Exponential growth is Getit Infomedia’s (GI) defining characteristic. It plans to grow its consumer base five times by 2016 while it expects enterprise data to grow a 100-fold. To undertake this ambitious journey, it needed a radically different technology approach. Moving entirely to the public cloud was a natural choice. GI chose to move to Windows Azure, successfully migrating all 25 workloads. This includes major B2B and B2C portals like askme.com, getit.in and web services that power the likes of WeChat and Yahoo Local Search. It also moved all internal applications including ERP, CRM, and the data warehouse. It even migrated the Active Directory, which means that employees access all applications via Windows Azure. Today, GI does not have a single server on premise. And, it has dramatically cut costs while reducing response time.
Getit Infomedia (GI) is the leading information service with an excellent search platform. It has built a strong national infrastructure and a professional team that delivers high quality value for money local search and allied services across print, voice, online and mobile platforms. With a network of over 90 offices around the country and employee strength of over 1,500, GI provides an excellent local searching platform for small and medium businesses and consumers to meet at a common junction.
Year-on-year growth has been a central characteristic of the company. Explains Jaspreet Bindra, Chief Executive Officer, Getit Infomedia, “We are in a hyper growth mode. We grow 10-15 percent every month. We pretty much double every year. ”It has surged upwards at an exponential rate and has plans to grow five times in the next three years. That said, the rapid growth will exceed the capacity of its IT infrastructure in the next 12─18 months to efficiently and cost-effectively support business operations. In addition, with the company’s big data strategy, it is expecting a 100-fold increase in enterprise data.
Before moving to the cloud, GI ran around 70 physical on-premise servers across three different data centers (in the course of several acquisitions). Around half of this compute was used for powering external facing services and the rest for enterprise applications. Of the 70 physical servers, around 30 were running Linux and MySQL and the rest were Windows Server- based workloads. Many of the Windows Servers were 2008 or earlier and GI chose to make a fresh deployment of several of these while the rest were migrated using a lift-and-shift strategy.
“We inherited a fairly antiquated technology hosted at the lowest cost centers across the country,” adds Jaspreet. “There was no redundancy, and, scalability was a huge issue. Sites would go down every few hours, and, if there was a traffic spike, it just could not keep up.”
The IT team was providing various on-premise services. It soon realized that the cost and management of supporting the business would only multiply as it continues to grow. “We knew that at this growth rate our capital costs associated with server hardware and software would be massive,” says Gopal Sharma, Lead for Infrastructure Engineering, Getit Infomedia. “Managing data centers and hiring additional personnel to maintain the infrastructure took us away from our goal of being more business centric.”
Moreover, as business was growing, data storage requirements also grew extensively. From under 200 GB of enterprise data in 2013 it has now grown to 4 TB of total storage. It plans to build this up to 20+ TB within the next 12 months. The existing storage administration and management was a complex task. Additionally, as the database was huge, extracting data was a time-consuming, challenging and tedious job.
Vivek Prabhu, Head of Engineering Services, Getit Infomedia, says, “Though we were growing, our existing infrastructure was turning out to be a hindrance. We sought next-generation solutions that were cost-effective, easy to manage, reliable and scalable.”
GI then decided to replace its IT infrastructure with cloud-based services. It began evaluating cloud offerings from various companies, seeking for a solution which would support its expansion and growth.
After a detailed evaluation of its requirements and assessing competing cloud platforms such as AWS and Windows Azure from Microsoft, Getit Infomedia chose Microsoft. Windows Azure serves as the development, service hosting and service management environment for the Windows Azure platform. The Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) solution provides developers with on-demand compute and storage to host, scale and manages web applications on the internet through Microsoft data centers.
“As part of the evaluation process, three things we important for us,” says Rahul Chitale, Chief Technology Officer, Getit Infomedia. “One, we were looking at doing things on an internet scale, which means expanding rapidly with minimal time. Two, we wanted to reduce our manage services costs, which ruled most local hosters. And three, we wanted to engage with third-party developers in the SME space. Windows Azure had very clear differentiators, which led us to choose it over Amazon Web Services.”
To provide a full range of business productivity for employees, GI took the Microsoft Office 365 P1 and E1 plan, with particular attention given to an email solution, team collaboration facilitated by Exchange Online and SharePoint Online. “Amazon Services could not offer the same range of components across IaaS, PaaS and SaaS,” says Gopal Sharma. “On the other hand, Windows Azure and Office 365 can be managed from one console, making management simple and straightforward.”
An important aspect of migrating to Windows Azure was the strong support for open platforms and non-Microsoft technologies. Windows Azure is an open and flexible cloud platform that enables quick development, deployment and management of infrastructure and applications across a global network of data centers. It provides broad support for a wide array of open source technologies. Rahul Chitale highlights the flexibility and interoperability of the platform, “With Windows Azure, we are able to run our existing applications and infrastructure, regardless of development language or operating system, in the cloud without any changes in code.”
As per the plan, GI has moved all workloads to Windows Azure, including its external facing portals, www.askme.com, www.yellowpages.co.in, www.getit.in, and its FAST and Solr based search services. It has also moved its internal applications such as Sugar CRM and Microsoft Axapta ERP. In addition, the company has moved its Active Directory to the cloud, which provides identity management and access control capabilities for cloud applications.
“Windows Azure was a natural choice for the type of custom software development and integration that we do,” says Rahul. “Development is easier, quicker and more cost-effective when all the pieces are on a single platform.”
GI started planning the move to Windows Azure in October 2013. By January 2014, all workloads were migrated and today, it does not have a single server on site. The company did not have to invest in server hardware or licenses; it relies on a cloud infrastructure and global data centers from Microsoft.
The IT team can now focus on enabling business process improvements. “Windows Azure is much better suited for our needs; it helps make IT invisible and enables us to deliver better results for the business,” says Rahul. “We don’t have to worry about managing the infrastructure or setting up our own scaling logic for virtual servers. My team can now focus more on business innovation rather than being traditional IT guys.”
GI has also moved its entire set of call center applications to Windows Azure. The applications enable 100,000 calls a day and even a few digits of performance increase is expected to save the company crores per annum in terms of productivity and increased customer retention.
The Windows Azure platform provides Getit Infomedia access to cutting-edge technologies at a fraction of the cost of an in-house system. The company no longer has to worry about managing its expanding infrastructure and can scale up quickly to handle the massive amount of data.
Jaspreet sums up, “The move to Windows Azure is proving to be good for us because our turnaround time has really gone down and loading time of our sites and applications have become lower by order of magnitude.”
Delivers Excellent Performance
With cloud-based resources, GI has observed significant gains in performance. TK Ramamoorthy, Lead for CRM, Getit Infomedia says, “Sugar CRM, which is one of our crucial workflow applications, is used by around 500 concurrent users. Some core scenarios like customer look-up took over 8─10 seconds. With the move to Windows Azure and the high performance cloud storage, latency dramatically came down and we are seeing performance increase by as much as 400 percent purely because of the strength and standardization of the infrastructure.”
He continues, “Performance on our external workload www.getit.in has improved by over 50 percent. Apart from this, we are seeing significant improvements in other workloads as well.”
The average response time on www.getit.in is down from 7─8 seconds to less than two seconds, which is remarkably good. In addition, the Search Engine performance also improved.
Endorses Jaspreet, “Our internal customers like sales and finance people, who access the system on a day-to-day basis, are far happier than what they used to be. And most importantly the systems that used to be down most such as the ERP and CRM, today have virtually zero downtime.”
Reduces Costs by 30 Percent
GI estimates that by using Windows Azure it is saving significantly compared to what it would have spent on another solution provider. In addition, the company realizes a lower total cost of ownership. “In an on-premises infrastructure, we would have deployed our own servers invested extensively in new hardware, and kept paying for power, cooling and IT support,” says Gopal Sharma. “Windows Azure saved us these capital and operational expenses in return for a predictable and transparent monthly charge. Costs have come down by around 70 percent on a monthly basis for some of our largest apps and 30 percent across the board.”
Rahul adds, “We had a team of 12 people to manage our IT infrastructure, today, we have one person managing our cloud infrastructure.”
Provides Superior Scalability
By using Windows Azure, GI has achieved the ability to quickly scale to meet demand, which was lacking in other cloud services providers. “With the kind of business growth we are envisioning, there would have been a lot more overhead involved with installing and provisioning new servers for our environment,” says Rahul Chitale. “Windows Azure gives us the on-demand scalability without worrying about infrastructure. It lets us process large amounts of data, no matter how quickly we grow.”
With Windows Azure you can quickly build, deploy and manage applications across a global network of Microsoft-managed data centers. You can build applications using any operating system, language or tool.
For more information, please visit: www.windowsazure.com.
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For more information about Getit Infomedia services, visit the website at: www.getit.in
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