Cloud helps TicketDirect take on the multinationals

Dunedin company aims to deploy the world's fastest and most scalable ticketing service

Ten years ago, Dunedin-based TicketDirect broke into the ticketing market through a deal with the “House of Pain”, Dunedin’s famous Carisbrook stadium.

The company’s model was, and is, simple, says founder Matthew Davey — to give users more control over ticketing operations and to set their own prices.

“Prior to that there were only one or two providers dictating arbitrarily high ticketing fees,” Davey says.

Today, TicketDirect provides ticketing services for 80 venues across Australia and New Zealand, but the company has global ambitions. TicketDirect is targeting the US, Canada and UK markets through an ambitious and world leading move into cloud computing.

Cloud computing will deliver what TicketDirect hopes will be the world’s fastest and most scaleable ticketing system. It’s a system Davey describes as the “holy grail of ticketing”, while Chris Auld, the director of strategy at implementation partner Intergen, says it will have an “insane load profile”.

“There’ll be no event it can’t handle,” Davey says.

TicketDirect is the only New Zealand company, and one of only 20 in the world, in Microsoft’s TAP (Technical Adoption Programme) for its new Azure cloud computing platform, which featured prominently at that company’s Professional Developers’ Conference (PDC) in Los Angeles last week.

With the help of Intergen, TicketDirect is taking to the cloud to allow it to massively scale up its online services to manage even the largest of events.

TicketDirect has been poised to deploy on Azure for some time, but has had to wait for some of the pieces still in development to drop, says Auld.

One of those key pieces is the cloud version of Microsoft’s SQL database, SQL Azure.

For that reason, development has only been underway for the past couple of months, Auld says. And in that early-adopter environment, the biggest challenge to the project is the ever changing Azure platform.

Portions of the new platform have been built and rebuilt three or four time, Auld says. But as part of the programme, Microsoft offers a lot of support, including a specific minder and direct access to the Azure teams.

Auld says Intergen has also developed a slightly different commercial engagement with TicketDirect to reflect the nature of the deal, something the company may use as a template for other early adopters in the future.

“It’s worth taking a punt on because the benefits are just so huge,” adds Davey.

“We want to be able to sell out an event as fast as customers can buy tickets,” he says. “But a challenge of this industry is finding a cost-effective way to handle demand spikes, which require dramatic increases in capacity for very short periods.”

Normally that would require major investment in server infrastructure and network capacity, he says. But cloud computing provides access to that without the capital cost.

TicketDirect has been using an internally-developed ticketing system called Castellan, built on a foundation of the Microsoft Visual Basic 6 on Microsoft SQL Server 7 and SQL Server 2000 databases. By moving to a cloud solution, TicketDirect will be able to scale its computing resources in response to real-time demand and also upgrade to the latest technology to support Castellan.

Auld was being billed as one of the major speakers at this year’s PDC due to his early and deep involvement in the development of Azure.

He delivered a session titled "Architecting and developing for Windows Azure" early last Monday.

“Chris has been a key global trainer for the Azure Services Platform early adopter programme and brings extensive theoretical and hands on experience in building high scale web applications,” the PDC website says.

TicketDirect expects to go live on its new cloud platform early next year.

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