Online Advertising Startup Competes More Effectively, Spends Less on IT With Cloud-Based Windows Azure

THE HAGUE, Netherlands — March 26, 2012 — To target its customers’ online advertising efficiently, Netherlands-based startup Crumbtag has adopted Windows Azure, a cloud-based platform that provides the firm with cost-effective processing power and agile scalability.

Crumbtag had a novel idea for Internet ad placement that involved analyzing Web visitor behavior in real time, but this operation required massive data-processing capability. Since tapping into cloud services with the Windows Azure platform, the young company scales processing power and storage on demand, serves the needs of very large customers, and offers more competitive rates for online advertising.

“Because we are not spending millions on IT infrastructure, we can pass those savings on to customers,” said Crumbtag Founder and CEO Jan Kopmels. “As a small startup, we’ve been able to compete successfully for multinational customers and also demonstrate to them that we use cutting-edge technology.” Kopmels estimates that with the cloud-based Microsoft Corp. solution, Crumbtag has avoided a $10 million (U.S.) outlay for on-premises infrastructure.

Typically, online advertising firms match ads to users’ interests through the use of cookies, which are deposited covertly on a user’s computer during website visits. Cookies help determine the user’s online behavior, such as sites visited, paths to sites visited and shopping cart contents. However, privacy concerns have prompted many countries to outlaw them. From an advertiser’s perspective, cookies have limited value because they cannot be stored centrally for analysis.

Kopmels wanted to capture user behavior and process it in a giant statistical database. This would allow customers to place ads without relying on cookies and also adjust and refine their placements dynamically with every Web page view and click.

With a small but committed team, Kopmels launched Crumbtag in 2009 and spent two years developing technology for the ad-placement application. He came to the discouraging realization that the tiny firm would have to spend millions on datacenter infrastructure to process the prodigious amounts of data involved. “We needed a whole new infrastructure and business model to make Crumbtag viable,” he said.

In December 2010, the company explored several market-leading cloud services. Because they’d developed the ad-placement application using the Microsoft .NET Framework and Microsoft SQL Server 2008 data management software, Crumbtag opted to go with the Microsoft cloud-based solution. “We looked briefly at Amazon cloud solutions but felt they were too immature,” Kopmels said. “Plus, we were a committed user of Microsoft technology.”

It took Crumbtag just six weeks to move the application to Windows Azure — about 20 minutes of which was required to migrate the database to SQL Azure. “For an experienced .NET developer, moving to Windows Azure is a piece of cake,” Kopmels said.

Crumbtag uses Windows Azure Compute to supply on-demand processing power for its application, which processes about 4,000 requests per second and provides a 20-millisecond response time to well-known Dutch companies ranging from small to multinational. Crumbtag also uses Windows Azure Caching to provide high-speed communication between virtual machines.

As it pursues plans to expand across Europe in 2012, Crumbtag is using Windows Azure to scale up quickly to serve its growing customer base. Cloud computing enables the small company to offer a more cost-effective solution that helps it win business against larger, more established players that are saddled with aging on-premises IT setups.

More information on Crumbtag’s move to Windows Azure is available in the Microsoft case study, Microsoft Showcase and Microsoft Customer Spotlight News Center.

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