2-page Partner Case Study
Posted: 2/27/2012
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Vela Entertainment Studios Application Developer Enhances Agility and Reduces Risk with Cloud Services

To support its mobile applications, Vela Entertainment Studios needed vast computing capacity, the agility to scale up or down instantly, and the ability to interoperate with multiple mobile technologies. It also wanted to avoid the costs of maintaining a large computing infrastructure. The company uses Windows Azure to build its applications, so it can meet customer needs, scale to demand, and support a flexible pricing structure.

Business Needs
Vela Entertainment Studios, based in Düsseldorf, Germany, is an independent software vendor that develops and markets education and entertainment applications for mobile devices. Sebastian Witzmann is the Chief Executive Officer at Vela Entertainment Studios. He and his colleagues have more than a decade of experience developing mobile applications, but to launch Vela, they faced serious obstacles.

To support customers anywhere in the world, Vela needed vast computing capacity and the flexibility to scale up or down instantly to meet demand. Vela sells applications directly to consumers through mobile app markets, and it licenses applications to telecommunications companies to include with a mobile device or service.

It would have cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to build an on-premises infrastructure that could support the company’s applications and its business model. “If we gain 10,000 new users from one moment to the next, but we don’t have the capacity, we lose those customers,” says Witzmann. “And if we expect these large companies to brand our products, we have to guarantee performance.”

The company also needed an environment that would interoperate seamlessly with multiple mobile technologies, development standards, and content types. “There is a lot of opportunity out there to create new applications,” says Witzmann. “But the content is in many diverse formats. It is very complicated to make good applications out of all this stuff.”

Witzmann and his colleagues also lacked the expertise—or the inclination—to manage and maintain a large, complex computing infrastructure. “We are very good at developing mobile applications,” he says. “But we are not system administrators. We don’t want to provision or manage servers and databases.”

Witzmann recognized that Vela could meet these challenges and opportunities by using cloud technology—offsite computing resources delivered as services over the Internet. The fledgling company participated in theMicrosoft BizSpark program, which provides software startups with access to Microsoft development solutions and industry resources.

* With the regular and predictable Windows Azure cost structure, we can easily set licensing and one-time download fees that we know will be profitable. *

Sebastian Witzmann
Chief Executive Officer, Vela Entertainment Studios

Through BizSpark, Vela could build, host, and power its applications by using Windows Azure, the Microsoft cloud services development, hosting, and management environment. Windows Azure provides on-demand compute, storage, networking, and content delivery capabilities through Microsoft data centers.

Vela has used the Windows Azure platform to build more than 300 mobile applications that work with Android and iPhone devices and PHP, Java, and other development standards, and consumers can download Vela mobile apps from platforms such as Zune, iTunes, and Android Marketplace. Vela pays a monthly subscription fee based on the Windows Azure resources it uses to support the current demand for its mobile applications.

To expand into a new customer base, the company wanted to build applications for Windows Phone 7. Vela used Windows Azure, the Microsoft SQL Azure database service, and Windows Communication Foundation to power an application called Sports Manager Football for Vodafone, one of the world’s largest mobile telecommunications companies.

Vodafone pays an annual licensing fee to Vela to brand Sports Manager Football, and it offers the multiplayer game to end users for free. With Sports Manager Football, players manage a virtual soccer club, using their Windows Phone 7 smartphone to connect and compete with other players worldwide in five languages.

Developers at Vela used a Windows Azure software development kit for PHP to build the mobile application and a companion website where users can play the game on a computer and interact with mobile players. The application went live in September 2010.

“In just a few days, more than 10,000 people around the world downloaded Sports Manager Football,” says Dr. Michael Weichert, Head of Online Business Management at Vodafone. “By mid-2011, more than 100,000 users were playing the game through Windows Azure.”

By powering its mobile applications with Windows Azure, Vela can meet the needs of a broad range of customers, scale its products to meet demand, reduce costs, and support a flexible pricing structure.

Image of the Vela mobile applications available in the Windows Phone 7 Marketplace.
Six of the Vela mobile applications are available
in the Windows Phone 7 Marketplace.
Broad interoperability, instant agility. Vela can use Windows Azure to build applications that operate with many technologies, so it can work with a variety of companies and consumers, grow its revenue base, and develop momentum in its market. Because Vela can scale up its computing and storage resources in Windows Azure almost instantly, it has the agility to respond to demand as it occurs, without the risk of investing in capacity for demand that may not develop.

“Sports Manager Football is a great example of what we can do with Windows Azure,” says Witzmann. “Without knowing how many users the game would attract, we could expand capacity as soon as we needed it.”

Reduced costs, flexible pricing. Vela estimates that it would have spent more than U.S.$362,000 over three years to build and maintain the infrastructure it would have needed to adequately support its applications. Instead, Vela replaced a large upfront investment with a monthly bill for only the Windows Azure resources it uses, which helps it maintain the flexibility to set adequate licensing fees for its partners, as well as download fees for consumers.

“With the regular and predictable Windows Azure cost structure, we can easily set licensing and one-time download fees that we know will be profitable,” says Witzmann.

Invaluable support, reduced risk. Participating in the Microsoft BizSpark program helped Vela reduce the costs and risks of launching its business. “BizSpark is perfect for startups,” says Witzmann. ”We had the opportunity to test different technologies, approaches, and pricing structures with minimal investment and risk, while also developing crucial visibility in the industry.”

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Solution Overview

Organization Size: 50 employees

Partner Profile
Founded in 2010, Vela Entertainment Studios develops education and entertainment applications for mobile devices.

Software and Services
  • Microsoft Azure
  • Microsoft SQL Azure
  • Windows Phone 7
  • Windows Communication Foundation

Vertical Industries
Media & Cable