- E-commerce challenger eyes the top spot, runs on the Microsoft cloud

Marc Lore is perhaps best known as the creator of the popular e-commerce site, which was eventually sold to Amazon. Now, the entrepreneur and his team are ready to compete head-on with the e-retailing giant through an innovative online marketplace called To get up and running quickly, Jet built its entire e-commerce platform, including development and delivery infrastructure, on Microsoft Azure, using both .NET and open-source technologies.

Business Challenge

In 2010, Marc Lore sold his company Quidsi (which ran e-retailing sites like and to Amazon for $550 million. Four years later, Marc is competing against Amazon directly—with the creation of a new online marketplace called

There are many reasons to think that Lore might just pull it off. For one, he plans to eliminate any margins from product sales. The company’s only source of revenue will come from membership dues, eliminating the kind of mark-ups that Amazon charges and passing the savings on to the customer. In addition, an innovative pricing engine will work to reduce or eliminate costs in the e-commerce value chain, especially fulfillment costs and marketplace commissions.

“Our pricing engine will continually work out the most cost-effective way to fulfill an order from merchant locations closest to the consumer,’ explains Lore, Co-Founder and CEO of Jet. “The engine will also figure out which merchants can fulfill most cheaply by putting multiple requested items into one shipment. And so we can cut probably 10 percent of a cost of a typical e-commerce transaction just by being smarter about fulfillment.”

With a value proposition like that, the company is confidently looking forward to explosive growth. “We want to be one of the leading e-commerce destinations in a very short period of time—18 to 36 months,” says Mike Hanrahan, CTO at Jet.

To fuel that growth, Jet was able to quickly secure more than $220 million in financing. Meanwhile, aggressive marketing has already created a user base of more than 400,000 customers—even before the site launched.

Next step: find the right cloud partner to support the company’s ambitious growth plan. “We realized that we simply did not have the resources to build and manage the kind of datacenters and development infrastructure to meet our growth strategy,” says Hanrahan. “So we quickly decided on a cloud model.”


The decision to work with Microsoft Azure was driven, in part, by the .NET development platform—and Visual F# in particular—which was a good fit with the microservices architecture used to build Jet. As Hanrahan explains, “The event-driven, microservices paradigm eliminated a lot of the overhead that comes with a service-oriented architecture such as Amazon uses, meaning that everyone can build all their systems in parallel and then publish and subscribe to an event bus. We found that F# works very well with this paradigm, especially the immutable data streams that are a key part of our microservices architecture.”

The Microsoft Visual Studio development system is the primary IDE for back-end infrastructure, with Node being used on the front end. To get its code through development and into production as fast as possible, Jet uses a mix of Azure App Service, Azure Web Roles and custom servers, with deployment happening from Jenkins.

Jet also has many open-source middleware components, which it runs on Azure Virtual Machines, including Elasticsearch, RedisLabs, Hadoop, and Event Store—an open-source event-sourcing data store.

Jet is taking advantage of several other Azure services to streamline its development processes. For example, to make it easier for merchant partners to integrate with the platform, it has created a developer portal for its APIs using Azure API Management.

Jet is also using Azure Key Vault to store encryption keys as well as Azure Application Insights, which will provide real-time alerts to its developers to help them identify and triage problems as they occur. Application Insights also enables Jet to learn, in real time, how customers are using their application, so they can implement an agile build-measure-learn cycle.

“Being able to leverage so many off-the-shelf services and tools from Azure enabled us to go from zero to a full- fledged e-commerce marketplace in just about 12 months. That same system would have taken us at least two years to build on our own, plus capex costs,” says Hanrahan.

The company also relies on other Microsoft cloud services to run its day-to-day business, including Office 365 and Azure Active Directory. In fact, Jet’s entire operation is now run in the cloud using Azure. “We have no servers at all onsite right now, not a single one,” says Hanrahan.


Working with Microsoft Azure cloud services has provided Jet with a level of flexibility and scalability that has been critical to its aggressive development schedule.

Moving from code to production in minutes.

By using App Service for its consumer front end, Jet has been able to dramatically streamline its development process, so that it can build, deploy, and scale consumer-grade web apps more rapidly. As Hanrahan says, “We’ve been able to get our critical code through our CI/CD process in a couple of minutes using App Service.”

Scaling automatically to meet customer demand

As with any popular e-retailing site, Jet requires extremely rapid and flexible scaling based on ever-changing customer traffic. To streamline this process, Jet was able to set up auto-scaling on both PaaS servers and App Service to scale its servers based on load or schedule. “Because both PaaS and App Service scale automatically for us, we are able to throw as many machines as we need at the front end, when we need them,” says Hanrahan.

Accommodating rapidly growing storage requirements

As the company grows, Azure provides a wide range of storage options to handle virtually any amount of data. “Right now our data warehouse sits in a SQL Server instance, but we will be augmenting that using HD Insight,” says Hanrahan. Azure HDInsight is designed to handle any amount of data, scaling from terabytes to petabytes on demand.

With Azure, Jet has created a cloud infrastructure that’s ready to meet the company’s most ambitious growth plans. “To be one of the best e-commerce destinations in the US, we will have to handle millions of customers, placing tens of thousands of orders a day. That requires a top-class e-commerce system built on a flexible, open cloud platform. That is exactly what we got with Azure,” says Hanrahan.


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Talis Clinical

Healthcare Technology Firm Launches New Perioperative Solution on Microsoft Azure
Talis Clinical wanted to make an innovative anesthesia information management system more widely available, so it redesigned the application to run in the cloud on Microsoft Azure. Called ACG-Anesthesia, the patient-centric solution provides centralized, automated visibility into patient risk factors and changing physiologic conditions from the decision to perform surgery through recovery.
In addition, built-in advanced clinical guidance and evidence-based care protocols empower physicians to more effectively manage all phases of perioperative care.

Making healthcare smarter

Sharing data quickly and accurately across multiple processes is important for all businesses, but nowhere is it more critical than in a hospital setting where the right information at the right time can mean the difference between life and death. Among the most critical events in patient care is the intraoperative episode, where the anesthesia care team must simultaneously monitor and react to multiple physiological parameters.
To address those challenges, an application was developed and implemented at Ohio’s Cleveland Clinic that integrates data from patient monitors, medical devices, and electronic health records (EHR) to provide centralized insight and multiparameter decision support. The anesthesia system was already being used in more than 270 operating rooms when the development team and an experienced medical entrepreneur decided to establish a new firm called Talis Clinical and offer the solution to other healthcare organizations.
Talis immediately began expanding the scope of the anesthesia system to include preoperative and postoperative events. In addition to improving patient care and safety, the extended solution would help healthcare providers get more value from the electronic health records (EHR) systems that many organizations had installed and augmented to satisfy recent regulations. Gary Colister, Chief Executive Officer of Talis, explains, “EHR technology alone does not provide the level of vigilance needed in perioperative care; it mostly enables the clinical team to record what happens.”

Moving to the cloud

Talis spent a year looking at an array of cloud platforms from specialized medical platforms to large commercial vendors. The new company decided that Microsoft Azure was the best choice for commercializing its application. “We went through all of these evaluations, and then we actually realized that we’re a Microsoft shop, with all of our technology built on a Microsoft platform,” says Colister. “We’re also moving very fast, and we needed to make sure that not only the individual pieces of software we deployed had the necessary robustness, but that our cloud partner had a deep awareness of our technology stack. It really came down to that support.”
Using the Microsoft Visual Studio development system, including Visual Studio Team Foundation Server, Talis redesigned its anesthesiology solution to run in the cloud on Microsoft Azure Virtual Machines. The highly scalable, flexible environment provides a range of benefits, including easy integration with virtually any endpoint including diverse EHRs and medical devices. On the back end, Talis gained similar advantages, including support for its databases, which ran on Linux operating systems.
The solution, called ACG-Anesthesia, continuously collects patient data such as heart rate and blood pressure, and provides real-time, clinical views of specific patient conditions in multiple rooms. It also includes electronic case summaries and hand-off checklists so that comprehensive information can be shared efficiently with all members of a medical team. ACG-Anesthesia automatically pulls data from Talis clinical products, medical devices, EHRs, lab systems, pharmacies, and more.
In the operating room, the anesthesia care team uses an intuitive touchscreen to access and record information. Elsewhere, the supervising physician can use a mobile device to remotely monitor multiple rooms staffed by nurses or other members of the care team. In addition to providing a way to monitor patient health through a central interface, the solution pushes real-time alerts to devices including tablets and smartphones. It can be customized for a wide range of scenarios, including general, cardiac, and pediatric care.
Built-in clinical guidance supports complex decisions by calculating multiple parameters and events. As a result, the solution can alert caregivers to potential adverse conditions and reactions. And besides providing operational and clinical guidance at the point of care, ACG-Anesthesia helps hospitals collect and report data required by healthcare reform acts and other regulations.
Talis is also migrating other clinical products to the cloud, including a portal that establishes and measures protocols for preoperative testing and image-based, documentation technology that is used for assessment before anesthesia is administered. Both products are already integrated with ACG-Anesthesia. Brought to market in just two years, the suite is available across North America.

Improving healthcare

By taking advantage of Microsoft Azure, Talis Clinical can help medical organizations throughout North America improve patient care and safety at all stages of treatment and recovery.

Provides better support for innovation

With the Microsoft cloud, Talis was able to launch an innovative product that can help hospitals improve performance. “We have determined that Microsoft Azure can help us serve clients better than other traditional platforms,” says Colister. “We want our clients to feel like we can deliver the highest level of service that they expect. To be able to provide insights that help clinicians be more vigilant and at the same time produce legal documentation for compliance—that’s a big achievement in our space.”

Improves patient outcome

By providing timely, relevant data through remote apps and devices, Talis can help clinicians improve patient care. “The perioperative surgical care model is being studied at a lot of prominent medical centers around the country, and it emphasizes continuity and measuring patient information from the preop to surgery, subsequent physical therapy, and beyond discharge” says Karen Alexander, Vice President of Business Intelligence at Talis Clinical. “With Microsoft Azure, we can build the technology to implement this new care model and improve patient outcomes.”

Increases clinical efficiency

Talis is also improving workflow for hospital staff, which frees up valuable time where it matters most. “We’re talking to clinicians who tell us that our product saves them an hour each day in documentation, and it also reduces downtime because it’s more accurate,” Colister says. “With Microsoft technology, we’re creating solutions that make physicians more productive so that they can take better care of patients.”
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case study pepperdine - managed solution

Pepperdine University’s Graziadio School of Business and Management enrolls approximately 2,000 students, many of whom work full time. Connecting and engaging busy students can be challenging, so the business school took a page from Fortune 500 companies: it uses Yammer to foster collaboration, enhance learning, and forge tighter relationships among students, faculty, staff, and increasingly, alumni.

The Yammer Solution

In 2010, the school integrated Yammer into Graziadio’s Learning Environment and Network (GLEAN). Since then, Yammer has been virally adopted by most business school students, faculty, and staff.
“We knew students wanted broader engagement, but we did not anticipate how much they’d help each other with logistical questions, IT support, business contacts, professional advice, and moral support,” says Director of eLearning Susan Gautsch. “We also didn’t anticipate the social power of Yammer, which psychologically bridges online and face-to-face experiences. It creates a strong sense of community, regardless of students’ schedules or where they’re studying.”
Students from Graziadio’s Master of Science in Organizational Development program, who come from six countries and only meet five times over two years, stay engaged using Yammer: one class of 35 students has collectively posted 6,000 messages over an eight-month period.
One popular Yammer implementation is what the business school calls Peer Connection. “It’s student driven,” Gautsch explains. “They use it to get to know each other and set up affinity groups.” For instance, students join the Marketing group to network and swap ideas about industry news and course topics.
The school’s faculty also put Yammer to good use. Many have set up private Yammer groups to facilitate and deepen class discussions. Another popular program is Classrooms Across Borders, a way for faculty to share their expertise. Students can follow topics or professors, who post open questions or share articles to generate online discussion. “It’s a great way for faculty to have more of a presence, to get what they do out there to the wider student body,” Gautsch observes.
Yammer is also popular with staff. Academic advisors use it to communicate broadly, answering questions and sending out updates on everything from upcoming meetings to traffic snarls that may make it hard to get to campus. “Our deans are getting online more and more to engage with students and alumni, which they appreciate,” Gautsch observes. She adds that, “Alumni are a growing part of our network, since students who use Yammer want to keep using it to stay engaged with the university after they graduate.”


An end to communication silos. Yammer allows faculty, staff, and students to communicate across departments and campuses.
Deeper connections. Professors and staff use Yammer to expand on classroom discussions and tighten ties with students and each other.
New networking opportunities. Full- and part-time students make cross-program connections and network with alumni through topic-driven conversations.
An ever-growing data repository. Due to its search functionality and ease of contributing content, Yammer is a valuable living knowledge base.


Yammer ( is a best-in-class Enterprise Social Network (ESN) used by more than 500,000 organizations worldwide —including approximately 85 percent of the Fortune 500 —to connect and communicate. Yammer brings together employees, content, conversations, and business data in a single location. Founded in 2008, Yammer was acquired by Microsoft and is available with Office 365, to deliver a comprehensive, seamless social experience across the applications people already use.
For more information about Pepperdine:
For more information about Yammer:
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"With traditional IT, it would take weeks or months to contend with hardware lead times to add more capacity. Using AWS, we can look at user metrics weekly or daily and react with new capacity in 30 seconds." Richard Crowley Director of Operations

AWS Case Study: Slack

About Slack

Slack provides a messaging platform that integrates with and unifies a wide range of communications services such as Twitter, Dropbox, Google Docs, Jira, GitHub, MailChimp, Trello, and Stripe. The San Francisco–based company, which launched its eponymous app in February 2014, was started by a small group of Silicon Valley entrepreneurs that include Flickr founder Stewart Butterfield. Privately-held Slack is on Fortune Magazine’s “Unicorn List” of startup firms worth $1 billion or more, with a $2.8 billion valuation supported by a five percent weekly user growth rate and major brand-name customers including Adobe, Samsung, Intuit, NASA, Dow Jones, eBay, and Expedia.

The Challenge

In the age of the unicorn startups, Slack has drawn attention for its meteoric rise and potential for disrupting traditional business communications tools, particularly email. By June 2015—less than 18 months after its launch—the company already had more than 1.1 million daily users, 300,000 paid seats, and more than 30 million messages flowing through Slack each week via integrations with other services.
Slack’s founders had already learned hard lessons from previous failed ventures. One of those was the importance of picking the right IT infrastructure to run the business. If Slack was to succeed in a fiercely competitive business-software marketplace, its founders knew they would need a lean staff, low costs, and above all an IT environment capable of supporting speed, agility, and innovation. Going to the cloud was the logical choice.
“The realities of physical space, hardware acquisition, replacement parts, running a server facility with all its costs—all the physical manifestations that can lead to breakages—made a traditional IT environment impractical for an Internet startup,” says Richard Crowley, Slack’s director of operations. “Plus we would have needed an extra layer of expertise just to run the infrastructure. We could have operated with that kind of IT infrastructure, but the cost and complexity would have made it much harder to launch the business.”
Why Amazon Web Services
Crowley says Slack turned to Amazon Web Services out of experience and because it was the best choice for the company going forward. Tiny Speck—the original company name for what became Slack Technologies—used AWS in 2009 when it was the only viable offering for public cloud services.
“Given their expertise and pains running a more traditional environment when Flickr was developed, Slack’s founders realized it was a no brainer to use AWS,” says Crowley. “During the development of Slack, the feeling was that AWS was good to us and would continually improve with more and better features. There was no need to leave.”
Slack has a relatively simple IT architecture that is based on a broad range of AWS services, including i2.xlarge Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2) instances for basic compute tasks; Amazon Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3) for users’ file uploads and static assets; and Elastic Load Balancing to balance workloads across Amazon EC2 instances.
For security, Slack uses Amazon Virtual Private Cloud (Amazon VPC) to control security groups and firewall rules and AWS Identity and Access Management (IAM) to control user credentials and roles. The company uses Amazon CloudTrail for monitoring logs related to Amazon EC2 instances, and Amazon Route 53 for DNS management.
Along with the AWS services, Slack is using the Redis data structure server, the Apache Solr search tool, the Squid caching proxy, and a MySQL database.

slack-arch-diagram managed solution

The Benefits

Using AWS as its IT infrastructure has helped Slack achieve an astonishing growth rate and a multibillion-dollar valuation with a platform that supports speed of innovation and responsiveness, reliability, and security features to ensure the confidentiality of customer information.
Crowley says AWS gives fast-growing companies like Slack the ability to minimize their involvement with daily IT management. That lets them focus on pushing innovative products and services to market quickly. “We have a lot of metrics and programs that tell us about available capacity for new customer teams to join and existing customers to grow their Slack usage,” he says. “With traditional IT, it would take weeks or months to contend with hardware lead times to add more capacity. Using AWS, we can look at user metrics weekly or daily and react with new capacity in 30 seconds.”
The ease of provisioning resources in the AWS cloud allows Slack to practice disaster recovery scenarios, which is essential for assuring existing and prospective customers that their information will always be there, when and where they need it. “One of the real strengths of AWS is that we can do a lot of re-provisioning of our infrastructure, making sure that we can recover quickly and competently in the event that something goes down,” Crowley says. “Having the ability to quickly grab twice as many of a certain class of instances is great. It gives us the ability to regularly practice our disaster recovery scenarios.”
A large part of the appeal of Slack is that it replaces disparate communications tools with a single, unified platform. But that puts an increased burden on Slack to ensure that its customers' information is safe, and that Slack can deliver the kind of enterprise reliability and high availability to support the service-level agreements expected of robust enterprise applications.
“As a company, our business is integral to our customers’ daily lives,” Crowley says. “So in our customers’ eyes, our security controls and ability to deliver a reliable service become incredibly important, and it’s a responsibility we take incredibly seriously.”
He says AWS immediately addresses customers’ security concerns because AWS publishes service organization control (SOC) reports, which are based on third-party examinations evaluating how AWS achieves compliance controls and objectives. “The fact that we can rely on the AWS security posture to boost our own security is really important for our business. AWS does a much better job at security than we could ever do running a cage in a data center,” Crowley says. ”Hosting Slack in AWS makes our customers more confident that Slack is safe, secure, and always on.”
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Case Study: Condé Nast goes all-in with AWS Cloud. The company reduced costs by 40% and increased operational performance by 30-40%

About Condé Nast

Condé Nast is a well-established media and publications company known for producing high quality lifestyle content suited for everyone. As a result of going all-in into the AWS Cloud, the company reduced costs by 40% and increased operational performance by 30-40%.

In just three months, Condé Nast was able to migrate over 500 servers, one petabyte of storage, various mission critical applications (such as HR, Legal, and Sales), and over 100 database servers into the AWS Cloud. With this migration, Condé Nast can now create content faster, while improving organizational creativity, productivity, agility, flexibility and time to market.

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case study online travel - managed solution

Case Study: Online travel company Serko upgrades cloud storage, sees significant boost in database speed and cuts costs by $120,000 annually

To provide the best possible travel booking experience for its customers, Serko upgraded its Microsoft Azure–hosted Serko Online software to Microsoft Azure Premium Storage. With this updated solution, Serko will potentially increase database transaction processing by 300 percent, which will help it accommodate planned business growth. The company also estimates that it will trim database costs by US$120,000 annually.
Booking flights online is incredibly easy: in just a few clicks, you have your ticket. But behind the scenes, databases perform thousands of transactions—searching through hundreds of available flights—in milliseconds. If the process takes too long, another travel site is only a click away.
Serko knows this well, so the company fine-tunes its datacenter infrastructure continuously to ensure that bookings are lightning-fast. Based in Auckland, New Zealand, Serko is one of the leading online corporate travel booking and expense management firms in the Asia-Pacific region. Since its founding in 1994, Serko has been an industry innovator, serving some of the largest corporations and agencies in the region.
Corporate travel departments subscribe to Serko Online for booking and Serko Incharge for expense management. Both are software-as-a-service (SaaS) products that organizations use to simplify the process of booking, approving, and reconciling travel expenditures.

Move to the cloud, enable growth

Serko is growing domestically and in emerging markets such as India, China, the Middle East, and Singapore. Since early 2014, the company has more than doubled its staff, and it aims to more than double its number of travel transactions in 2016.
To accomplish this aggressive goal, Serko needs to ensure that its datacenter infrastructure can handle a dramatic increase in transactions. The company currently performs about 300 million transactions a week.
To scale database processing power quickly and smoothly, Serko migrated the entire Serko Online application—database, application, and web servers—from its Auckland datacenter to Microsoft Azure in 2013. “Moving Serko Online and other assets to Azure gave us instant infrastructure scalability and eliminated acquisition and management costs,” says Philip Ball, Chief Technical Officer at Serko.
Azure is a cloud platform with compute, storage, networking, and other services for creating and hosting applications in Microsoft datacenters. “Azure had the best pricing of several options, and it was better aligned to our strategy because we use a great deal of Microsoft software,” Ball says.
Serko Online uses Microsoft SQL Server 2008 R2 as its database layer and originally used Microsoft Azure Standard Storage. However, the solution entails an enormous number of input/output operations per second (IOPS), and the company saw a moderate slowdown in the database tier after moving Serko Online to Azure. “The performance degradation was barely noticeable, but we were concerned about what would happen when our transaction load increased significantly,” Ball says.

Upgrade to premium cloud storage

Microsoft approached Serko about testing Microsoft Azure Premium Storage, which stores data on solid-state drives (versus the hard disk drives used by Azure Standard Storage) and provides up to 5,000 IOPS and 200 megabytes per second (MB/sec) throughput. Serko worked with Microsoft to test Serko Online on Azure Premium Storage and plans to deploy the storage technology in its production environment.
For Serko Online, Serko uses 150 A-Series Azure Virtual Machines as front-end web servers attached to eight DS-Series Azure Virtual Machines that act as database servers running SQL Server 2014. The company uses 10 Azure Premium Storage Disks for its production environment—two for backup, two for SQL Server system databases and temporary databases, three for user SQL Server data, and three for user SQL Server logs. Serko continues to use Azure Standard Storage for its disaster recovery environment. All servers communicate with each other over Azure Virtual Network. Serko currently has more than 50 SQL Server databases ranging from 2 gigabytes (GB) to 65 GB in size.

Improve performance by 300 percent

By moving to Azure Premium Storage, Serko was able to boost its database performance from 2,500 IOPS to 8,000 IOPS per pooled disk, a 300 percent increase. “We handle more than 300 million SQL Server transactions each week using eight SQL Server Azure Virtual Machines,” Ball says. “With Azure Premium Storage, we envisage that our current virtual machines can scale to handle more than 500 million SQL Server transactions weekly. This will reduce our overall costs, which is key as we scale globally.”
As a result of this performance boost, Serko believes that it can use the same number of SQL Server database servers to support three times the transaction volume with no performance degradation. “The more reduction in database-tier wait time, the better performance we can deliver,” says Ball. “As our business expands, our customers won’t hit slowdowns as our transaction loads increase. This is critical to our competitiveness.”
Serko plans to upgrade to Microsoft SQL Server 2014 and will use SQL Server AlwaysOn Availability Groups to improve performance further and gain high availability for disaster protection. During testing of AlwaysOn with Azure Premium Storage, Serko observed a 50 percent performance gain.

Reduce annual database costs

By using Azure Premium Storage in combination with DS-Series Azure Virtual Machines, Serko will be able to consolidate databases per each SQL Server instance, reducing its total number of SQL Server instances from eight to four. “With Premium Storage and the larger virtual machines, we’ll avoid [US]$120,000 a year on virtual machine and SQL Server licensing fees,” Ball says. “We can consolidate more customers onto fewer virtual machines and host larger databases.”

Gain flexibility and scalability

In addition to the Azure Virtual Machines used to run the Serko Online production environment, Serko uses Azure for its test, support, and customer staging environments—in total, 240 Azure Virtual Machines with more than 650 cores. In fact, everything except the company’s software development environment runs in Azure.
Serko developed and runs its Serko Mobile application using Microsoft Azure Cloud Services and uses Azure Service Bus as a message-passing layer between Serko applications and the many airlines and other partners with which it exchanges information. “We need the ability to scale our infrastructure quickly, and Azure gives us that,” Ball says. “We can deploy servers when we need them and shut them down when we’re done with them. Our goal is to get to a complete auto-deploy, auto-scale environment so we can quickly move software builds into production with no infrastructure hurdles. This will help the business grow.”


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Yelp Cuts Test-Run Times by 90% Using AWS

About Yelp provides consumers with crowd-sourced reviews about local businesses. It connects its data centers to the cloud using AWS Direct Connect to access a range of AWS services for its Dev & Test, Automated Testing systems, staging areas, and production workloads. Using AWS, Yelp dramatically improved its development productivity by reducing test-run times by as much as 90 percent.


Moderna Therapeutics is a biotech company working to create new medicines through its revolutionary messenger RNA (mRNA) Therapeutics platform. It uses Microsoft Office 365 business productivity tools to build an agile, flexible, and collaborative ecosystem of Moderna teams and partners to accelerate innovation in mRNA research and development.

Founded in 2010, Moderna Therapeutics began as a company with a vision: create a new in vivo medicine using messenger RNA (mRNA) to teach human cells to create proteins that target diseased tissue. Placing eighth on the CNBC 2014 Disruptor 50 list, Moderna is poised to deliver a radical treatment modality that’s fast, scalable, and inexpensive.

“The beauty of using mRNA as a drug is the speed at which we can design a new mRNA therapeutic for a targeted protein,” says Stéphane Bancel, Chief Executive Officer at Moderna. “By replicating our basic methodology, we can scale quickly to target new diseases. Traditional drug development for pharmaceutical companies takes 10 years or more. And because the mRNA Therapeutic modality teaches the body how to make its own medicine, it’s inherently cost-effective.”

The Race to Save Lives

Fueled by the potential to unlock a new dimension of medical treatment for patients living with serious diseases, everything that happens at Moderna happens at “Moderna speed.” When the company chooses IT solutions, it looks for technology that enables the fast, agile, and collaborative scenarios that drive innovation and contribute to growth. That’s why Moderna uses Microsoft Office 365 cloud-based business productivity tools. “We’re innovating in the biotech space and we need to partner with innovators in the productivity space, which led us to Microsoft,” says Steven Frederick, Head of Enterprise IT at Moderna.

“We chose Office 365 because it supports what our fast-moving company needs to accomplish,” adds John Reynders, Chief Information Officer at Moderna. “We operate in a highly regulated environment and Microsoft has thought through privacy concerns and data security. Office 365 offers the right balance between flexibility and elasticity that allows us to scale quickly and collaborate globally, while giving us control of sensitive data around the world.”

Since it subscribed to Office 365 Enterprise E3 in 2013, Moderna has grown by a factor of four; opened two new facilities; forged partnerships with AstraZeneca and Alexion to develop new medicines in the areas of cardiology, oncology, and rare diseases, and founded its oncology-focused drug development subsidiary, Onkaido Therapeutics. Now it’s easy to add someone to the Moderna ecosystem using Office 365 ProPlus and Click-to-Run installation technology, enabling access to the latest version of Office on up to five PCs, Macs, and mobile devices per employee. “If we didn’t have a cloud-based approach powered by Office 365, we could never have moved this fast,” says Reynders.

Flexible Work Environments Improve Productivity

Everyone at Moderna uses Office 365 to improve their productivity and increase their contribution to the company, no matter where they are working or what device they are using. All employees are “heavy users” of Microsoft Excel, PowerPoint, and Word, and they expect to access to their files anytime, anywhere.

“We do heavy-duty simulation and modeling in Excel, and we’d bottom-out the capabilities of other online solutions in less than a day,” says Reynders. “Using Office 365 ProPlus and OneDrive for Business generates mobility and productivity that’s light years ahead of working with Office files that are stuck on your office computer. Instead, we create documents on our laptops, iPads, or smartphones, and store them online so it’s easy to share critical insights. At Moderna, we can’t imagine working any other way.”

Scientists also use Microsoft Office Online for browser-based access to files stored in the cloud so they can edit documents simultaneously. “Office Online puts the flex in flexible!” says Reynders. “You don’t even need your computer. Using a browser, we share PowerPoint presentations, schedule meetings, and update documents. That level of agility helps us to work at Moderna speed.”

Collaboration Drives Innovation, Competitive Advantage

According to Bancel, collaboration is essential for innovation. Because working on the leading edge of science is fraught with unknowns, collaborating with many partners offsets the risk of traveling down the wrong path of inquiry.

“We have to make decisions about our product years before launch, without knowing what the regulatory, manufacturing, or competitive landscape will look like,” says Bancel. “So we are using Microsoft cloud tools to achieve that level of collaboration to optimize our products and beat the odds: In the drug development world, 90 percent of drugs fail.”

Moderna is building an ecosystem of strategic global partnerships using Office 365 to establish highly secure online collaboration with academic and business partners in less than a day. “We use SharePoint Online and integrate with Microsoft Azure to enable multifactor authentication,” says Reynders. “We can capitalize on a business opportunity with a new partner by setting up a secure SharePoint collaboration platform in just a few clicks. That’s not just collaboration, that’s a competitive advantage.”

Reliability Enables the Science

Office 365 functions as a reliable backdrop at Moderna that “enables the science” by allowing people to focus on their work. Scientists in the United States exchange ideas with colleagues in Europe and Asia through instant messages, or by escalating a phone call to an interactive video conference to share desktops and drawings. Instead of wasting time figuring out how to connect with colleagues, Moderna scientists spend their energy on exchanging ideas to come up with innovative new concepts.

”It doesn’t matter what you are doing, if communication and collaboration is not reliable, all the gears grind to a halt,” concludes Reynders. “Since moving to Office 365, we’re not worrying about the technology. Instead, we are focusing on enabling our vision to pioneer a new way to treat serious illness and make a difference in the world.”

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