What’s In the Cloud: Canada Does Windows Azure – Connect2Fans


Since it is the week leading up to Canada day, I thought it would be fitting to celebrate Canada’s birthday by sharing the stories of Canadian developers who have developed applications on the Windows Azure platform. A few weeks ago, I started my search for untold Canadian stories in preparation for my talk, Windows Azure: What’s In the Cloud, at Prairie Dev Con. I was just looking for a few stores, but was actually surprised, impressed, and proud of my fellow Canadians when I was able to connect with several Canadian developers who have either built new applications using Windows Azure services or have migrated existing applications to Windows Azure. What was really amazing to see was the different ways these Canadian developers were Windows Azure to create unique solutions.

This week, I will share their stories.


Connect2Fans is a BizSpark Startup who has developed a solution to support artists, writers, musicians, photographers, and other people in the arts and entertainment industry who are finding it difficult to connect directly with their fans.  With Connect2Fans, artists have complete control over all fees that are charged to their fans, which will lower or eventually eliminate service fees altogether. Through the Connect2Fans software, the artists and entertainment industry personnel will be able to offer inventory items such as digital files (MP3s, Ringtones, Videos, PDF Books, Software etc), tangible merchandise (CDs, DVDs, t-shirts, photos, and paintings), ticketing (barcoded, PDF, and reserved seating) and hospitality services (restaurants, limo, and VIP services amongst others).

I had a chance to sit down with Jason Lavigne (@Jason_Lavigne), co-founder and director of Connect2Fans to find out how he and his team built Connect2Fans using Windows Azure.

Jonathan: When you and your team were designing Connect2Fans, what was the rationale behind your decision to develop for the Cloud, and more specifically, to use Windows Azure?

Jason: Dave Monk and I put together a video that answers just that.

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Jonathan: What Windows Azure services are you using? How are you using them?

Jason: We are using Web Roles, Worker Roles, Windows Azure Storage, and SQL Azure.  The one item that we think that would be unique would be our use of MongoDB for our main data store that allows us to maintain 10,000+ concurrent connections per node.

Jonathan: During development, did you run into anything that was not obvious and required you to do some research? What were your findings? Hopefully, other developers will be able to use your findings to solve similar issues.

Jason: The biggest gotcha would be the throughput of Windows Azure Storage Tables (internally we call this Azure DHT) was too slow for the kind of traffic we needed to support.  Our solution was to setup MongoDB in worker roles for writes and a replica set on each web role for reads. 

Jonathan: Lastly, what were some of the lessons you and your team learned as part of ramping up to use Windows Azure or actually developing for Windows Azure?

Jason: Every day we are learning more and more, but the biggest lesson I learned while learning and using Windows Azure was that Microsoft is a fantastic resource for support.  I am not just saying that because you are from Microsoft, I am serious when I say that Microsoft has made it clear from the very beginning that they are there for us and the have certainly stepped up when we needed it. 

That’s it for today’s interview with Jason. As you can see, Jason and his team broke away from what you would consider the norm.  The Windows Azure platform’s flexibility and ability to custom tailor to a specific set of requirements allowed them to achieve the best results for their specific solution.

I’d like to take this opportunity to thank Jason for sharing his story. If you’d like to find out more about Connect2Fans, you can check out the site, Twitter, and Facebook. To find out more about how Connect2Fans is using the Windows Azure platform, you can reach out to Jason on Twitter.

Tomorrow – another Windows Azure developer story.

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