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App Engine Development

Deep Dive Case Study

White Stratus • 15 December 2010

White Stratus • email: info@whitestratus.com • New York - London - Sydney 1


App Engine Development Case Study

Introduction
App Engine Development

White Stratus worked with Bright Green Projects using Google


App Engine and Google Apps Marketplace to reduce costs and
drive revenue growth.

Bright Green Projects is an emerging software-as-a-service (SaaS)


vendor in the agile project management space. The Bright Green
Project product is a simple agile project tool, founded on
principles of Scrum and Lean Kanban. It gives project teams and
their clients the freedom that comes from a transparent, well
organized project.

Today Bright Green Projects is a success story - it has a user base


of more than 1000 customers, and has recently been featured by
Google as one of the top 30 Enterprise Applications on the
Google Apps marketplace 1.

A significant part of Bright Green Projects success comes from a


decision to collaborate with White Stratus in an effort to enhance
the product functionality, streamline costs and tap into new
markets. This deep-dive case study tells the story of the journey
undertaken by White Stratus to achieve this success.

1 http://googleenterprise.blogspot.com/2010/11/google-apps-marketplace-project.html

White Stratus • email: info@whitestratus.com • New York - London - Sydney 2


App Engine Development Case Study

The Challenge

In the first half of 2010, like many software products in the ultra-
competitive Software-as-a-Service industry, Bright Green faced an
uphill battle:

• How could they maintain margins where industry standard is


below 5%?
• What was the best way to quickly scale revenues without
significantly driving up cost?
• How could they cut development timelines?
• How could they leverage technology to reduce monthly
operating costs for their fast growing user base?

Bright Green engaged the White Stratus Cloud Strategy team in


a conversation around finding a solution to these challenges, and
a clear solution emerged: Migrate the product to Google App
Engine to manage costs and efficiency, and leverage the power
of Google Apps Marketplace to reach a broader range of
customers and deliver top line growth.

The Solution

With a conceptual plan to leverage the power of Google the next


step for White Stratus was to put together a detailed solution. It
became apparent that there would be four key components
necessary:

Firstly, scalability. The solution would need to be suitable for


Enterprise users who were running large distributed teams - up to
1000 users simultaneously. Furthermore, these teams would be

White Stratus • email: info@whitestratus.com • New York - London - Sydney 3


App Engine Development Case Study

distributed across multiple locations spanning countries,


timezones and cultures.

Secondly Integration. The solution would need to connect with


other SaaS solutions to give a seamless experience for end users,
across business processes such as payment and customer support.
This seamless experience would also need to extend to the
employees of Bright Green who would want connectivity with
CRM applications.

Thirdly Enhanced Functionality. There was a need to enhance the


functionality of the Bright Green Projects tool to include advanced
reporting capabilities, a more intuitive user interface and further
tracking and access controls.

Finally there was the need to


maximize the benefits of
“Engaging White Stratus to
Google Apps. This included
not just taking advantage of take us onto Google Apps
the low-cost, scalable platform was the best decision we
provided by App Engine, but
also integrating into other made in 2010”
Google based products such
as Gmail and Calendar
Jim Barrymore, CFO, Bright
through Single Sign On (SSO)
capabilities, as well as listing Green Projects
on the Google Apps
marketplace.

The Approach

Given the timeline limitations, an approach that delivered results


quickly, without consuming large chunks of time or budget was
needed. An iterative delivery method - complete with automated
White Stratus • email: info@whitestratus.com • New York - London - Sydney 4
App Engine Development Case Study

test scripts to allay concerns about increased testing costs -


clearly fit the bill. White Stratus deployed a team that had used
our Agile Prototyping Method (APM) successfully on other cloud
migration engagements.

The White Stratus development team made some quick


technology decisions - a JVM (java virtual machine) language so
the application could be hosted on app engine, and Ruby on
Rails for its versatility.

Iterative sprints were planned


“Deploying automated test
on a 2-weekly basis, with the
scripts cut time to market in release of first-drop functionality
after 4 sprints (2 months). First
half allowing more time for
drop functionality was selected
high value tasks like User on the basis of maximum
Experience” business benefit, and focused on
access control and tracking,
customer support functionality
Jerome Riga, Product as well as billing and CRM
integration. Post go live a team
Development Lead, Bright
of pilot users was brought on
Green Projects board to perform load testing
and User Experience testing and
provide User Experience
feedback.

A second release of 2 sprints was executed with key


enhancements around user experience, and live support. A range
of Google Apps capabilities was also deployed including:

• Single sign-on with a user's Google Apps account


• Usage of the Google Big Table Data Store
• Automatic user account creation on first login
• Universal navigation with access to Bright Green from GMail,
Google Calendar, Google Docs and other Google Apps
• Google Marketplace deployment.

White Stratus • email: info@whitestratus.com • New York - London - Sydney 5


App Engine Development Case Study

The Google Marketplace deployment was complemented with a


digital marketing campaign that focused around marketplace
listing, blog and article syndication and a targeted outbound
campaign.

The Results

The iterative development approach had allowed some


redundant functionally to be dropped, saving scope and time,
and the engagement was concluded in July 2010 after 3 months -
around 2 weeks ahead of initial estimates.

As a result of moving the platform onto Google App Engine,


monthly hosting costs for the software user base had declined by
28%. Furthermore, the time spent on application maintenance -
primarily database maintenance was cut by 35% per month.

However the most significant results


“We were amazed to see the
came not from cost reduction but
from an increase in revenue and impact of going live on
subscriptions, due to distribution
Google Apps Marketplace. I
through the Google Apps
marketplace. woke up one morning to
check the new accounts
Within 30 days of making the Bright
reports, and literally saw a
Green Projects software available
on Google Apps Marketplace, free huge spike”
trial registrations had increased by
250%. Within 60 days of go live
software sales had increased by Emma Halifax, Office
300%. And within 6 months, the Manager Bright Green
global install base of the Bright
Projects.
Green Projects software had
White Stratus • email: info@whitestratus.com • New York - London - Sydney 6
App Engine Development Case Study

increased by more than 17%.

Conclusion

There is a lot of discussion around the benefits of using The Cloud


to reduce business costs. Clearly cost reduction is a valid reason
to pursue cloud related business transformation, and measurable
cost reduction was achieved as part of White Stratus work with
Bright Green Projects.

However, what became clearly apparent during this engagement


was that in some cases, the real opportunity lies not in cost
reduction, but in revenue generation. For independent software
vendors, tapping into the new and fast growing Apps
Marketplaces - which represent access to millions of businesses -
can be a great way to rapidly ramp up subscriber numbers and
deliver revenue growth effectively.

White Stratus • email: info@whitestratus.com • New York - London - Sydney 7