4-page Case Study
Posted: 8/26/2010
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TicTacTi Advertising Company Adopts Cloud Computing, Gets 400 Percent Improvement

TicTacTi offers interactive advertising solutions for games and videos. Its T3 Overlay Ad Insertion application, built using Microsoft technology, seamlessly inserts advertisements by placing them above a video source or stream. To meet customer demand for increased performance and scalability, TicTacTi needed to implement its technology on a cloud computing platform that included hardware infrastructure, storage infrastructure, a development environment, and an application environment. By choosing the Windows Azure platform, TicTacTi was able to make available its entire range of services on demand, with full system management and built-in redundancy. Also, its developers could work with familiar Microsoft technologies. The company now benefits from faster time-to-market, improved product performance, reduced IT workload, and enormous cost savings.

Situation
Founded in 2007, TicTacTi is an Israel-based software technology company with agencies in Europe and the United States that provides advertising solutions for information-rich content including games and videos. Its out-of-the-box solutions are simple to apply and adapt easily to different advertising campaigns. For example, it takes just a few hours to prepare a game to insert advertising elements, such as introductory promos, advertising between game stages, and advertising at the end of a game. TicTacTi solutions can be applied without editing code or employing software development kits, and the technology can be easily applied to games, toolbars, instant messaging clients, and websites.

The primary TicTacTi offering is the T3 Overlay Ad Insertion, a proprietary application that seamlessly inserts products and advertisements into a video or game by placing them above a video source or stream. (See Figure 1.) The advertising product then becomes part of the video. Advertisers can take advantage of creative brand placements in such a way that the product is integrated into the video, inserted in a nonintrusive way. Users can click an advertisement to get more information, related promotional materials, a shopping cart, or directions. The advertising solution also supports banner ads. The TicTacTi technology can be applied to a wide range of broadcasting formats including Windows Media Player, the Adobe Flash Player, the Microsoft Silverlight browser plug-in, and others.

Image of T3 Overlay Ad Insertion technology
Figure 1 – T3 Overlay Ad Insertion technology lets advertisers
place ads in creative ways above video streams.
TicTacTi developed its T3 Overlay Ad Insertion application by using the Microsoft .NET Framework 2.0 Service Pack 2, which runs on the Windows operating system. The company also uses Internet Information Services (IIS), web server software from Microsoft that runs on Windows Server 2008 R2 and handles everything from media streaming to web application hosting.

The T3 Overlay Ad Insertion technology also uses Microsoft SQL Server database software components: SQL Server Integration Services performs data migration, SQL Server Analysis Services serves as a database management system, and SQL Server Reporting Services generates reports through a web interface.

With its existing infrastructure, TicTacTi didn’t have the computing power to meet the demand of the number of users playing games on its network. To make the most of its solution, TicTacTi needed a cloud platform that included hardware infrastructure, storage infrastructure, a development environment, and an application environment.

“Our application is based on a Microsoft environment from end to end,” says Nir Hagshury, Chief Technical Officer at TicTacTi. “We required a cloud computing solution with maximum elasticity that would be capable of providing an entire environment as a service according to demand. We needed to avoid the huge investments in hardware, software, and maintenance necessary to meet the scalability required by the T3 Overlay Ad Insertion application, and we needed maximum redundancy."

Solution
To find a solution, TicTacTi reviewed several cloud solutions, including The Rackspace Cloud, Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2), and Gogrid. “None of these solutions met our database needs, including redundancy,” says Hagshury.

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* With Windows Azure, we have avoided costs in infrastructures and operations. Thanks to the flexibility of cloud computing, our customers can make use of the service on any scale. *

Nir Hagshury
Chief Technical Officer, TicTacTi

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To expand the potential of TicTacTi technology, in December 2009 the company chose the Windows Azure platform as its cloud computing solution. “Windows Azure is the only platform that provides a database solution with built-in redundancy and scalability, complete and automatic redundancy of application servers, and full-service system management from the service provider,” says Hagshury.

Windows Azure is 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.

The company chose the Windows Azure platform in part because it needed to have servers in both the United States and Europe. Plus, the platform gives TicTacTi developers the capability to develop in the familiar .NET Framework environment, and provides full support for SQL Server technologies. The company also can use Windows Azure capabilities to set up virtual private networks (VPNs) from servers in customers’ locations. “The Windows Azure platform is so flexible that we can deploy additional application servers on short notice,” says Hagshury. “Alternatively, we can easily take servers down.”

The company implemented a solution that includes Microsoft SQL Azure, a cloud-based relational database service built on SQL Server technologies. As needed, the company will duplicate the database, which retains, manages, and retrieves data in the cloud using database management tools familiar to the organization. TicTacTi completed its implementation in June 2010.

The company hosts its website on the Windows Azure platform, and it uses the Hyper-V virtualization capabilities built into the Windows Server 2008 R2 operating system to host its T3 Overlay Ad Insertion application. For tracking statistical content, TicTacTi employs Windows Azure Storage, which can grow as required to meet customer demand. The company is also taking advantage of the Windows Azure Management Tool to manage its hosted services and storage accounts.

With the Windows Azure platform, TicTacTi has created an end-to-end solution for backup services, storage, database management, and system management. “If we had to deliver the solution through our own data centers, we would be working from morning till night testing load levels and allocating additional servers and computing resources,” says Hagshury. “By contrast, the Windows Azure platform simply works—on any scale and at any load level—completely automatically."

By using the Windows Azure platform, TicTacTi has been able to implement a complete application environment that is scalable, redundant, and makes available its entire range of services. The platform provides virtually unlimited capacity to meet very high levels of demand. With the Windows Azure platform, the company is able to provide its customers with full system management services and a comprehensive service level agreement.

Benefits
By using the Windows Azure platform, TicTacTi is able to focus on delivering value to its customers, achieving its business objectives, and providing a high standard of service. It has significantly shortened the time-to-market for its advertising technology and seeded the potential to serve many more customers.

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* When you use a solution like Windows Azure, there is no need to have an in-depth understanding of infrastructures. Windows Azure is like a black box or an electrical socket. You simply plug in and use the relevant resources. *

Nir Hagshury
Chief Technical Officer, TicTacTi

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With its technology hosted on the Windows Azure platform, TicTacTi technology is performing faster, which helps the company grow. TicTacTi also has been able to reduce the workload of its IT staff and eliminate investments in computing power.

“With Windows Azure, we have avoided costs in infrastructures and operations,” says Hagshury. “Thanks to the flexibility of cloud computing, our customers can make use of the service on a very increased scale.”

Shortened Time-to-Market
TicTacTi designed, developed, implemented, tested and deployed it solution on the Windows Azure platform in less than five weeks, and delivered a superior solution that offered a level of performance and service that can satisfy its customer base. “TicTacTi is using all Windows Azure technologies, including web services, Microsoft SQL Server functionality, multiple data locations, storage, and so on,” says Hagshury. "The ability to receive these resources as a service made it possible for us to considerably speed up the process of reaching customers. Plus, we avoided spending [U.S.]$50,000 on hardware and a hosting facility.”

Improved Product Performance
The company conducted tests and found that transferring its technology to the Windows Azure platform reduces the reaction time of the T3 Overlay Ad Insertion application from 400 milliseconds to less than 100 milliseconds, a 400 percent performance improvement.

TicTacTi is taking advantage of the elasticity of Windows Azure platform—and its ability to provide functionality to a multitude of customers. "Any customer joining our service creates hundreds and thousands of additional customers,” says Hagshury. “With Windows Azure, we can significantly increase the growth rate of the company.”

Reduced IT Workload
By using the Windows Azure platform, TicTacTi has significantly reduced the workload of the IT team and avoided the costs of employing experts in the fields of data management, backup, storage, and server maintenance. The company reports that managing and hosting the solution without Windows Azure would have required hiring a 50 percent IT position. "When you use a solution like Windows Azure, there is no need to have an in-depth understanding of infrastructures,” says Hagshury. “Windows Azure is like a black box or an electrical socket. You simply plug in and use the relevant resources.”

Eliminated Infrastructure Investments
TicTacTi has reduced costs by deploying its solution on the Windows Azure platform, which eliminates the need to acquire hardware infrastructures, storage, software, and personnel. The company realizes additional savings because it pays only for the infrastructure resources it uses. Because of its pay-per-use policy, TicTacTi is saving 80 percent in operational costs over a three-year period.

"For our company, which has developed its solution based on Microsoft technology, the Windows Azure platform is the most natural, most economical, and most efficient solution available,” says Hagshury. “With it, we’re avoiding enormous investments in infrastructure and global deployment.”

Windows Azure Platform
The Windows Azure platform provides an excellent foundation for expanding online product and service offerings. The main components include:

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.

Microsoft SQL Azure. Microsoft SQL Azure offers the first cloud-based relational and self-managed database service built on Microsoft SQL Server 2008 technologies.

Windows Azure platform AppFabric. With Windows Azure platform AppFabric, developers can build and manage applications more easily both on-premises and in the cloud.

AppFabric Service Bus connects services and applications across network boundaries to help developers build distributed applications.

AppFabric Access Control provides federated, claims-based access control for REST web services.

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.

To learn more about the Windows Azure platform, visit:
www.windowsazure.com

For More Information
For 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 TicTacTi products and services, call (972) (0)77 -4404394 or visit the website at:
www.tictacti.com

Additional 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 

Solution Overview



Organization Size: 5 employees

Organization Profile

Based in Israel and with offices in Europe and the United States, TicTacTi offers technology for monetizing games and videos by providing interactive solutions for in-game and in-video advertising.


Business Situation

To scale to meet customer demand for its easy-to-apply advertising solutions for games and videos, TicTacTi needed to implement its technology on a reliable and full-service cloud computing platform.


Solution

The company implemented its technology on the Windows Azure platform, taking advantage of its scalability, redundancy, flexibility, and compatibility with the TicTacTi development environment.


Benefits

  • Shortened time-to-market
  • Improved product performance
  • Reduced IT workload
  • Eliminated infrastructure investments


Software and Services
  • Microsoft Azure
  • Microsoft SQL Azure
  • Microsoft SQL Server 2008 Enterprise
  • Windows Server 2008 Enterprise
  • Microsoft Internet Information Services 7.5
  • Microsoft .NET Framework 2.0

Vertical Industries
Media & Cable

Country/Region
Israel

Business Need
Cloud & Server Platform

Languages
English

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