news Talent management firm PageUp People has picked Microsoft’s Windows Azure public cloud computing platform to host its CareerPath application, according to a statement issued by Redmond late last week.
PageUp People is an international talent management software company that helps companies attract, hire and retain staff using its leading software-as-a-service application for talent management. It is headquartered in Australia but also employs staff in cities such as New York, Singapore, Shanghai and London.
In a statement issued by Microsoft, the company said it recently devised a unique set of algorithms that it said identified successful career-path attributes from 30 million employment records. Subsequently, the company turned to Windows Azure to commercialise the development.
“Using data on 30 million individual career profiles, we wanted to create a web application that enabled our customers to identify the attributes most common to successful career paths,” said Simon Cariss, CIO, PageUp People.
PageUp People devised the algorithms required, and created its CareerDNA search engine with the open source database tool, RavenDB. A central challenge remained, however: how to host the application that would turn CareerDNA into a usable service. “We needed a highly-scalable but cost-efficient server infrastructure,” said Cariss. “Given the size of our company database and the speed of response we required we weren’t in a position to even prototype CareerDNA on existing company servers, let alone deploy a reliable service.”
The company also wanted help building its CareerPath application. “Our core competency is HR web applications, not infrastructure. What we required was a no-hassle and reliable development and production platform – plus expertise to host the service,” said Cariss. In choosing a platform, PageUp People also had to consider an international dimension. The company wanted to deploy this new service around the globe as fast as possible. “We simply didn’t have the resources to create and support new IT infrastructure at our many client locations around the world,” he said. “We needed an easy-to-scale, low-maintenance solution in Australia that we could replicate abroad.”
PageUp People researched options for hosting the new service and established two primary conditions that would determine its success: The platform, as well as the technologies chosen to create the CareerPath applications, needed to have defined upgrade paths, so PageUp People could confidently continue development. Secondly, the company needed a cloud platform which would require minimum ongoing support.
“Windows Azure Cloud Services offered a variety of support resources, including technical staff to work on-site with our developer team. Microsoft also had a clear development path for Azure, which included being open to emerging application-development technologies,” said Cariss.
The company did not disclose what alternative solutions it examined, but Microsoft’s largest competitor in the public cloud computing arena is most likely fellow US-based technology giant Amazon.com, which has recently enjoyed rapid local growth following the launch of a dedicated Sydney datacentre. Microsoft does not offer any Australia-based infrastructure for its Windows Azure services, although third-party suppliers such as Fujitsu do.
After it picked Azure as its platform, PageUp People worked with a Microsoft technical team who advised how to deploy the open source RavenDB database on Azure and helped devise a solution, using ASP.Net MVC3, to cleanly segregate the data and application layers. As a result, the same Windows Azure database could serve both web and mobile applications. “With Windows Azure, we knew we were in good hands—working with a reliable platform that is open to the technologies our developers prefer,” said Cariss.
“Without the ability to elastically scale CareerPath to peak periods using Azure, we would have had to spend an additional AU$30,000 per year on hardware,” added Cariss. “Since deploying CareerPath on Azure, we haven’t had to invest time in managing the application infrastructure,” he adds. “The system almost runs itself, which has freed the infrastructure team to work on strategic projects. That additional, high-value, resource time is worth AU$100,000 per year to our company.”
Windows Azure will help boost PageUp People as a worldwide pioneer of online talent management services. “Because we can re-provision the CareerPath service with Azure around the world, we gain a competitive edge by instantly deploying across all markets,” said Cariss.
It’s been a while since we’ve heard from Microsoft Australia in terms of sizable Windows Azure developments, and to be honest, this PageUp people example is a relatively small one. This gives me the impression that Azure just isn’t doing that well in Australia at the moment — and that rival cloud computing and development platforms are seeing higher uptake. Of course, it’s Microsoft, and it’s the enterprise, so there are doubtless many more sizable adoption examples swimming under the water. Microsoft is just that large in the enterprise, and its platform that pervasive, that virtually anything it does gets traction these days. But still, the impression remains that Azure is not catching on fire. I’m happy to be corrected on this with other examples; but this is my impression at the moment.