now, the company can avoid the time-consuming process, and can quickly scale up its infrastructure as demand dictates. “With Windows Azure, we can simply change the configuration to add more instances,” explains Harjanto. “For instance, if we need to scale up from 4 instances to 10 instances, we can have everything up and running with a couple of clicks and in a matter of minutes. We don’t have to worry about scalability at all now.”<br />In addition, because Windows Azure services follow a pay-as-you-go pricing model, Guppers only pays for the resources it uses. The growing company does not have to worry about paying for resources that might otherwise go unused during periods of non-peak traffic. “As we grow, Windows Azure grows with us, and we can keep the same margins we already have,” says Harjanto. “We don’t have to worry as much about fluctuations in a turbulent economy because we only pay for what we use.”<br />Avoids Capital Expenditures and Operational Costs<br />At the same time, Guppers is avoiding making capital expenditures associated with procuring server hardware to scale up its infrastructure, as well as the operational expenses it would incur to manage additional physical infrastructure. In fact, as a result of implementing Windows Azure, Guppers stopped using the third-party data center in New York. Had Guppers continued to rely on the data center, the company would have had to hire at least one full-time worker to manage the infrastructure. <br />“As we grow, had we scaled up our existing data center, we would have had to hire one full-time employee in New York at a salary of approximately $90,000 annually,” explains Harjanto. “We simply can’t afford that kind of expense—and that doesn’t include additional operational costs of approximately $700 each month that we would incur for things like static IP addresses, which is required for our service.” <br />Simplifies, Fast Development<br />Because developers were able to use their existing skills with Visual Studio when working with the Windows Azure platform, the development and deployment process for Guppers to migrate its service was quick and simple. It took two developers just two days to migrate the company’s hosting and storage environments to Windows Azure. In addition, Guppers can take advantage of the lightweight, developer-friendly Windows Azure platform AppFabric Service Bus, a programming model that supports standard protocols and extends similar standard bindings to developers programming with Windows Communication Foundation. <br />Reduces Latency for Improved Service<br />Guppers reduced the latency of its service and is able to better accommodate its global customers. Thanks to the reliable, worldwide, data center presence that Microsoft offers, customers get responsive service when they use Guppers—no matter where they are located. “Since implementing Windows Azure, latency issues are a thing of the past, and we no longer worry about poor performance,” emphasizes Harjanto. “Our website and service are now on par with popular, high-traffic, enterprise websites.” Furthermore, when the company starts using the Content Delivery Network to cache blobs at strategic places around the world, it can optimize service performance even more. <br />Software and ServicesWindows Azure PlatformWindows AzureAppFabric Service BusMicrosoft SQL AzureWindows Azure Content Delivery NetworkMicrosoft Server Product PortfolioMicrosoft SQL Server 2008Microsoft Visual StudioMicrosoft Visual Studio 2010TechnologiesMicrosoft .NET FrameworkWindows Communication FoundationThis 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 who are deaf or hard-of-hearing can reach Microsoft text telephone (TTY/TDD) services at (800) 892-5234 in the United States or (905) 568-9641 in Canada. Outside the 50 United States and Canada, please contact your local Microsoft subsidiary. To access information using the World Wide Web, go more information about Guppers products and services, call (646) 450-3488 or visit the website at: www.guppers.comWindows 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 " Dallas." 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 />