Quickly Acquire, Analyze and Discover Trends in Big Data On Windows Azure Delivers Competitive Intelligence to Retailers

Mobius  Knowledge Services

Publically available information can be a big asset for companies to track competition or to enhance their price-perception, optimize their advertising spend and much more. This can make the difference between success and piling inventory. The Mobius data acquisition product automates this to deliver competitive information quickly that allows companies to adjust their marketing and pricing strategies. But trawling big data to get spot trends requires a huge IT infrastructure. To remain competitive, Mobius decided to move away from complex, expensive onsite infrastructure, to Windows Azure. With this highly scalable and extensible cloud platform, the company is acquiring data easily for its customers. As a result, it can more easily meet diverse business needs and accelerate innovation with easier development and faster time-to-market.

Situation

Mobius delivers end-to-end data services to leading global businesses, with a special focus on publicly available content. Automation is an essential success factor for their business. Managing and maintaining complex data collection and processing can be crucial for enterprises. In recent years, the market for data acquisition systems has experienced rapid expansion.

Established in the year 2002, Mobius has been providing complete back-office services for data and content intensive industries, such as information providers, media, e-commerce, financial services and real estate.

Mobius created its Data Acquisition product with the goal of automating data collection and presentation. Acquiring data from public internet data sources and putting it into a dataset for clients to analyze is the products key capability and also the main differentiator. “Every client and every project seems to have some variation,” explains Karthik Karunakaran, Chief Executive Officer, Mobius. “We wanted the ability to be able to configure our platform to the needs of a particular customer and provide as many details as possible about a particular SKU or product listing. Plus, we always provide more options to our customers as in the case of competitive intelligence for retailers.”

Earlier the product was running on Microsoft SQL platform, where SQL queries were used to pull intelligent information. The company was using its own price recommendation engine, which is a SQL procedure. However, the volume of data in this case was not too huge. At any point of time, it meant dealing with 100-150 products.

As the customer base at Mobius increased to include some of the world’s biggest brands, the size of the data increased. For example, says Karthik, “In the retail industry, we get requests from clients for details of a particular product. On the other hand, sometimes clients want us to collect attributes from the product manufacturer. They specify the sources from where they would want us to collect data. We acquire the data and put it into a dataset for analysis purpose and then finally deliver in the format the client wants.”

Karthik continues, “We were dealing in hundred thousands, be it companies or people. While collecting, aggregating and delivering data back to clients, we were generating 200 – 400 GB each day.”

With huge volumes of data, costs started mounting up. Dollar rate fluctuation added to the increased costs. To meet both business and technical requirements, Mobius knew it needed to find a solution that would integrate with its existing platform. The company had already recognized the potential of high-performance cloud computing and decided to take advantage of it.

Solution

Mobius considered several cloud-based solutions based on cost and their ability to integrate. Windows Azure suited all of the company’s requirements. “Windows Azure’s Enterprise Agreement gave us the cost benefit we were looking for,” says Sankar Sundaram, Head, Technology Services Group, Mobius. “Other service providers were costly when it came to costs. In addition, the amount of integration to be done with them would have been a painful process.”

Mobius is a services company, which engages deeply with its customers and aims to be transparent and responsive in its communications. Windows Azure gave Mobius the pay-as-you-go model, which can be scaled up, both in terms of infrastructure and budget, depending on demand and success.

Today there are unlimited scenarios in which the Data Acquisition product is used to standardize and simplify the acquisition process, streamline workflow and improve data accessibility.

Raghu Ramachandran, Executive Vice President, Mobius explains, “Imagine a retail client who wants to collect the technical specifications of 100 brands of phones where each brand has four styles of phones. In all we end up with 400 products here each individual product has its own specifications and attributes like screen size, camera resolution etc. These products could be anything that the retailer wants to sell online – clothes, automotive spare parts, cars etc.”

The product does comparative analysis for retailers as well. If the retailer wants to compare six different eCommerce portals, they can customize their login to do so.

In another scenario, Mobius is using the new platform to collect data for Flight Information Systems. “The volume of data that we deal with in these systems is gigantic,” says Sankar. “We keep track of 34,000 flights where we have to give updates every five minutes on the status of the flight. The data can be anywhere between 10-15 GB per day.”

Compared to competitors, the Mobius Data Acquisition product provides pricing recommendations so that retailers do not have to do the manual computation hundred thousand times. “We do the computation for the retailers and provide pricing recommendations for every product” explains Sudeep Kumar Jain, Head of Marketing and Partnerships, Mobius. “We also provide pricing comparison charts that helps the category manager ascertain the best pricing vis-à-vis advertising spends and inventory available.”

The product also provides retailers the return on their advertising spends (ROAS). “We believe that the money retailers spend in advertising to get a comparison should get them the benefit of being on top,” says Sudeep. “With our Windows Azure based tool, we keep our retailers informed of what their competitors are doing. We keep them updated every step of the way.”

While moving to Windows Azure, Mobius faced challenges, as they needed several hundreds of instances. The company was not using Windows Azure as an application instance, but as a server. Even though this was a new user case scenario for Microsoft, it was quick to respond and reconfigure their way of deployment. “We got excellent support from Microsoft,” says Sankar. “The Windows Azure team in Redmond got involved to find a resizing solution to reconfigure our requirements. We have scheduled weekly calls with the team to resolve any issues.”

Benefits

By taking advantage of the Windows Azure platform, Mobius is gaining new insights into the data acquisition and analysis. The highly scalable solution allows the company to work with huge quantities of data without compromising on costs.

Quick Integration Accelerates Time-to-Market

Windows Azure is an open and flexible cloud platform that enables Mobius to quickly deploy and manage its products. It can be quickly integrated with the company’s existing IT environment. “Running our solution on Windows Azure made it pretty easy to integrate with any platform,” explains Sankar. “In the past, it could have taken two months to do this integration. With Windows Azure, it now takes just one week. This gives us more time to enhance our core services.”

Reduces Costs by 28 Percent

With the cloud computing solution, savings have been huge and the benefits to the business are apparent. “We no longer have to find U.S.$ 25,000 a month to pay to service providers, which was outrageously expensive,” says Sankar. “Our financial position has become much stronger. Overall, we have been able to reduce our costs by 28 percent.”

Increases Competitive Advantage

Mobius is improving its business agility with the cloud-based solution. As the business model is getting extended, the company looks forward to more business opportunities. Comments Karthik, “We have accelerated our time-to-market, as there is no need to purchase and set up an additional on premise infrastructure. Windows Azure has helped us keep costs under control and has given us the scalability we require. It was the right choice.”

With a faster development lifecycle, Mobius is more responsive to its customers. In addition, on-boarding a new customer takes lesser time. “Today, we are able to scale to a large number of users and multiple different scenarios. Hosting our application on Windows Azure has helped us reduce then number of instances deployed as well as our customer onboarding time. We are faster than any of our competitors who offer similar services sans the application,” concludes Raghu.

Windows Azure

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.

For More Information

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