Egyptian start-up Jidari is optimistic that its social networking website will prove increasingly popular globally. Unlike social networks that want to move people’s social life online, Jidari wants to
use the power of "online" to improve people’s social lives. Despite being based in the Middle East, Jidari believes this idea has global appeal. Microsoft realized that it could provide a more effective hosting system than the one being used — and cut Jidari’s
Egypt-based Jidari launched its social network site in 2013 to address what it saw as a major flaw in the common approach to social networking. Other social networks tried to move more and more of their members’ social lives online. Jidari, however, decided
to do the opposite: to use the power of online to make people’s social lives deeper and more fulfilling.
||We found not only that the platform was the equal of, but in some cases outperformed, Amazon.
| Mohamed Nar
Chief Technology Officer
Moreover, Jidari would do this while leaving its members in full control of their online social presence and effectively protecting their privacy. “The extreme openness of the currently-adopted social networks makes many people not use them in an open way and
makes people afraid to use them,” says software developer Mohamed Nar, who founded Jidari in September 2011 with former Intel researcher Ali Zewail.
The essence of this idea of using the power of online to make people’s social lives better is to help people do better together. This is what led the network to adopt the slogan “Better together”.
With a major update scheduled for April 2014, Jidari expects to have about 700,000 users around the world by the beginning of 2015, with rapid further growth after that, says Nar.
Jidari had been using open source software and Amazon Web Services to run the site. Nar believed that open source would give Jidari the flexibility to deal with increasingly large quantities of data and to respond to future developments. The company nevertheless
had trouble recruiting knowledgeable staff: “It was very difficult.”
Nar liked Amazon Web Services but he recognized a disadvantage: “We think it’s a bit expensive.” Amazon was costing US $25,000 a year, which would rise in line with Jidari’s growth, quickly doubling or tripling.
However, Jidari’s main aim is to be sure of providing its social network users with an attractive experience, which depends to a significant extent on a fast website response.
Walaa Atef, Technical Evangelist in Microsoft in Egypt, recognized Jidari as a potentially important software user and was confident that Microsoft could support its ambition while beating Amazon on performance and cost. “I believe that our platform is better
than Amazon’s,” he says.
Therefore, in May 2013 Atef suggested that Jidari switch its web applications to the Windows Azure cloud system, the virtual machines service of which was still under review before launch. “They were very skeptical about using Windows Azure,” says Atef, pointing
to Jidari’s open-source background and doubts about the use of its Linux machines and open-source systems on a Windows platform. “They thought that it would underperform.”
However, Azure is built to run on any system, says Atef: “It caters for almost anybody.”
Jidari stressed that its focus was performance. Also, it did not want to make a big change before the social network’s formal launch in August 2013. However, Atef had a powerful additional argument; Microsoft’s BizSpark program, which provides software discounts
to help start-ups.
Jidari therefore did a very quick comparison of a basic version of its site on Azure and Amazon, but found no real difference.
However, Azure had not been correctly configured, accepts Nar. Atef therefore called in a wide range of Microsoft colleagues from around the region, including some with open source expertise, to help Jidari again compare the competing platforms, but more fairly.
When Jidari had the time, it spent two consecutive days testing scripts running on Amazon and on Azure and the result was clear, says Atef. “He was right,” says Nar. “We found not only that the platform was the equal of, but in some cases outperformed, Amazon.”
Jidari therefore made the switch to Azure, for a speedier user experience and lower costs.
Jidari’s use of Azure has given the social network’s users a faster response than was previously the case with Amazon Web Services, while discounts on software licenses under Microsoft’s BizSpark program has cut Jidari’s costs substantially. Jidari is also
confident of being able to tap into Microsoft technical help and advice whenever needed.
• A careful comparison trial between the Amazon Web Services already used by Jidari and Microsoft’s cloud computing platform and infrastructure Azure revealed that Azure would speed up the social network’s website — an important consideration when trying to
attract users by providing a good experience.
• Microsoft’s BizSpark program designed to support young businesses gave Jidari a three-year discount on all Microsoft products and a monthly spending cap on services that it buys. “It is a very generous cap,” says Nar.
The resulting savings from no longer paying Amazon fees — which were likely to rise strongly in line with Jidari’s expected growth in the number of its users — are a big benefit for Jidari.
• For Jidari, Amazon was only a remote presence. In contrast, Microsoft has proved an enthusiastic but credible supporter on the ground, says Nar. “They succeed in making me believe that they are my advisers,” he says. “I felt that they tried to be a part of
For a small company of 16 people, Jidari appreciates its relationship with the software giant. “It makes someone like me engage with them and believe that they will indeed help me and if the situation will not reveal a solution with Microsoft they will tell
me that,” says Nar. ”We definitely need this at this stage in our company.”
Pleasingly for Nar, the engagement with Microsoft reflects just the sort of productive and satisfying relationship that the Jidari social network promotes among its users.
This case study is for informational purposes only. MICROSOFT MAKES NO WARRANTIES, EXPRESS OR IMPLIED, IN THIS SUMMARY.
Document published December 2013