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Posted: 4/4/2014
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Mural.ly Web Startup Scales to Support 350,000 Users, Easily Deploys 20 Updates per Day with Cloud Solution

Mural.ly is a website where creative teams share ideas and collaborate on projects. The Mural.ly management team wanted to increase the site’s scalability to support rapid growth, and it needed to deploy up to 20 code updates each day. Mural.ly implemented its solution on Microsoft Azure Web Sites, which helps the site scale to thousands of new users daily and enables Mural.ly to deploy updates in seconds. With Azure Web Sites, developers spend more time creating features, and Mural.ly uses the platform’s scalability to attract larger customers.


Business Needs

Mural.ly is an interactive whiteboard that geographically dispersed creative teams use to visually organize ideas and collaborate in real time. Members of these teams use the site’s “murals”—zoomable walls with sticky notes, videos, links, and photos—to display and discuss their ideas.

Launched in September 2012, Mural.ly has grown quickly—from around 10,000 users shortly after launch to 350,000 users in 191 countries today. “We hoped we would have solid growth, but we never imagined we’d have this many users in less than two years,” says Johnny Halife, Chief Architect and Co-founder, Mural.ly. We’re still getting up to 1,000 new users every day.” Such a rapid increase in users means that Mural.ly must have technology that scales effectively.

The site also has a small team, which needs to focus solely on software development. “We need to work on building new features and making the site great for customers,” says Halife. “The less we have to worry about managing the underlying infrastructure, the better.”

Mural.ly also needs to support the site’s development schedule. The site’s IT team uses the GitHub platform for source control. “We need to deploy code up to 20 times a day, whether it’s bug fixes or new features,” Halife says.

To meet these business needs, Mural.ly started looking for a technology solution in late 2012.

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* Using Microsoft Web Sites, we had no difficulty scaling quickly to support 350,000 users, including 1,000 new users every day. We’re very confident that Azure will continue meeting our growth needs. *

Johnny Halife
Chief Architect and Co-founder
Mural.ly

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Solution

Mural.ly initially experimented with different solutions, none of which provided the scalability and performance the company required. The organization then turned to Microsoft. Through its participation in the Microsoft BizSpark program, which offers technology, support, and other benefits to startups, Mural.ly learned about Microsoft Azure Web Sites. “The Microsoft Azure platform in general looked like it would give us the scalability and flexibility we were looking for,” says Halife.

Microsoft Azure Web Sites offers secure and flexible development, deployment, and scalability for web applications. The technology also provides the ability for companies to provision applications in seconds, using a range of open-source development technologies such as Node.js. “The open-source aspect was very important to us,” says Halife. “We wanted to use Node.js, and with this solution we realized we could use that while getting the support from Microsoft. It really made sense.”

In early 2013, Mural.ly implemented a PaaS solution based on Azure Web Sites, with the Mural.ly website connected to a database running on a Mongo DB cluster. The solution also makes use of Microsoft Azure Storage Queues, which can handle up to 2,000 message transactions per second. The site’s front end consists of an HTML/JavaScript application that runs in all modern web browsers.

Benefits

Using Microsoft Azure Web Sites, Mural.ly can support 1,000 new users every day and deploy 20 daily updates in a few seconds. The company’s developers have more time to build new features, and Mural.ly will be able to attract enterprise customers.

Scales to Support Thousands of New Users a Day

With Microsoft Azure Web Sites as the underlying technology, Mural.ly has the ability to scale its website to easily support a large daily influx of users. “Using Microsoft Azure Web Sites, we had no difficulty scaling quickly to support 350,000 users, including 1,000 new users every day,” says Halife. “We’re very confident that Azure will continue meeting our growth needs.”

The technology supports even larger numbers of daily users if necessary, through the Microsoft Azure AutoScale feature. “We get bursts of new users sometimes, when there’s an article in the press about us,” says Halife. “We saw that happen recently when we got 5,000 new users in a single day. But Azure supported that without any problems at all.”

Manages 20 Daily Deployments

Mural.ly is able to easily deploy daily updates to its customers, because the Microsoft Azure Web Sites platform supports its agile deployment pace. Specifically, Mural.ly employs continuous delivery by running an integration server on Microsoft Azure virtual machines. “With Microsoft Azure, we can support 20 code deployments each day, and the entire process only takes a few seconds,” says Halife. “The deployment on other environments we looked at took up to 20 minutes for each deployment. We’re saving a huge amount of time with Microsoft Azure Web Sites, so our customers get the bug fixes and updates they need fast.”

Gives Developers More Time to Create New Features

Because Mural.ly can rely on Microsoft Azure to manage the technology behind the website, the company’s small team of developers can put more of their time into making the site better. “With Microsoft Azure, we get a PaaS solution where someone else is taking care of the infrastructure and security for us,” Halife says. “We no longer have to manage those things ourselves, which saves a lot of time. We can focus 100 percent on delivering a great web application and making our customers happy.”

Mural.ly also saves money. “Without this solution, we would probably have to hire a full-time IT management employee to look after the data center and the hardware, making sure everything’s running smoothly,” says Halife.

Helps Mural.ly Attract Enterprise Customers

Mural.ly will be able to focus on larger customers, because Microsoft Azure provides the security those enterprises seek. For example, Microsoft Azure contains built-in security features and Microsoft Azure Active Directory for authentication. “We will definitely take advantage of Microsoft Azure Active Directory in the future, and that will help us integrate more easily with corporate identity providers,” says Halife. “That means we will have a better ability to target enterprise customers that are asking us to offer solid security. As a startup, that’s a huge business advantage for us.”

Additionally, Mural.ly will use Microsoft Azure Notification Hubs, a scalable push- notification feature, once it rolls out a mobile version of its application. “As we grow our mobile app, we will use Microsoft Azure Notification Hubs to automatically send notifications to users,” says Halife. “Overall, the features in Microsoft Azure will help us meet all of our customers’ needs as we expand our solutions.”

This case study is for informational purposes only.
Solution Overview



Organization Size: 10 employees

Organization Profile

Mural.ly, a San Francisco-based company with development operations in Buenos Aires, Argentina, is a web-based creative collaboration platform used by more than 350,000 people around the world.


Software and Services
  • Microsoft Azure
  • Microsoft Azure Web Sites
  • Microsoft Azure Storage
  • Microsoft Azure Notification Hubs

Vertical Industries
IT Services

Country/Region
United States

Business Need
Cloud & Server Platform

IT Issue
Cloud Services

Languages
English

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