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Need a holiday recipe? AllRecipes and Microsoft Azure cloud have you covered

Wondering what to have for Christmas dinner? AllRecipes.com will be a popular site to check this holiday season … and this year it’s using Microsoft Azure’s cloud.

AllRecipes, founded in 1997 and owned by Meredith Corp., has undertaken a two-year migration to Azure, the IaaS public cloud. AllRecipes services 1.5 billion visitors each year who view an average of 95 recipes per second, 66% of which are done on mobile devices.

The company’s load is cyclical: On a Sunday afternoon there is 60% more traffic on the website compared to a Monday morning. Just like a retailer, the holiday season is AllRecipe’s crunch time. Eight weeks in November and December including five days in particular – Christmas, Thanksgiving, the day before each and the Super Bowl – create the largest surge in traffic.

Instead of building out a data center footprint to the company’s maximum load capacity, managing all that infrastructure and paying licenses fees, AllRecipes is hosted almost completely in the cloud now. But it wasn’t always that way.

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John Keane, CTO of AllRecipes

About two years ago CTO John Keane joined the company and with a fresh set of eyes, questioned the capital expense of hosting the company’s infrastructure in a series of collocation providers such as Internap. “Our cooks come to us in a moment of need,” he says. “They’re sitting thinking about what they’re going to make for dinner, they’re checking a recipe on their phone while dropping the kids off at soccer, or are in the store making sure they have all the ingredients needed for a recipe. When they need to engage, they expect a fast and responsive site.”

Given the company’s variable workload demands, Keane believed the cloud would be a natural destination to host AllRecipes’ workloads. AllRecipes builds many of its apps in Visual Studio, Microsoft’s integrated development environment (IDE), mostly in C# - a programming language developed by Microsoft. These factors made Azure an easy integration point for public cloud.

Microsoft Azure now hosts the AllRecipes production website, along with other affiliated brands such as EatingWell.com, Parenting and Shape. AllRecipes uses mostly virtual machines, load balancers, SQL servers and a combination of various open source platforms, such as Cassandra to power its operations. It uses Datadog and New Relic to monitor, troubleshoot and optimize its environment, which Keane says are invaluable tools for both real-time and historical feedback and analysis.

AllRecipes uses Amazon Web Services too, particularly for apps that are primarily Linux based. Keane says it’s not a problem to have workers managing different clouds. Azure, he says, is great for hosting Windows workloads and integrating with the PaaS environment. AWS seems to have more granular infrastructure configuration options, he’s found.

“Microsoft is certainly catching up,” he says about the competition between the two dominant IaaS public cloud vendors. AllRecipe’s Enterprise Agreement with Microsoft, which already included using desktop machines and licensing made onboarding Azure – with some discounts – an attractive financial proposition too, Keane says.

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