AssetWatch offers customers a way to store and access a detailed inventory of assets and personal information. Looking to minimize the effort required to scale and maintain its servers, the company migrated its service to the Windows Azure platform. As a result, AssetWatch has a scalable, reliable infrastructure that has helped improve performance and reduce hosting costs by 20 percent, for a return on investment (ROI) of less than three months. Business Needs
was founded as a service that gives people an easy, convenient way to keep track of personal assets. It has since evolved into a comprehensive personal information management system that people can use to store everything from pictures and descriptions of valuable assets to important medical information.
When AssetWatch expanded its offering, it started attracting new customers. As a result, the company had to regularly add servers to its infrastructure in order to scale out the web-based application, which was built on Microsoft ASP.NET and Microsoft SQL Server 2008 data management software and hosted by a third-party provider. Although AssetWatch hosted its server infrastructure in a managed data center, it used a dedicated server environment and was responsible for managing and maintaining servers—a time-consuming, costly endeavor. “Even in a hosted environment, we had to deal with all of the administrative and financial overhead involved with having physical servers,” explains Mike Batesole, Founder and Chief Executive Officer at AssetWatch. “We wanted to instead focus on our customers and providing value to them, rather than focusing on infrastructure, which is not our core competency.”
AssetWatch also needed to effectively handle peak usage times, such as during the evening and on weekends, in order to avoid intermittent and sluggish performance. “In a physical server environment, or in a hosted environment where we’re still responsible for configuring virtual machines, dynamic scalability to handle traffic spikes was practically impossible,” says Batesole.
The company, which prides itself on ensuring customers’ asset information is protected even if their actual assets cannot be, also needed a server infrastructure that offered reliable data security. Solution
AssetWatch wanted a cloud-based, managed platform and enlisted the help of H.P.C. Consulting
, which provides IT consulting services, software development, and technical training for customers. The companies evaluated cloud providers, including Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud and the Windows Azure platform
||With less expensive hosting costs and by eliminating the need to manage virtual servers, we anticipate a full return on investment with the Windows Azure platform in less than three months.
Founder and Chief Executive Officer, AssetWatch
AssetWatch chose Windows Azure, the cloud service development, hosting, and management environment from Microsoft. “What AssetWatch really needed was a platform as a service, in which the vendor manages the operating environment and we manage the end-user application that is delivered via the environment,” explains Mihai Tataran, Chief Executive Officer at H.P.C. Consulting. “Other providers offer infrastructure as a service, and you’re still left needing to buy server software and manage the virtual environment. But with Windows Azure, that is all taken care of.”
In less than two months, the companies migrated the AssetWatch application to the Windows Azure platform and developed new features, including the ability for customers to upload photos. The application uses Microsoft Silverlight 4 browser plug-in technology and is hosted in web roles on Windows Azure, which the company can quickly scale to accommodate peak traffic and new users, instead of having to configure servers.
Customers are allocated 5 gigabytes of storage for photos, documents, and other files. AssetWatch uses Blob Storage in Windows Azure to store those files, and uses Microsoft SQL Azure to store customer information. SQL Azure is a cloud-based relational database service that is based on SQL Server technologies.
The company plans to use Windows Azure AppFabric Access Control service combined with Windows Identity Foundation to offer customers the ability to sign in to AssetWatch with their Windows Live or Facebook account credentials. “The ability to securely sign in without having to remember another password is a feature that our customers have been asking for and, by using the Windows Azure platform, it is something we can offer,” explains Batesole. Benefits
As a result of using the Windows Azure platform, AssetWatch has the scalable, high-performance, and reliable infrastructure that it wanted—all at a lower cost. Specifically, the company has:
Achieved critical levels of scalability. With its cloud computing solution, AssetWatch can quickly increase its computing and storage resources to accommodate a growing list of customers. “We are considering allowing other companies to rebrand AssetWatch as if it is their own service, which could mean accommodating up to 100,000 new users overnight,” says Batesole. “Window Azure makes that level of scalability possible.”
Improved application performance by 20 percent. H.P.C. Consulting measured application performance and recorded an improvement since migrating to Windows Azure. “We reviewed system response time for multiple tasks, and on the Windows Azure platform AssetWatch is 20 percent faster,” says Tataran. “Plus, with the built-in high availability, we have had zero downtime since the launch.”
Enhanced data security. AssetWatch customers’ information is safeguarded in Microsoft data centers. “We trust in Microsoft’s commitment to data security,” says Batesole. ”The Windows Azure platform also offers built-in server and storage redundancy, so we have data replication to help ensure that customers can access their important information without disruption. That supports one of our core values.”
Reduced hosting costs by 20 percent. With the pay-as-you-go model that Windows Azure offers, AssetWatch pays only for the resources that it uses and, as a result, reduced its hosting costs by 20 percent. In addition, the company does not have to spend financial and personnel resources to maintain the infrastructure. “With less expensive hosting costs and by eliminating the need to manage virtual servers, we anticipate a full return on investment with the Windows Azure platform in less than three months,” says Batesole.
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