Windows Azure SQL Database Marketplace
part of the Real World Windows Azure series, we talked to Wayne Houlden, CEO at
Janison, about using the Windows Azure platform
for the online science testing system at the Department of Education &
Training of New South Wales. Here's what he had to say:
MSDN: Tell us about Janison and
the services you offer.
Houlden: Janison provides
an online learning management system and custom learning portals to customers
throughout Australia. We offer our innovative learning solutions to a wide
variety of organizations that provide online learning services to their staff,
students, and customers.
MSDN: What were the biggest
challenges that you faced prior to implementing the Windows Azure platform?
Houlden: We have
been working on a project with the Department of Education of New South Wales,
Australia, to transform the Essential Secondary Science Assessment that high
school students take from a paper-based test to an online multimedia
assessment. The challenge is to deliver a system that can scale quickly to
handle more than 80,000 students across nearly 600 schools in a single day.
However, a redundant, highly-available, and load-balanced system with physical
servers would require extensive procurement, configuration, and maintenance
work, and would be too costly for the department.
MSDN: Can you describe the
solution you built with the Windows Azure platform to address your need for cost-effective
Houlden: Our developers have been
working with the Microsoft .NET Framework and other Microsoft technologies for
more than a decade, so the Windows Azure platform was a natural fit for
Janison. We created a set of multimedia, animated virtual
assessments for students and an administration portal for staff and teachers
that use Web roles and Worker roles in Windows
Azure for compute processing. We populate
storage with assessment data and use the Windows
Azure Content Delivery Network to store
multimedia assets. Students have authenticated access to the assessment and
their answers are recorded in Table storage and then replicated in an
on-premises server running Microsoft SQL Server 2008 data management software.
Built on the Windows Azure
platform, the Essential Secondary Science Assessment includes a portal for
administrators to track students' progress on the test.
MSDN: What makes your solution
Houlden: We were
able to demonstrate the value of multimedia-rich online assessments. Students not
only found the test interesting, enjoyable, and engaging, but the Department of
Education of New South Wales also found that it was an educationally-sound
alternative to the written test. The Windows Azure platform, with its scaling
capabilities to handle an enormous compute load, was a critical component.
MSDN: What kinds of benefits
are you realizing with the Windows Azure platform?
Houlden: The key
benefits for us are the scalability and cost-effectiveness of the Windows Azure
platform. We can deliver a solution that can quickly scale to handle a massive
amount of users for a short period of time, and only pay for what we use and
without having the cost of a physical infrastructure. For example, to support 40,000 students we used
250 instances of Windows Azure for a period of 12 hours. With a traditional
approach for the same performance, we would have needed 20 physical
servers-which, all told, would be 100 times more expensive than using the
Windows Azure platform.
more Windows Azure customer success stories, visit: www.windowsazure.com/evidence