How I saved the day with Windows Azure Websites

by Matt Milner 2. April 2013 15:01

My wife does a lot of work volunteering at our school.  No, check that, she does a metric ton of work. The school was planning a silent auction to raise money for various programs. As part of this, the group decided to hold an online auction allowing people to bid on various activities offered by the teachers. The only technology available to the group was a CMS for creating web pages and HTML forms that would send email messages.  My wife was planning to respond to email and update the web pages manually a few times each day.

Well, as a developer, that just didn’t sound right to me. 

We worked together to quickly create a simple web application using ASP.NET Web API, jQuery, Knockout.js, SignalR, and Toastr to show the auction items and enable bidding. SignalR allowed all clients to get real time updates on the page. I was impressed with how quickly the site was functional and with great features thanks to these libraries.

The final problem was how to host this awesome website in a short amount of time? We didn’t need a huge amount of scale, or so I thought, but we needed to be able to handle whatever load we might get. Oh, and did I mention the whole point was to raise money? Even if we had a source of funds, we didn’t have time to get approval. 

Since I had recently done a course for Pluralsight on Azure WebSites, I knew the perfect solution.

I was able to provision and deploy the site in minutes using the free offering to test and was ready to scale to the shared or reserved instance easily in the portal should the need arise.

The dashboard on the Azure management portal gave me quick insight into how close I was to any limits, how much traffic the site was receiving, and even when there were a few HTTP errors.  Having the management portal on top of the deployment, plus the knowledge that the Windows Azure infrastructure was behind the site made everything run smooth, and put my mind at ease. 

The best part? On the last day of the auction we got to watch a bidding war in the last five minutes. Hundreds of dollars of bids were processed in those last few minutes which made a big difference in the total amount of money raised for the school. That never would have happened with HTML forms and email. 



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