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Case Study: Plum
Based in Austin, Texas, Plum makes a Wi-Fi-enabled light switch and dimmer that “completely reinvented the light switch,” says CEO Utz Baldwin of the company’s Lightpad product. Users can control and customize their home lighting from their phone and Lightpad’s touch-based switch plate. They can also see their energy use in real time.
A graduate of Techstars and Microsoft Ventures Accelerator in Seattle, Plum has raised nearly $5 million in three years. Customers have pre-ordered more than 10,000 Lightpads, which Plum began shipping in November.
Baldwin says Microsoft Ventures Accelerator helped him meet investors, test hardware and give brand legitimacy to Plum. That helped Plum raise money on crowdfunding platforms like Fundable and CircleUp, positioning the startup for a Series A round.
“When investors see that Microsoft supported you, and still supports you through BizSpark, it provides them with another checkbox that has been satisfied,” Baldwin says. He encourages other entrepreneurs to explore Microsoft for support.
“Programs like what Microsoft has built through BizSpark and Microsoft Ventures Accelerators around the globe are a surefire way to get the help you need,” he says.
Mobile-first, cloud-first makes Microsoft a Leader in the Gartner Magic Quadrant for Mobile Application Development Platforms
Mobile-first, cloud-first makes Microsoft a Leader in the Gartner Magic Quadrant for Mobile Application Development Platforms
In the few months since Microsoft acquired Xamarin, Scott Guthrie and I have laid out our roadmap that builds on the complementary strengths in mobile development and cloud services that made our companies great partners for years. I’m excited to report that Visual Studio with Xamarin plus Azure is working. We’ve already seen a massive upswing in developer participation, and we’re receiving validation from outside the developer community, as well.
Yesterday, Gartner recognized Microsoft as a Leader in its 2016 Magic Quadrant for Mobile Application Development Platforms. The designation reflects the fact that Microsoft’s Mobile Application Development Platform vision has expanded dramatically, evidenced by the Xamarin integration, enhancements to Azure App Service, and improved mobile DevOps capabilities.
Over the past year we’ve made incredible progress toward our vision of “Any developer, any app, any platform.” Developers need to balance the efficiency of a full-stack solution with the flexibility to use the languages, tools and services they know and work best for their situation. We’re pleased to see the growing industry recognition of our unique approach to mobility: Microsoft is truly the only company with a complete solution for every app, every developer and every platform, but we still allow you the flexibility to let you work your way.
We’re working to fundamentally transform the way developers build and maintain apps. And while the journey is far from over, we’re honored by Gartner’s validation of what we’ve done so far, and I’d like to call out some of the reasons we think they did so:
The best development tools in a single package
It all starts with the IDE, and Visual Studio is regarded as the most complete set of mobile development tools on the market.
Xamarin continues to be the fastest, most efficient way to build uncompromising native apps for multiple platforms – bar none – and it’s now available at no additional charge to every Visual Studio developer. For your back end, Azure is the world’s most sophisticated, flexible, developer-friendly cloud platform, with easy access to services that help bring mobile apps to life. App Service makes time-consuming procedures like authentication and push notifications trivial, scales applications on-demand, and allows you to access Azure-only options like our Cognitive APIs to add real intelligence to your apps, or Hybrid Connections for secure access to on-premise data.
On their own, each is best-in-class, but we’re able to bring them together through Visual Studio to make building great mobile experiences even more efficient with a single IDE and a common language you can use across all your services, up and down the stack.
Sophisticated mobile DevOps
Delivering high-quality, high-performance, secure mobile apps at scale is challenging. Fast release cycles are required to keep up with constantly changing device operating systems, users have high expectations, and developers need to know that the mobile apps they’re deploying are secure and compliant. This means that apps need to look, behave and perform well on thousands of combinations of form factors, operating systems and manufacturers, and they need to be easy to manage and monitor once they’re in the field. The combined Microsoft + Xamarin product lineup makes it possible to plan, track, develop, test, secure and monitor mobile apps using a complete, end-to-end mobile DevOps solution.
Putting developers first
Open-sourcing the Xamarin SDKs for iOS, Android and Mac to the .NET Foundation is a promise to developers that we’re here for them, that we want to be transparent, and that we want them to be involved in what we’re building. Developers have always come first at Microsoft, and they always will.
Our mantra is “Any Developer. Any App. Any Platform,” and we mean it. C# or Cordova, iOS or Android, Mac or Windows — Microsoft has the best platform for building great mobile experiences quickly. I’m proud of what we’ve accomplished and happy to say we have a lot more to come.
Case Study: How The Global Fund streamlined its move to the cloud
How The Global Fund streamlined its move to the cloud
The Global Fund is a public–private partnership mandated by the World Health Organization to finance programs that prevent and treat AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria—epidemics that disproportionately affect those in poverty in the developing world. In 2015, the fund raised and invested more than US $4 billion to fight these diseases. It supports programs that treat 8.1 million people for HIV/AIDS and that have helped cut death rates for tuberculosis and malaria by almost half.
But in many of the places we work, we had trouble collaborating and communicating efficiently with our employees, partners and local stakeholders. To modernize our infrastructure and improve remote access to our network resources, we wanted to migrate our email and collaboration environments to Microsoft Office 365.
Reevaluating our approach
We initially produced a project plan that we considered conservative. We thought that if we migrated our mailboxes to Exchange Online one department at a time, we could solve any problems we encountered while they were small. But we ran into challenges when we tried to manage the migration on our own, so we engaged the Microsoft FastTrack Center to help us onboard Office 365. Our assigned FastTrack* team helped us assess our existing infrastructure, identify our problems, refocus our vision for Office 365 and develop a successful rollout. The FastTrack engineers understood our priorities, and they advised us to reconsider our approach.
The FastTrack team showed us that if we just dedicated some extra support resources for the week after the migration, we could move the whole organization in a single day. Plus, they highlighted some potential pitfalls in our original plan: a phased rollout would separate user calendar accounts from each other during the transition, some on-premises and some in the cloud, and people who manage multiple calendars might not have access to all of them. It could have resulted in weeks of missed meetings, double-booked conference calls and probably more than a few frustrated managers and executives.
So we planned ahead, and when the time came, we migrated the whole organization—1,200 mailboxes—to Exchange Online in one day. The temporary help desk we set up spent about a week addressing minor problems here and there, and then we were done.
With the FastTrack Center there to support us when we needed them, we saved weeks on our Office 365 migration. More importantly, we likely avoided a lot of unnecessary user issues—and the costs that would have gone with them.
Staying focused on our mission
Thanks to the quick and successful Exchange Online migration, The Global Fund can manage its entire collaboration environment in the Microsoft cloud, instead of spending time and money on an expensive, complex on-premises infrastructure. When we spend less effort on infrastructure maintenance, it frees up resources to focus on modernizing our business, collaborating more effectively with our employees and partners on the ground, and building new ways to accelerate the end of AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria as epidemics.
To learn more about how The Global Fund is using Office 365 to modernize its business, read the full case study.
Case Study: Heineken Uses the Cloud to Reach 10.5 Million Consumers in Global Marketing
Heineken Uses the Cloud to Reach 10.5 Million Consumers in Global Marketing Campaign
“Nobody does it better” than secret agent James Bond. So it was natural that when world-class brewer HEINEKEN launched a global marketing campaign, it would partner with the Bond franchise. And when that campaign needed an equally first-class cloud platform, HEINEKEN turned to Microsoft Azure. HEINEKEN then used Azure for promotions that were even more technically demanding, including one with the UEFA Champions League. Azure “put our stakeholders at ease,” says an executive.
When James Bond is on the scene, the fate of the world often lies in the balance. When HEINEKEN decided to launch a global marketing campaign based on the latest Bond movie, the stakes were also high.
HEINEKEN, which sells its flagship premium beer in 178 countries, has long run innovative marketing campaigns around the world. Along with great beer, it’s part of what makes Heineken one of the world’s best-known brands. But the 2012 campaign, based on the Bond movie Skyfall, was different than what HEINEKEN had done before. Traditionally, its marketing operation had been fairly decentralized. The campaigns might have been global, but how they were implemented was not. Those decisions had been largely left to the company’s scores of national and regional marketing divisions. Rollout dates, for example, were left to the divisions and, consequently, global campaigns could be launched gradually over a period of months.
But HEINEKEN had been centralizing its marketing functions for several years. For the Bond promotion, it planned to launch the campaign at the same time everywhere on the planet. That created unprecedented challenges for HEINEKEN—nowhere more so than in its technology operation. The primary digital content for the campaign was a 100-megabyte movie that had to play flawlessly for millions of viewers worldwide. After all, Bond never fails. No one was going to tolerate a technology failure that might bruise his brand.
Previously, HEINEKEN had supported digital media at its outsourced datacenter. But that datacenter lacked the computing resources HEINEKEN needed, and building them—especially to support peak traffic that would total millions of simultaneous hits—would have been both time-consuming and expensive. Nor would it have provided the geographic reach that HEINEKEN needed to minimize latency worldwide.
The cloud was the way to go—but which cloud? HEINEKEN looked at Amazon Web Services—and chose Microsoft Azure. “With Azure, we didn’t have to invest in managing servers, so we could focus on delivering the most successful campaign,” says Ewout Barendregt, Global Center of Excellence Manager at HEINEKEN. To help deliver that successful campaign, the company used the Azure Content Delivery Network to make the digital content available quickly, reliably, and globally to 10.5 million consumers.
The next year, HEINEKEN faced a digital marketing challenge that was in some ways even greater. This time, HEINEKEN based a global campaign on UEFA Champions League (UCL) soccer games. The campaign would launch simultaneously in more than 70 markets and 30 languages. But although the Skyfall campaign had “merely” required the company to host a giant website to serve content, the UCL campaign would require real-time computing on a global scale.
That’s because the centerpiece of the UCL campaign was a pinball game for consumers to play live against players anywhere in the world. The solution would also have to support multiple leaderboards for each player, based on the number of friends and family that an individual played with. It would require real-time updating of the leaderboards as play was underway. HEINEKEN wanted the technology to support 1 million simultaneous users. And, in the words of Lennart Boorsma, Digital Marketing Manager at HEINEKEN, “It couldn’t fail.”
To meet these requirements, HEINEKEN expanded its use of Azure from one datacenter to four—one each in Europe and Asia, and two in the US—gaining geo-redundancy and low latency. Data was stored in Azure Table Storage for asynchronous updates. The storage was structured with 10,000 partitions—up from 10 initially—for the requisite scalability. HEINEKEN developed the solution using Microsoft Visual Studio 2013. The architecture was tested with a Visual Studio load-testing cluster to generate the load and test the application without testing the Internet. Microsoft Services consultants helped develop and load-test the solution, and resolve performance issues.
The results of this solution (see below) led HEINEKEN to use Azure again, in yet another way, for its Open Your City campaign. In this campaign, consumers interact with HEINEKEN through Twitter and other social media to get suggestions on “socially hot” clubs and bars located near them at any given moment.
“Given the success of these campaigns, we now use Microsoft cloud services beyond marketing,” says Boorsma, citing Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online for customer relationship management and Office 365 for increased employee productivity.
HEINEKEN has used Azure in three global campaigns, supporting millions of users, minimizing latency, and laying the foundation for significant cost savings.
Scales to 2 Million Gameplays per Hour
HEINEKEN used Microsoft Azure to achieve 100 percent reliability on a massive scale. The platform exceeded its service-level agreement with perfect performance in the UCL campaign, supporting 2 million gameplays per hour and with capacity for more than 40 million players in all.
“Azure didn’t let us down,” says Boorsma. “More than that, it gave us a way to assure senior management that we could support this massive, global campaign. It put our stakeholders at ease, knowing that we had them covered. When you bring out a global campaign with such bravura, you really do need to make sure that all your homework is done. With Azure, it was. Thank you, Microsoft.”
Delivers Latency of 200–300 Milliseconds
HEINEKEN also met its requirements for low latency worldwide with Azure. Latency rates ranged from 7 milliseconds to 535 milliseconds, with typical rates clustering between 200 and 300 milliseconds. That was a tremendous benefit for global, real-time game-playing. As a result, players enjoyed their experiences and continued playing for an average of 4.5 minutes.
“Latency is something that players shouldn’t even have to think about,” says Barendregt. “Thanks to Azure, it wasn’t an issue. That was an important factor keeping people on the site and in the game. When you consider we had 5.2 million players during the run of the campaign, that comes to 55 years of brand engagement—an insane number.”
Provides Reliability, Savings, Flexibility
Boorsma expects that HEINEKEN will make more use of Azure, both for marketing campaigns and other purposes. For example, Azure could play a role in the company’s website upgrade.
“We will definitely continue to use Azure,” says Boorsma. “We need the reliability it gives us. We can also envision using Azure to avoid the costs of building and maintaining additional datacenters around the world. We could use Azure as part of a hybrid solution with our existing resources. It gives us tremendous flexibility.”
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