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Real World SQL Azure: Interview with Alexandru Lapusan, CEO at Zitec

[This article was contributed by the SQL Azure team.]Real World SQL Azure: Interview with Alexandru Lapusan, Chief Executive Officer at Zitec As part of the Real World SQL Azure series, we talked to…

[This article was contributed by the SQL Azure team.]

Real World SQL Azure: Interview with Alexandru Lapusan, Chief Executive Officer at Zitec

As part of the Real World SQL Azure series, we talked to Alexandru Lapusan, Chief Executive Officer at Zitec, about using Microsoft SQL Azure for its hotel-review and price-trend application. Here’s what he had to say:


MSDN: Can you tell us about Zitec and the services you offer?

Lapusan: Zitec is an IT consultancy and software development company that develops custom software applications for customers. In Romania, we are well known as one of the largest PHP development companies in the area.


MSDN: What were some of the challenges that Zitec faced prior to adopting SQL Azure?

Lapusan: After launching HotelPeeps, which is built on PHP, we quickly realized that we needed to offer a new feature that would set us apart from our competitors. We wanted to take raw, statistical data and transform it into hotel pricing trends to help travelers choose their hotels. To do this, however, we needed extensions to the standard SQL syntax and a scalable database that could handle large volumes of data.


MSDN: Why did you choose SQL Azure as your solution?

Lapusan: We considered using a MySQL database hosted on Amazon Relational Database Service (RDS) because we are already familiar with those technologies. However, with MySQL, we would not have the SQL syntax support we needed to process data. With SQL Azure, we would have the syntax support we needed.


MSDN: Can you describe how Zitec is using SQL Azure?

Lapusan: We used the Windows Azure Software Development Kit (SDK) for PHP to build HotelPeeps Trends on the Windows Azure platform. We have a gateway server built on the Linux operating system that connects through web services to seven third-party booking engines that provide live hotel-price offers. The raw pricing data, which includes more than 1.5 million live offers and about 7 million archived offers, is normalized by a PHP command-line process and stored in SQL Azure. A task scheduler executes another PHP command-line process to scan the data for a particular city and adds that task to queue storage in Windows Azure. The HotelPeeps Trends service is hosted on a Windows Azure web role running the Windows Server 2008 R2 operating system and Microsoft Internet Information Services 7.5. The virtual server includes a PHP runtime that pulls pricing data from SQL Azure, caches it, and then displays it for the user as a chart.


MSDN: What makes your solution unique?

Lapusan: HotelPeeps Trends running on the Windows Azure platform is the epitome of interoperability. Some people think that a PHP application running on Microsoft infrastructure is science fiction, but that’s not the case. PHP and the Windows Azure platform work together beautifully, and more PHP developers should take a serious look at Windows Azure and its impressive interoperability.


MSDN: What benefits is Zitec realizing with SQL Azure and Windows Azure?

Lapusan: Scalability is one of the key benefits we’ve seen. Each week, we add around 500,000 offers to our database, and we are able to quickly scale up without any lag in performance. Our database is constantly growing and we consistently have top performance with SQL Azure and are impressed. On top of that, we’re achieving the scalability and performance we need at a significantly lower cost than if we used Amazon RDS in this case. For our needs, SQL Azure is approximately 50 to 90 percent cheaper than Amazon when it comes to storage costs alone. If you need cost-effective scalability, SQL Azure is the best option.


Read the full story at: www.microsoft.com/casestudies/casestudy.aspx?casestudyid=4000009526


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— Steve