Designercity wanted to meet customer demand for scalable, hosted applications but did not want to build its own data center. Instead, it chose the Windows Azure platform from Microsoft for one of its first cloud projects. Designercity built an
interactive karaoke application on Windows Azure that also uses Microsoft Surface. It now has a successful, repeatable business model for delivering highly scalable, inexpensive solutions that customers trust.
Founded in the United Kingdom in 1995 as a web consulting firm, Designercity reestablished its headquarters in Hong Kong, China, in 2000 and began focusing on broader, integrated digital solutions. Now an independent digital solution consultant and software
vendor and a member of the Microsoft Partner Network, Designercity develops mobile applications, multi-touch solutions, and out-of-home applications.
The company’s success is built on identifying and filling gaps in the market with innovative technology solutions. “We have a high level of technological expertise and make it a focus to adopt new technology as it emerges and apply it to real-life business
situations,” says Jeremy Payne, Head of Marketing at Designercity. As a result of this approach, the company has won mandates to develop digital solutions for prominent organizations, including the Hong Kong International Airport and the Hong Kong Tourist
||Windows Azure gives us the confidence to design distributed, highly scalable applications and serve a larger region outside of Hong Kong.
Director of Technology Solutions, Designercity
In 2010, Designercity noticed the need for application hosting in the digital market. “We increasingly get requests from customers to provide hosting for their applications,” explains Ernest Kwong, Director of Technology Solutions at Designercity. “Customers
want highly available, scalable applications but do not want to manage infrastructure.”
One such customer was Red MR a subsidiary of bma Investment Group, which has interests in the sports, hospitality, and entertainment and media industries. Red MR is a new karaoke brand that operates two popular karaoke complexes in Hong Kong. “The karaoke
market in Hong Kong was in decline and had seemingly lost touch with the ‘digital generation,’” says Canny Leung, Managing Director at bma Investment Group. “We wanted to tackle the market with a new spirit.” Red MR wanted an interactive karaoke experience
for its customers but was hesitant to invest significant capital resources to build an infrastructure to host the application it imagined amidst the declining market.
At the same time, Designercity did not want to build a data center of its own. “Data centers and infrastructure are not our core business. We’re looking for solutions that can provide the infrastructure components of solutions we develop,” says Kwong.
In October 2010, Designercity started developing a revolutionary karaoke concept for Red MR. Designercity used the Microsoft Surface software and touch computing platform to develop the multiuser, multi-touch karaoke application. It also used the Microsoft
Silverlight 4 browser plug-in and Windows Presentation Foundation to deliver a rich user interface. Customers who visit the Red MR karaoke complexes can use the Microsoft Surface unit to select karaoke songs, play games, upload photos, and even order food
and beverages as part of a complete entertainment experience.
To manage all of the content available in the karaoke application, Designercity chose Windows Azure, which serves as the Microsoft cloud services development, hosting, and management environment. Specifically, the company used web roles in Windows Azure
to host the front-end application and worker roles to handle background tasks. It uses Blob Storage in Windows Azure to store binary files, including photos, videos, and songs. “Windows Azure is the backbone of our solution,” says Philip Ip, Technology Consultant
at Designercity. “It is the information hub that brings all of the content together.”
As part of the solution, Designercity also developed an app for Windows Phone 7 as a complement to the Microsoft Surface application, enabling unique features that integrate customers’ smartphones with the Microsoft Surface unit. Customers can play games
on the unit by using their Windows Phone as a controller, for instance.
Developers at Designercity finished the karaoke application by the end of December 2010, and Red MR implemented the solution at two complexes. Each complex has 10 Microsoft Surface units, one for each of the complexes’ private suites, which accommodate four
to 40 people. By June 2011, the karaoke experience was so popular that Red MR was preparing to open two more complexes and the number of Microsoft Surface units it uses to 100.
As a result of using Windows Azure to manage content for its interactive karaoke application, Designercity has:
Discovered a new business model. By relying on Windows Azure and Microsoft Surface, Designercity discovered a new business model compared to the project-by-project approach it previously used. By using the Red MR project as a springboard,
the company developed an extensible framework that it can reuse to create other interactive solutions for customers in the entertainment industry. “Designercity has evolved over the last decade, and, with Windows Azure and Microsoft Surface, we were able to
take the next step in that evolution,” says Payne. Designercity charges its business customers a flat rate for each Microsoft Surface unit installed, including software, and the customers pay Microsoft directly for their own monthly Windows Azure subscription.
Achieved critical scalability. Red MR can quickly add compute and storage resources and scale up the karaoke application on demand during periods of peak usage, or as the company expands its operations. In addition, Designercity is confident
that it can expand its business operations by using Windows Azure. “In the future, our focus will be to serve customers throughout the greater Asia-Pacific region,” explains Kwong. “Windows Azure gives us the confidence to design distributed, highly scalable
applications and serve a larger region outside of Hong Kong.”
Delivered a cost-effective solution. By using Windows Azure, Designercity customers can run the karaoke application and deliver engaging content without investing in and managing a physical server infrastructure—a considerable cost savings.
“Our customers can easily save 10 to 20 percent of the initial IT investment by using a cloud-based infrastructure built on Windows Azure,” says Kwong. “When we save customers that much money, our business becomes even more valuable.”
For more information about other Microsoft customer successes, please visit: