Pottermore, the official Harry Potter website, was recently launched and attracted billions of page views in its first two weeks. The site is built on Windows Azure, an open cloud platform that lets users quickly build, deploy, and manage applications across a global network of Microsoft-managed data centers.
Harry Potter is one of the largest entertainment phenomenas of all time, so fans of all ages couldn't wait to experience the world-famous stories and social and interactive experiences that the site offered. Eagerly awaiting the launch of Pottermore, the website based on the popular Harry Potter stories, Brittany Talbot and her sister, Priscilla, raced to sign up when the site went live. "I like being able to go up there and do potions and spells and walk around where Harry was," Talbot said. "I read the first book in the first week because I was so excited."
The Pottermore website demonstrates the powerful platform that Windows Azure offers for even the most challenging development projects. The site currently features activities and text based on the storyline of the first "Harry Potter" novel, additional material from Rowling, and highly interactive elements such as the ability to make comments, earn house points, learn spells, mix potions, and duel with other fans.
A factor in favour of Windows Azure, is that it provided a platform as a service (PaaS), which means that Pottermore could simply move its application onto the Windows Azure platform without the burden of managing and maintaining virtual machines. Windows Azure provided a cloud-based testing environment that enabled Pottermore to test whether the site could scale up to meet massive demand. "Elasticity was critical," said Julian Thomas, chief technology officer at Pottermore. "We knew there were between 2 million and 20 million Harry Potter fans who were waiting to get on the site, and we had to be ready."
Working hand-in-hand with Microsoft, Pottermore had its new site up and running in just three months. On April 14, Pottermore launched the new site with just a single tweet @pottermore "we're opening to everyone."
"Literally within minutes, the traffic started to flood in," Thomas said. "The demand was just enormous, but the site continued to work properly, running on Windows Azure."
Visual Studio Achievements for student Windows Azure developers
There are many talented students working with Windows Azure, and we hope the Pottermore website will provide further inspiration for developers. As additional motivation for students and to bring some game to their code, Microsoft has released Visual Studio Achievements. The achievements of students talents and learning are recognised as they perform various coding feats. This unlocks achievements and earn badges which can be shared and displayed on social network profiles and web sites.
We recently announced an update to Visual Studio Achievements, adding 15 new achievements, all focused on Windows Azure development. The Visual Studio Achievements Extension includes fifteen new achievements, all focused on exercising features of Windows Azure. Using the extension, various achievements are unlocked based on your activity. When you unlock an achievement, Visual Studio lets you know visually with a pop-up. In addition, your Channel 9 profile is updated with any achievements you earn. So, head over to Channel9, sign up for an account and download the plugin.
There are 15 Azure achievements, such as publishing to Windows Azure from Visual Studio (Heading into the Cloud), using page blobs (Attack of the Blob), using SQL Azure (Database Darling) and configuring start up tasks (It’s My Party). Two of the achievements – Phone in the Cloud and Game in the Cloud – require use of Windows Azure toolkits.