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Posted: 7/11/2013
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The Crown Estate Crown Estate Uses Scalable Cloud Solution to Share Energy Data with the Public

The Crown Estate in the United Kingdom (UK) required a new data management repository—the Marine Data Exchange—for data related to marine renewable energy developments. It chose a combination of on-premises services and Windows Azure to collect, share, and exchange “big data” with energy developers and the public. With Windows Azure, The Crown Estate deployed the scalable cloud-based solution with zero infrastructure required.

Business Needs

The Crown Estate is responsible for managing the seabed around the UK and is custodian of an estate valued at £8 billion (US$12 billion). It plays a major role in the development of the UK low carbon energy industry, managing the leasing process for renewable energy projects and using its expertise to boost growth and investment in the sector.

The Crown Estate faced the challenge of managing and storing up to 1 petabyte (1 million gigabytes) of data for its Marine Data Exchange initiative. Nigel Spencer, Head of Information Services, The Crown Estate, says: “To help ensure that the offshore renewables industry realises its full potential, we’re taking a proactive approach in making data available to industry, academic research institutions, and the public.”

When deciding its technology strategy for making data available, it had to take into account the unpredictable nature of demand. “We didn’t know how much demand to expect for information in the Marine Data Exchange, so it would have been difficult to size this in an on-premises world,” he says. The Crown Estate also needed to consider how to separate the commercially sensitive information that developers supply from unrestricted data—for example, about marine and bird life.

The Crown Estate was keen to avoid high infrastructure costs for a public-facing service. As a result, it decided to implement a cloud-based solution to deliver content on request to the public, developers, and research-based institutions.


After considering several cloud-based solutions, The Crown Estate opted for the one put forward by Microsoft Gold Partner ClearPeople. The partner—which specialises in Windows Azure and Microsoft SharePoint, and was also an early adopter of cloud services and Windows Azure—had been working with The Crown Estate since early 2011.

ClearPeople proposed managing and storing data internally for The Crown Estate Marine Data Exchange website through Microsoft SharePoint Server 2010, Microsoft SQL Server 2008 R2, and Windows Server 2008. The solution involved exposing non-confidential data externally through Windows Azure. It also uses Bing Maps to help refine search results for data. The Marine Data Exchange includes a third-party tool—Metalogix StoragePoint for SharePoint—to offload Blobs to data silos on the local network.

Gabriel Karawani, Director and Co-Founder, ClearPeople, says: “By delivering the public-facing site through Windows Azure, ClearPeople was able to provide The Crown Estate with a pay-as-you-go model, which can be scaled up, both in terms of infrastructure and budget, depending on demand and success. The benefit to the public, such as a university research department, is a highly accessible system with a user-friendly search and Bing Maps interface, giving access to very large datasets. It’s an innovative project.”

The solution uploads and indexes data dynamically to Windows Azure, after which the requesting party receives a message that it is available for download. The Crown Estate holds commercially sensitive data not available to the public on physical servers. Spencer says: “A number of renewable energy developer partners tested The Crown Estate Marine Data Exchange in the third quarter of 2012. It is now live.”


By using a combination of on-premises infrastructure and Windows Azure, The Crown Estate has acquired a highly scalable solution to deliver a huge quantity of content to the public. The Crown Estate is enjoying a low initial infrastructure cost to minimise the overall expense of introducing a new web-based service. The solution from ClearPeople replaces its previous data management repository. The Crown Estate has now also incorporated Windows Azure into its new wave and tidal Knowledge Network, which aims to support the development of the wave and tidal energy industry through improved information sharing among organisations.

Cloud provides effective way to store and manage “big data.” Spencer says: “The UK is a world leader in the provisioning of marine renewable energy. Windows Azure was the right solution to keep costs low and give us the scalability we required. Windows Azure scales easily to meet demand, and as a cloud-based service it has helped us avoid the need to invest in physical infrastructure.”

Solution frees up valuable space for other applications. Windows Azure gives The Crown Estate a cost-effective way of storing “big data” outside SharePoint Server 2010, while retaining easy access and control. Spencer says: “By using Windows Azure, we’re freeing up valuable resources for other applications and uses.”

Windows Azure incorporates data from the previous system. The Crown Estate will ensure that information held about the previous round of licensing for offshore renewable energy is available in Windows Azure.

Microsoft and ClearPeople support new developments. The Crown Estate now also uses Windows Azure as part of a second project, a wave and tidal Knowledge Network designed to support the wave and tidal energy industry in collaboration with the UK Department of Energy & Climate Change. Spencer says: “Working with Microsoft and ClearPeople—a leader and early adopter of the cloud and Windows Azure—has been such a positive experience that we’re using its support on another major project, our wave and tidal Knowledge Network.”

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Solution Overview

Organization Size: 397 employees

Organization Profile

The Crown Estate manages a diverse property portfolio on behalf of the UK. Its responsibility for almost the entire UK seabed means it takes a leading role in driving forward offshore renewable energy developments within UK waters.

Software and Services
  • Microsoft Azure
  • Microsoft SharePoint Server 2010
  • Bing Maps
  • Microsoft SQL Server 2008 R2
  • Windows Server 2008

Vertical Industries

United Kingdom