Benefits of Microsoft BizSpark Plus [VIDEO]

by on April 14, 2012 in Events
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The co-founders of Embarke sat down to talk about the benefits they’ve received from Microsoft’s BizSpark Plus program.  The original 15 minute conversation was clipped down to 4 minutes for quick consumption.  The transcription of this video is below.

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Al Bsharah:
Hi, my name’s Al Bsharah.

Bryan Hall:
And I’m Bryan Hall.

Al:
We are the co-founders of Embarke.

Embarke is a distribution center for social communications, that being social networks but also things like email and text messaging.

Developers connect to us, and we connect to all the other social networks on their behalf.  The other piece is we allow you to start conversations that span across social networks.  So, Facebook people can talk to Email people can talk to Twitter people and SMS and all that.

So, Embarke was recently accepted into the Microsoft BizSpark Plus program.  A little different than BizSpark, but essentially what that means is we get $60,000 of free Azure Cloud Services to use over the next couple of years.  Which, is an amazing kick in the pants for a startup like us!

Bryan and I are graduates of the San Diego Founder Institute, and because of that the Founder Institute was very instrumental in getting us into this program.

We’re going to talk a little bit about why we’re excited about it both from a business and a technology perspective.

Bryan:
Embarke is completely deployed to Azure.  We’re using their cacheing, we’re using their table unstructured storage, their blob storage, and SQL Azure for the database, and all of that stuff is really easy to integrate.

Most of our coding time is focused on solving the issues of our own problems, and not having to futz with what database stack do we use, how are we going to make it scalable, how do we back it up, or how do we make it distributed across a couple datacenters.

Even OS upgrades, I don’t have to upgrade the OS as it’s done automatically, I don’t have to worry about the firewall, I don’t have to worry about virus patches, or any of that stuff because it all happens automatically.

Al:
Talk a little about that deployment process.

Bryan:
We deploy 10 times a day.  We build and test all of our code in Visual Studio, then we check it into the cloud, then this server pulls it down, unit tests everything, packages it up and deploys it securely to the cloud.  The whole process from the time that we finish testing and check it in is completely automated.

Al:
Right, and once it’s deployed to the cloud Microsoft kind of takes over.

Bryan:
Exactly, it’s live all the time.  It does rolling upgrades automatically, so that our site’s never down.

Al:
Talk a little about the scaling and some of the automatic capabilities, and just how easy it is for us.

Bryan:
With the scalability framework it’s really easy for me to say, that worker should never have fewer than two computes and maybe the maximum I’d ever want to see is ten.  Maybe when it’s 80% utilized, I’m going to have it scale up another compute.  It’ll do that for you automatically, and I can do it by time of day.

Al:
Or we know we have a TechCrunch bump coming and we need to change all those maximum parameters to just let it ride.

Bryan:
As a startup, using Microsoft and Windows Azure, it’s a little bit unusual.  We’re not doing lamp stack, we’re not doing PHP.  I think people are starting to understand the strength of Azure.  We’re starting to get this flow of people that are interested in a startup company, and they’re good developers and they want to learn Azure.

Al:
We’re pushing the limits of Azure.  New stuff comes out and we’re adopting it pretty quickly because it’s right for us.

Bryan:
Any time we’ve had a problem that’s kind of more towards the edge, a simple call to Microsoft and they’re hooking us up with the engineers that are working on that piece of technology.

Al:
Yeah, the evangelists have been fantastic, they’re very accessible.  Even from a business perspective the guys are just there, they’re great and they’re more than willing to do what it takes to help us be successful.

Microsoft knows that they need to get this cloud thing right.  That’s why we get to benefit from BizSpark Plus, and we’re getting a lot of money thrown at us to build cool products on Azure.

Bryan:
We saw it a little bit in BizSpark, but in BizSpark Plus you really feel the force of how much energy and dollars Microsoft is pushing towards the cloud.  And…it helps us!

Al:
Yeah, we’re not complaining!

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