Dot Net Solutions: Case Study

The Benefits

Dot Net Solutions favours Windows Azure for a number of simple, practical reasons.

Cuts down on the burden of infrastructure: Azure's automated management systems make it a platform that virtually takes care of itself. This means that small, in-house teams can manage projects that would normally require a whole department, and leaves companies free to focus on their core business. For Dot Net, this is a key advantage for Azure. "It's all about, how you can take an on-premises piece of software, make that available to a global audience and remove all those infrastructure headaches" says Dan Scarfe. For Dot Net's customers, he notes, "It's all about letting them focus on where they add value, which is in the application layer."

Built-in fault tolerance: With Windows Azure instances distributed across servers in Microsoft's state-of-the-art data centres, fault-tolerance is built into the platform. The Web-based flexibility of Azure also makes it easy to create highly available Web applications. In the case of the multinational retailer's customer rewards portal, the application maintains a cache of data in the cloud, which can be accessed should the on-premises system become temporarily unavailable. Then, when the system comes back online, the Azure application and the on-premises systems re-synchronise.

Massive computing power without the headaches: Windows Azure is not the only platform to provide massive computing power, but Dot Net feels that it's the easiest and most efficient platform to work with. "It takes care of the scale-out for you" says Dan Scarfe. "With competing platforms you've got the ability to spin-up virtual machines, but you've still got ten bits of tin sitting in the sky. You've still got to install all of your applications onto them, you've got to manage all of them, and manage how it actually scales the load across all of those systems." While competing platforms give you the raw compute power, they don't help you in terms of distributing your load. Windows Azure does.

Works with the widest range of technologies: As Dan Scarfe notes, "there are other platform-as-a-service options, but they are very niche and specific to particular pieces of technology. Azure is the only one that has that holistic approach, where you can run any technology and any kind of application on top of it." Whether you want to use core Microsoft technologies, or Java, Ruby or PHP, Azure provides a solid, working foundation. "Whoever you are and whatever development platform you're used to, you can use Azure" says Scarfe.

Seamless connectivity to existing systems: Azure offers the widest variety of integration scenarios with existing applications and services. By using Windows Azure AppFabric, enterprises can build rich composite applications, which seamlessly span between on-premises and the cloud.

Windows Azure is secure: Scarfe believes there is a misconception that cloud-based services are insecure. "These big public cloud environments are built from the ground-up with multi-tenanting in mind. That's what they're designed to do. Therefore, they've got security baked into the very fabric of the system. There's no chance whatsoever of one Azure tenant being able to see data from another tenant." What's more, Microsoft's physical and network security is second to none. In real terms, applications and services running on Windows Azure will be as safe or more so than those running on the majority of on-premises servers.

Global reach with local control: As Microsoft has a global reach, with data centres all around the world, it's no challenge to deploy Web applications all around the world. By publishing local end-points in different territories, Dot Net's clients can ensure a seamless experience for its end-users. At the same time, Windows Azure puts the company in control of where their data is held, down to the specific data centre.

Windows Azure is cost-effective: "The other misconception I keep hearing is that Azure is expensive" says Dan Scarfe. "I don't know where this notion comes from. If you compare Azure with a traditional hosting company, it's anywhere from five to 50 percent of the cost. It's very cost-effective." When you compare the costs of Windows Azure to the costs of running applications in-house, the differences only escalate; they can be "an absolute fraction of building the equivalent within the on-premises environment" according to Scarfe.


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