Editor’s Note: ADMIXER is a leading web banner advertising company in Ukraine; Autocosmos.com is a leading automobile website for Spanish speaking consumers in Latin America and the United States; IT WORKS offers the largest e-publishing platform in Thailand; and News 360 is a startup online news personalization service.
Each of these young, innovative companies has grown rapidly, and they all share an ambition to expand their business and reach global markets. We spoke with principals at each company to talk about what led them to cloud computing and how they think other cloud services compare to Windows Azure. They each described the solution they’ve built and the benefits they’ve achieved by using Windows Azure to support their offerings and help grow their businesses.
Aleksey Boltivets, Chief Executive Officer at ADMIXER:
We just started in 2009, and today ADMIXER delivers 1 billion banner impressions to 11 million web visitors a month. The advertising market in Ukraine is growing at 30 percent a year. We wanted to capture that business and grow internationally. To reach more customers, especially outside of Ukraine, we needed a scalable IT infrastructure that could deliver high reliability everywhere. We wanted to transfer our IT systems from on-premises servers, and looked briefly at third-party hosting providers, but we would still have had to own, manage, and monitor the servers. After a thorough evaluation of cloud services from Microsoft and Amazon, the only solution that we felt was able to meet our reliability and scalability needs was Windows Azure.
We completely replaced our on-premises infrastructure with web and worker roles in Windows Azure, SQL Database, Windows Azure Table Storage, blobs, queues, and the Windows Azure Content Delivery Network (CDN). We deliver 30 million ad impressions a day, and with Windows Azure we can easily double that load. We expect 10 times more customers and 1,000 percent revenue growth in the next two years, while we increase availability by 15 percent, all without spending one cent on IT infrastructure or expanding staff. The savings could amount to US$500,000 over three years.
Martin R. Legnoverde, Chief Operating Officer and Chief Information Officer at Autocosmos.com:
Every month, Autocosmos.com provides automobile news, research, and an online marketplace for 4 million consumers throughout Mexico, South America, and the United States. In 2009, we partnered with the Latin American edition of a worldwide news and media website to put Autocosmos news reports on the site’s Spanish-language home page. The broad market presence generated so much new web traffic for us that our hosted servers were failing under the load and our co-branding relationship was in danger. Back in 2009, we used Amazon EC2 to store classified ad images, but Amazon just provided rented servers that we had to provision and support, which required too much work for our staff. Windows Azure is a complete platform-as-a-service offering.
We initially migrated the co-branded news stories that experienced heavy traffic to Windows Azure with two mouse-clicks, and then decided to host all of our editorial content with Windows Azure and move the used-car images from Amazon into Windows Azure Storage. Today we are using Windows Azure compute roles, SQL Database, and Windows Azure CDN. By 2013, we expect to support the entire site with Windows Azure. Our web traffic can increase 10 times in very short periods, sometimes in fewer than three hours. With Windows Azure, we can instantly and automatically scale our resources, so we can add hundreds of users and grow this business beyond Latin America without purchasing new servers. When it’s time to upgrade our whole infrastructure, we expect to reduce our hosting costs by 50 percent.
Natavudh Pungcharoenpong, Chief Executive Officer at IT WORKS:
Since IT WORKS started in 2010, we have delivered more than 4 million publications to 1.5 million subscribers. Our Ookbee application commands 90 percent of the Thai-language e-publishing market. We hosted Ookbee with Amazon EC2, but Amazon just provided servers, and the service had been unreliable. We needed a cloud service that could help us build new features in Ookbee and gain the scalability and reliability we needed. With Amazon, we had to scale up our resources manually, and the service failed three times in one year. Once, a virus caused a service interruption and a lost revenue opportunity. We knew that such failures would be disastrous if we wanted to expand throughout Asia and beyond. When we switched to Windows Azure, the Microsoft team assessed our business problems and helped us design an architecture to resolve them. We never got that support from Amazon.
In May 2012, we began supporting Ookbee with Windows Azure compute resources, Windows Azure Storage, SQL Database, Windows Azure Caching, and Windows Azure CDN. As we move into media streaming, we will use Windows Azure Media Services. We want to use Windows Azure to expand Ookbee around the world, and we expect to grow our business by more than 10 times and triple our revenue. We’ve increased availability to 99.5 percent, which we estimate will increase revenue by several more percentage points—because customers have a better experience. We reduced our hosting fees by nearly 30 percent, and we have a great local Microsoft team in Thailand, which we never had with Amazon.
Roman Karachinsky, Chief Executive Officer at News360; and Shavkat Aynurin, Chief Technology Officer at News360:
Karachinsky: News360 culls more than 150,000 articles every day from more than 20,000 different sources, and then customizes that information based on user preferences and behavior on social networking sites. We needed a hosting environment that would help us grow quickly to reach a global audience, and support a solution that would reach the widest possible number of users worldwide.
Aynurin: We were leaning toward Windows Azure because we use Microsoft .NET development tools, which would help speed our development of News360, and we felt confident that Windows Azure could deliver the kind of reliability that was essential to making the solution work.
Karachinsky: With assistance through the Microsoft BizSpark One program, the Mobile Acceleration Week program, and the Windows Azure Toolkit for Windows Phone, we created a different kind of service—hosted on Windows Azure—that can deliver highly personalized news on multiple mobile and desktop devices, and all major web browsers and operating systems, including Windows 8. With Windows Azure, we have the flexibility to grow and go global. If we put an update on an app store and expect 100,000 new users to access News360—we just flip a switch, and in 10 minutes we have enough capacity.
Aynurin: In just the first year, News360 is well past the 1 million-user mark in multiple countries. The fact that there are Windows Azure data centers worldwide makes it easier to distribute News360 and provide better performance for users in specific regions.
Learn how other customers are using Windows Azure.