The staff at the startup firm
News360 wanted to go global with a highly personalized news service that could be delivered via many different mobile and desktop platforms. Their plan was to capture information from news sources across the web, and then, using proprietary analysis tools,
combine that information with user preferences and interests gleaned from profiles in social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter. The firm choseWindows Azure to host its
service, taking advantage of the cloud platform’s flexibility, scalability, and data center network to support a rollout to a global audience. The News360 application runs onWindows
Phone 7, iPhone, Android, and other mobile devices, and on a range of desktop platforms, including the Windows 8 Consumer Preview client. More than one million users have signed up for the service in its first year, and this user base is expected to grow
is a fast-growing online startup business launched in response to a basic fact of contemporary life: information overload. “We’re awash in online content, and it’s getting harder and
more time-consuming by the day for individuals to find the specific news, sports, and other information that they’re most interested in,” says Roman Karachinsky, Chief Executive Officer of News360.
“My colleagues and I want to be informed citizens and to know what’s going on around the world and in our industry,” he continues. “But personally, I was spending an hour and half a day trying to read all of the news sources that I followed. And if I went on
vacation, it got backed up to hundreds or thousands of unread articles. It was too much work.”
Fortunately, the staff at News360 had worked together on a previous project involving software that performed news and reputation analyses for businesses. Putting their collective experience together, they decided to create a different kind of service to deliver
news and other information to users via PCs and mobile devices.
First, content would be gathered from news sites across the Internet, and then users’ interests would be deduced from their preferences and behavior on social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter. That information is authorized by users when they sign
up. Using a semantic analysis platform developed internally, News360 would deliver custom content based on a user’s preferences, delivering news in categories such as business, food, fashion, and world events.
The challenge for the small company, however, was to find a hosting platform that could support its ambitions to reach a global audience. The platform had to be highly scalable; it had to provide easy access to global hosting centers; and it had to support
a solution that would be platform-agnostic in order to reach the widest possible number of users worldwide, regardless of the mobile or desktop platforms in use.
The News360 team, which already had experience using Microsoft development tools, decided to host its solution on theWindows Azure
cloud computing platform.
|The News360 app mines more than 20,000 publications
“We were leaning towards Windows Azure because we use
development tools, which would help speed our development, and we felt confident that Windows Azure could deliver the kind of reliability that was essential to making the solution work,” says Shavkat Aynurin, Chief Technology Officer of News360.
The solution includes a proprietary linguistic analysis engine that looks at more than 150,000 articles every day in real time. It culls information about more than 700,000 different companies, people, brands, and locations; looks at the locality and topics
that every article covers; collects articles into story clusters; and gathers visuals to accompany stories.
News360 received development and design assistance through the
Microsoft BizSpark One
program for server-side development. It also participated in the Mobile Acceleration
program for help in creating a mobile application for
devices using the Windows Azure Toolkit for Windows Phone
“The Windows Phone project went very fast, taking three developers just a month of development time from start to finish,” says Karachinsky.
The developers also used an array of software development kits to create the News360 application for non–Windows Phone mobile platforms, including iPhone and iPad, Android, and BlackBerry.
||The Windows Phone project went very fast, taking three developers just a month of development time from start to finish.
Chief Executive Officer
For desktop delivery, the solution runs on all the major browsers and desktop operating systems, including the Windows 8 Consumer Preview
client. As part
of that particular effort, the News360 development team is delivering the solution using the Windows 8 Metro interface, which includes Live Tiles, dynamic rectangles that can be programmed to provide continuously updated information.
By using Windows Azure as its hosting platform, the News360 team took advantage of its existing development talent and expertise to create an elegant, highly scalable solution that has the potential of reaching tens of millions of users worldwide. Windows Azure
provides enormous flexibility for the small company to easily make changes to and update the solution as needed, and a reliable platform that supports many different client and mobile platforms.
Scalability and Flexibility without the IT Overhead
Using Windows Azure allowed News360 to avoid IT infrastructure cost and complexity that could have slowed or even crippled its development efforts. This helped the company focus all of its energy on development efforts, including building different desktop
and mobile versions of the application in order to reach as many desktop and mobile platforms as possible.
“Windows Azure is an incredibly flexible platform for a startup company that’s trying to quickly grow and go global with a new solution,” says Karachinsky. “We don’t have to deal with hardware acquisition and setup, wait for service, or find ways to get rid
of excess hardware. If we expect a big spike in traffic—for example, if we put an update on an app store and expect 100,000 users to access it over two or three days—we just flip a switch, and in 10 minutes we have enough capacity.”
Reliable Performance for Large User Base
The ability to offer a reliable user experience was a critical factor in the company’s choice of hosting platforms. Windows Azure has delivered high availability as well as the load-balancing features News360 needs to deliver consistent service to its large
and growing user base.
“We are well past the one million-user mark and are used in multiple countries,” says Aynurin. “Windows Azure gives us reliability and features like the Windows Azure Traffic Manager to balance traffic loads across data centers, which helps ensure that our
growing global base of users gets the kind of performance that makes using News360 a great experience.”
Multiple Hosting Locations Support Global Growth
To reach its geographically broad audience, News360 benefits from the multiple data centers that Microsoft provides for Windows Azure around the world.
“The fact that there are several hosting locations worldwide is really important for our business plan,” says Aynurin. He notes that currently, News360 is available only in English, and is in use in multiple English-speaking countries. However, the company
plans to begin delivering the application in other languages, and is looking forward to hosting the service through Windows Azure data centers in Europe. “The Windows Azure geo-location functionality makes it easier to distribute the solution, and provides
better performance for users in specific regions.”
Microsoft Cloud Services
Microsoft offers a complete set of cloud-based solutions to meet business needs, including solutions for advertising, communications (email, meetings), collaboration (document storage, sharing, workflow), business applications (customer resource management,
business productivity), data storage and management, and infrastructure services. In addition, customers can take advantage of an entire ecosystem of solution providers and Microsoft partners. For more information, please visitwww.microsoft.com/cloud
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