For the last week I’ve been working with the shy and retiring web guru Michael Kordahi on a solution to deliver enhanced coverage of the Sydney Mardi Gras Parade to the readers of the Sydney Morning Herald and Fairfax’s other Australian newspapers like The Age.

The idea was simple – to deliver a compelling, ‘sticky’ user experience around several hundred past and current images from Fairfax’s digital archive.   We wanted the solution to scale for traffic and be quick and easy for them to deploy in time for the parade weekend.

smh 

After some discussion about possible architecture we decided this would be a good scenario to deploy against application infrastructure that could scale in a elastic fashion based on demand – especially as expected traffic would clearly peak over the few days around the Mardi Gras parade and then drop back to a low-level as a historical link.

The eventual solution was built (from start to finish in one week – Michael didn’t sleep much building that client) using rich client software – Silverlight exposing a DeepZoom image collection – delivered over HTTP from a scalable cloud technology service - Windows Azure

In the end we deployed the Silverlight application - and the approximately 32,000 small image objects that make up the underlying collection - onto Windows Azure Storage Services within containers and blobs. 

The basic Windows Azure storage concept is illustrated below.

image

For a detailed overview of Windows Azure Storage from Brad Calder, one of the key architects and Director of Cloud Storage, check out the PDC 2008 session recording.

As Windows Azure is currently in what we term Community Technology Preview  - i.e intended only for development and testing - we checked-in with the product team in Redmond before putting an application live on the web that would be visited by thousands of people in a short time…  Big thanks to David Lemphers for his support.

Even in its current early state the Windows Azure platform is showing its able to scale and deliver what we needed.  A week well spent and a great looking client application that wows most people that see it.

Happy Mardi Gras Sydney!