As part of the Real World Windows Azure series, we connected with Vincenzo Tinebra, Cofounder of Waappy to learn more about they migrated their social gaming application to Windows Azure for improved scalability, reduced costs, and a higher quality of service. Read Waappy’s success story here. Read on to find out what he had to say.

Himanshu Kumar Singh:  Tell me about Waappy.

Vincenzo Tinebra: Founded in 2010, Waappy is an online games company located in Saint-Brieuc, France. Our goal is to bring new content to the web, especially through social gaming on Facebook. With the increasing popularity of social networks, a significant number of new companies have brought attractive entertainment applications to consumers. We wanted to act on this opportunity by focusing our application on both gaming and social network aspects.

HKS:  What was your first game?

VT: Our first product was “Lucky Star,” a social game that involves collecting and exchanging virtual images. Developed in open source solutions PHP and MySQL, Lucky Star has become a popular consumer Facebook game. It aims to create and reinforce friendships among members of a social network. Each player can collect “chance cards” to be sent to friends as charms.

HKS:  How was the game originally hosted?

VT: We first hosted Lucky Star on a dedicated server, and as the number of players grew, it expanded from one server to five. Adding a new server could take a week, which was much too long in the competitive social-gaming market. Demand quickly became too high for our resources, and we needed to find an alternative solution for hosting. We wanted a way to minimize management of servers and be able to devote ourselves fully to our core business: creating online games.

HKS:  What led you to evaluate cloud services as a possible solution?

VT: With the imminent launch of a new release of Lucky Star, we were about to experience another increase in demand.  We needed a solution flexible enough to support future peak load increases so we decided to consider cloud services as a possible solution.

HKS:  How did you decide on Windows Azure?

VT:  When we researched cloud services, we quickly became interested in Windows Azure.  Like many startups that specialize in social network applications, we were attracted by the scalability of the pay-as-you-go solution, which is perfect to support unpredictable levels of growth. Our question was whether we could migrate our PHP code to Windows Azure, which proved to be possible.

HKS:  How did the migration to Window Azure go?

VT: In May 2011, we turned to Exakis, a member of the Microsoft Partner Network, for help to migrate our application to Windows Azure. We needed to complete the migration in a very tight timeline without changing the source code. We needed to launch the third version of Lucky Star in 15 days. And during a meeting with Microsoft experts, we learned about a challenge to get the best social game on Windows Azure, so we decided to take on that challenge too.

Exakis took over the project for the final 10 days. It installed the servers and completed the migration from MySQL to SQL Database with almost no source code modifications. Exakis carried out the migration quickly and smoothly in the 10-day timeframe. Lucky Star is now hosted on a dual web role in Windows Azure, which relies on Windows Azure SQL Database storage to access our subscriber base and on Blob storage for images and photos.

HKS:  How satisfied are you with using Windows Azure for your social games?

VT: We are fully satisfied. Windows Azure is really great for social gaming. It allows us to continue developing in PHP with the same skills and the same teams. The IT staff has now gained competency using Windows Azure and is able to manage it themselves.

HKS:  What are some of the operational benefits you’ve seen with Windows Azure?

VT: By migrating our application to Windows Azure, we have created an IT structure that can scale quickly to meet the unpredictable demands of the social-gaming market. We enjoy lower costs and improved scalability, while our players enjoy a higher quality of service.

And we no longer need to add and configure physical servers to increase server capacity. Peak loads are quick and easy to manage. We can continue to work with the development language we know, and we are able to scale up when demand is high. It used to take us a week to set up a computer to run the game; this now takes only 10 minutes. We can actually follow the curve of activity and adjust server capacity as necessary. Prior to Windows Azure, we had to increase the number of physical servers, but now we have scalability.

HKS:  Are there also bottom-line benefits to Windows Azure for Waappy?

VT: By moving to a hosted cloud solution, we spend less time and resources managing its server infrastructure. We save up to 15 percent compared to the old system of renting servers. By using Windows Azure, we have lowered IT costs while improving the management of our servers and the pay-as-you-go model makes it easier for us to plan our budget.

HKS:  And the benefits for customers?

VT: The most important benefit for us is that we can provide a higher quality of service to our players. We can now easily complete our regular update of the game without interrupting service. We get a quick response from Microsoft support when we need help with a technical problem, and that translates to better service for our players. We have not only been able to easily increase the capacity for new players, but also open our game to international players.

Read how others are using Windows Azure.