Definition 6 is an interactive marketing agency that focuses on creating content-rich, engaging websites. The company uses the Umbraco content management system and wanted to implement a cloud-based hosting option to complement its traditional hosting model, but struggled to find a solution that would integrate with the content management system. Umbraco also recognized the need for a cloud-based solution and developed an accelerator that enables companies to deploy websites that are managed in the Umbraco content management system to the Windows Azure platform. By using the accelerator, Definition 6 migrated Cox Enterprises’ Cox Conserves Heroes website to the Windows Azure platform in two weeks. Definition 6 enjoyed a simple development and deployment process; can now offer customers a cost-effective, cloud-based solution; and is prepared for future business demands. Situation
is an interactive marketing agency with offices in Atlanta, Georgia; New York, New York; and Dallas, Texas. Though the company offers traditional marketing services, its 150 employees have a strong focus on interactive marketing that redefines brand experiences by unifying the disciplines of marketing and technology. In particular, the company develops interactive, rich-media websites and web-based applications that engage users and turn them into brand advocates for Definition 6 customers, which include popular brands like La Quinta, Coca-Cola, and Cox Communications.
Much of the work that Definition 6 does involves developing large, content-managed websites for its customers. The company found that its customers need a content management system that interoperates well with their enterprise infrastructure, typically built on the Windows Server operating system, Microsoft SQL Server data management software, and the Microsoft .NET Framework. Whereas many interactive marketing agencies use PHP-based content management systems and development tools, Definition 6 uses Microsoft technologies to meet the needs of its customers. For instance, it develops its rich, interactive websites with the Microsoft Visual Studio 2008 Professional Edition development system.
||By using Windows Azure and the Umbraco accelerator, we can meet our customers’ complex content management needs and their desire to take advantage of the benefits of the cloud.
Chief Technology Officer, Definition 6
After surveying the market for a content management system built on the .NET Framework, Definition 6 turned to Umbraco to meet its needs. Umbraco is a software development company that offers an open-source content management system that is based on Microsoft ASP.NET. “Umbraco gives us what our customers need the most—a robust content management system that delivers what chief information officers need in terms of technology, and what chief marketing officers need in terms of content management for websites,” explains Paul Hernacki, Chief Technology Officer at Definition 6.
In addition to the Umbraco content management system, Definition 6 uses a colocation hosting environment and manages data centers for its customers’ websites. The company offers several hosting options for its customers, ranging from dedicated servers to a shared and virtualized hosting environment.
In addition to the traditional hosting models the company offers, many Definition 6 customers started asking for a cloud-based hosting solution and the marketing agency recognized the benefits of such an offering, such as the ability to quickly scale up and down, which is important for websites that have unpredictable demand, and the ability to avoid costly capital expenditures, which is important for customers in a turbulent economic climate. However, Definition 6 needed a cloud solution that would work with the Umbraco content management system, which the company uses for all of its customers.
Definition 6 evaluated cloud offerings from Amazon and Google, but found that none of them worked well with the tools that the agency’s developers use. “We work with Visual Studio and the .NET Framework 3.5 and 4.0, and other Microsoft products and technologies to build rich web experiences for our customers who are also using infrastructure technologies such as Windows Server,” explains Hernacki. “Neither the Amazon nor the Google cloud offerings seamlessly blend with the way we work, nor do they allow us to continue working exactly as we are with the tools that we have to build the websites that we want to build for our customers.” Solution
Umbraco recognized that customers like Definition 6 want to use content management systems in the cloud and continue to use the familiar products and technologies that permeate enterprise environments, so it developed an accelerator that enables customers to deploy websites that use the Umbraco content management system on the Windows Azure platform. Windows Azure is the development, service hosting, and service management environment that provides developers with on-demand compute, storage, bandwidth, and a content distribution network to host, scale, and manage web applications through Microsoft data centers
Definition 6 saw the Umbraco accelerator as a way to use the Umbraco content management system on which it relies and still take advantage of the cloud. The company wanted to evaluate the Windows Azure platform and the Umbraco accelerator on a live website, instead of in a theoretical lab-based environment. As part of a pilot project, Definition 6 decided to migrate the Cox Enterprises’ Cox Conserves Heroes website from its colocation hosting environment to the Windows Azure platform.
||By using Windows Azure, we don’t have to buy new servers for customers and can offer them a nearly instant infrastructure on a pay-as-you-go model. It’s quick, it’s economical, and it’s what our customers need.
Chief Technology Officer, Definition 6
Cox Conserves Heroes is an awards program that honors people who work to create, preserve, improve, or enhance shared outdoor places in the communities where Cox Enterprises has a presence. Through the website, people can nominate environmental leaders in the community. After a nomination period, there is a voting period where anyone in the community can vote on who will be named the next local environmental hero.
In a two-week process, which included defining and scoping the project and then testing the website, Definition 6 migrated the Cox Conserves Heroes website to the Windows Azure platform. “The development process was very straightforward,” says Josh Pearson, Senior Developer at Definition 6. “We essentially ported the code from the existing site to the Windows Azure platform, made a few minor code adjustments, and were completely finished within two weeks.”
Definition 6 used the Umbraco accelerator for Windows Azure to package the website and deploy it to the Windows Azure platform. The company takes advantage of web roles for hosting the website, easily adding new web role instances to scale up during nomination periods and reducing the number of instances to scale down after voting periods and when the site typically sees the fewest number of visitors. The company also uses Blob storage in Windows Azure to store binary data, such as videos and still images that people upload with their nominations.
For its relational storage needs, Definition 6 uses Microsoft SQL Azure, a cloud-based relational database service based on SQL Server technologies that is also hosted at Microsoft data centers. In a SQL Azure Database, Definition 6 has 25 tables that make up the Umbraco content management system, such as the tables that store content and the relationships between various pieces of content that make up the Cox Conserves Heroes website. In addition, the company added six custom tables for storing information about nominees, such as name and occupation. Benefits
After successfully migrating the Cox Conserves Heroes website to the Windows Azure platform, Definition 6 looks forward to using the cloud solution for more customer projects in the future. The company enjoyed a simple development and deployment experience where developers could use their existing skills to migrate to the Windows Azure platform, improved its ability to offer cost-effective and time-effective solutions to customers
, and prepared itself to meet demand for a viable cloud offering.
Simplified Development and Deployment
By using the Windows Azure platform and the Umbraco accelerator, developers at Definition 6 used their existing skills for a rapid development and deployment process. “We didn’t have to make a lot of extensive code changes to the Cox Conserves Heroes website because we had already built it using best practices for development with the .NET Framework and Visual Studio,” explains Pearson. “Windows Azure uses the same framework that we already work within and so we were able to migrate the previous website to Windows Azure in just two weeks. The slight code modifications that we did do were straightforward and simple.”
Improved Ability to Cost-Effectively Manage Quick-Turnaround Projects
While Definition 6 will maintain its traditional hosting environment with its data centers for the time being, the company is thrilled to be able to offer a cloud-based option that is particularly suited to customers who need to eliminate capital expenditures or who have projects with compressed timelines. “Customers’ budgets are shrinking and they want to maximize operational expenditures and minimize capital expenditures in order to meet economic challenges,” explains Hernacki. “By using Windows Azure, we don’t have to buy new servers for customers and can offer them a nearly instant infrastructure on a pay-as-you-go model
. It’s quick, it’s economical, and it’s what our customers need.”
Prepared for Future Business Needs
Definition 6 knows that, as cloud technologies gain popularity, more and more of its customers will ask for a cloud-based solution. While other cloud offerings did not meet the company’s need for seamless interoperation with its content management system and other infrastructure technologies, Windows Azure does—giving the company a viable cloud solution to present to curious customers. “We have at least two customers each week who ask us about cloud options for their website,” says Hernacki. “By using Windows Azure and the Umbraco accelerator, we can meet our customers’ complex content management needs and their desire to take advantage of the benefits of the cloud
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. It provides developers with on-demand compute, storage, and bandwidth, and a content distribution network to host, scale, and manage web applications 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 technologies.
Windows Azure AppFabric. With Windows Azure 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.
Windows Azure Marketplace DataMarket. Developers and information workers can use the new service DataMarket to easily discover, purchase, and manage premium data subscriptions in the Windows Azure platform.
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