The Slovenian solutions integrator Kompas Xnet was contracted to develop a website for the NT Konferenca 2010, an annual IT conference held in Slovenia and attended by more than 2,000 IT professionals. The company needed to build a website that attendees and administrators could use to help manage conference registration, events, billing, and security, while avoiding both high costs and connectivity issues that had interrupted the availability of the site during previous conferences. Kompas Xnet used the Windows Azure platform from Microsoft to develop a website that delivered greater functionality and high availability at a reduced cost. By using Windows Azure, Kompas Xnet contributed to the success of NT Konferenca 2010. The company can now deliver new services and reach new customers, while streamlining its development and management processes.
The Slovenian solutions integrator Kompas Xnet was originally established as an IT support and training group for the company, KOMPAS d.o.o. As its parent company grew, Kompas Xnet expanded its portfolio to include training for developers and people who use many popular business technology solutions, such as software from Adobe, Corel, and Microsoft.
In 1995, Kompas Xnet became a fully separate entity, and today the independent software vendor (ISV) has 15 employees—including seven Microsoft Certified Trainers—and offices throughout Slovenia. A Microsoft Gold Certified Partner since 2005, Kompas Xnet now provides training services, custom software and website development, and IT infrastructure support and consulting for a variety of businesses throughout Europe.
Because of its reputation and experience, Kompas Xnet was contracted by Microsoft to develop a website for the NT Konferenca 2010 held in Slovenia over four days in June 2010. The conference is an annual technology-education event sponsored by Microsoft and held annually in Slovenia. More than 2,000 IT professionals from independent solutions integrators and IT departments at large enterprises attend the conference each year.
Kompas Xnet needed to develop a website that conference attendees and administrators could use to manage conference registration, scheduling, notices, event attendance, and materials. The site would have to interoperate with separate registration, billing, and security systems, and provide reliable access during and after the conference. In previous years, local hosting providers built temporary solutions for the conference website, but connectivity issues interrupted the availability of the site during each conference.
”We had to create a solution that could help manage every aspect of the conference from registration to event calendaring to final billing,” says Uroš Žunič, Development Manager at Kompas Xnet. ”But our most important requirement was that the application had to be available at all times.”
Developing the website for the most important IT conference in Slovenia provided Kompas Xnet with an opportunity to impress its peers and customers. Company developers wanted to build a permanent solution that would provide dependable service from one conference to the next. However, Kompas Xnet needed more reliability than local hosting services could provide, and it would have been too cost-prohibitive and time-consuming to build an on-premises infrastructure.
Kompas Xnet strives to stay up-to-date on advanced technologies, so the company wanted to build the NT Konferenca 2010 website by using cloud technology—the use of computing resources hosted in external, large-scale data centers and delivered as services through the Internet. It wanted to avoid the high up-front cost of deploying and managing an on-premises environment, while still ensuring 100 percent availability of the website. Kompas Xnet hoped to develop a solution that it could easily adapt, scale, and offer to its other customers.Solution
Kompas Xnet developed the NT Konferenca 2010 website (www.ntk.si) and a back-end administrative interface by using Windows Azure from Microsoft. 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.
||With the reliability, flexibility, and scalability in Windows Azure, we can keep up with the real-time demands of our customers and maintain an agile development strategy.
Lead Programmer, Kompas Xnet
The Slovenian subsidiary of Publicis Groupe—one of the largest advertising agencies in the region—was responsible for managing the conference. Kompas Xnet worked with the agency to develop the design for the website’s user interface, and Kompas Xnet used components of the Windows Azure platform to build the functional elements of the site (Figure 1).
“The website itself was really the smallest part of the project,” says Žunič. “The conference attendees used the site to register, find event schedules, and download materials, but we also used Windows Azure to do a lot of work behind the user interface to connect the portal to offsite accounting systems and an on-premises security control system.”
The developers at Kompas Xnet used Windows Azure storage services to store data such as profile images, presentations, and other materials. Developers also used Microsoft SQL Azure—a self-managed database service built on technologies in Microsoft SQL Server 2008 data management software—to manage the website databases. “Because our developers have a lot of experience with SQL Server, it was very easy for them to work with SQL Azure,” says Rok Bermež, Lead Programmer at Kompas Xnet. “It’s basically the same thing.”
To ensure availability of the website, Kompas Xnet relied on the global data center presence of Windows Azure. The company helped provide high website performance through location-aware instances of Windows Azure and by developing a content delivery network that offered near-instantaneous website and user resource delivery. The company also used Windows Communication Foundation and Queue storage in Windows Azure to connect the website to the outside security, registration, and accounting systems.
“Because we connected the site to the accounting systems through Queue storage, we never lost any payment on either the Windows Azure side or the on-premises side of the environment,” says Bermež.
Kompas Xnet also used the Microsoft Silverlight 3 browser plug-in to build an application for viewing conference lectures and presentations on the website. Even though the 2010 conference has ended, registered attendees can still log on to the website to download presentations or other materials from the event.Benefits
Kompas Xnet contributed to the success of NT Konferenca 2010 by using Windows Azure to deliver a website solution that provided high functionality and high availability at a reduced cost. Now Kompas Xnet is delivering new services and reaching new customers, while streamlining its own development and management processes.
By using Windows Azure to build the NT Konferenca 2010 website, Kompas Xnet contributed to the success of the largest annual IT conference in its home market. Conference attendees could reliably connect to the website to register, find an event, or manage their own conference schedule. Because conference administrators could interoperate the website with critical on-premises solutions, they could efficiently manage conference registration, access, and billing. And because the website can operate on Windows Azure indefinitely at relatively low cost, the solution will be available for future conferences.
||Everybody at the conference was very happy with the solution we built with Windows Azure. Attendees were satisfied with the website experience, and administrators were happy with how easily they could connect the site to their on-premises solutions.
Development Manager, Kompas Xnet
“Everybody at the conference was very happy with the solution we built with Windows Azure,” says Žunič. “Attendees were satisfied with the website experience, and administrators were happy with how easily they could connect the site to their on-premises solutions.” New Offerings, New Customers
Kompas Xnet has developed valuable experience by using Windows Azure and has already begun offering the technology to new and existing customers. In fact, the company’s development team coordinated the deployment of the NT Konferenca 2010 website with the development and rollout processes for several other projects.
Within a couple months of the conference, Kompas Xnet used Windows Azure to build an online presence for the Slovenian chapter of UNICEF. And by 2011, Kompas Xnet expects to develop a new website for the publisher of a nationally distributed newspaper—one of the largest news organizations in Slovenia—by expanding on the same Windows Azure architecture that it employed for the NT Konferenca 2010 site.
“With the reliability, flexibility, and scalability in Windows Azure, we can keep up with the real-time demands of our customers and maintain an agile development strategy,” says Bermež. High Reliability
By taking advantage of the resources and experience that Microsoft provides through its online-services offering—backed by enterprise-class service-level agreements—Kompas Xnet can deliver higher availability than it can expect with most local hosting providers, and often with more reliability than it could afford to build into an on-premises solution. The NT Konferenca 2010 website never failed during the conference, as the conference portal had in every previous year, and most Kompas Xnet customers require the same high reliability.
“The connectivity problems that had plagued earlier conferences were completely gone this year,” says Žunič. “And at both the newspaper publisher and UNICEF, the first thing they wanted to avoid is any loss of availability.” Fast, Low-Cost Developmentand Management
Kompas Xnet used Windows Azure to build the website that the NT Konferenca 2010 needed, while helping conference sponsors avoid at least 50 percent of the cost of investing in an on-premises infrastructure. The company can offer the same kind of cost reductions to other customers and pass on additional savings by reducing its customers’ management costs.
With the ability to build and scale projects up and down on demand and at reasonable cost, Kompas Xnet can respond faster to customer needs and bring new services to market quickly. And as the company reduces its own development and management costs by building cloud-computing solutions with Windows Azure, it can again offer the savings to its customers.
“Because Windows Azure works so seamlessly with classic web-development tools like ASP.NET and the Microsoft Visual Studio development system, developing for Windows Azure significantly lowers the barriers for entry into the cloud,” says Bermež. “With Windows Azure, we can develop high-availability solutions with cycles as short as a few days or even hours.”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 2008 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.
Microsoft "Dallas." Developers and information workers can use the new service code-named Dallas to easily discover, purchase, and manage premium data subscriptions in the Windows Azure platform.
To learn more about the Windows Azure platform, visit: For More Information
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