The Jelastic Spotlight: PixMix
This week’s Spotlight comes to you all the way from Israel! As Jelastic continues to grow, we find our customers in more and more interesting locations. The guys at PixMix are doing some pretty interesting stuff and we got to chat with Gal, co-founder PixMix, to learn more about what they are doing there.
Hey, Gal. Tell us a little about yourself. Where did you grow up?
I grew up in Israel. Israel has a vibrant culture of innovation.
That’s cool! Where are you based now?
I am still based in Israel, in the sunny city of Tel-Aviv.
What’s your background?
My academic background is a B.Sc. in Information Systems Engineering, so Information Systems are second nature to me. 🙂 The information domain led me to extensive experience with large ERP systems and a few web-based SaaS startups as well.
Nice. Can you tell us a little about the app that you have running on Jelastic?
Yes! PixMix is a mobile application that makes it easy to share photos with others nearby. For instance, if you are celebrating a social event, like a birthday party, participants take pictures with PixMix and they are instantly shared with everyone else at the party, via a shared photo album. This is exciting because you can experience your birthday party from your friends’ eyes, see what you missed, and capture moments like never before.
PixMix also has a very cool animated way to display pictures. A PixMix presentation (via projector or TV) can turn a sleepy event into an exciting one…
To make my young daughter’s birthday more personal, I displayed an animated photo gallery on the living room TV. Soon after, everyone started taking pictures, just so they could see their photos appear in the animated gallery. It was hard to stop them… It was a big hit! By the end of the party, I had a great album with many pictures , capturing special moments taken by my family, and always available for me on the PixMix site.
That’s really interesting. I can imagine this working for all kinds of events.
Yes, I highly suggest you try it this Christmas or New Years Eve. Simply connect your computer display up to your TV and visit the PixMix animated gallery. Then, ask your family to take photos throughout the evening. I promise this will make your holidays rock like never before! Seeing the pictures in the background is very special. And you will have access to every photo, without having to ask people to email or upload them later.
How did you come up with the idea?
Soon after my daughter was born, I started capturing many sweet moments of her with my camera. Obviously I wanted to share these moments with my friends and family. I found that some photos are appropriate to share via email, some on social sites, and others were just for me. It makes my head hurt just thinking about it. I wanted a solution that will help me make the sharing process easier and more fun.
So, what brought you to Jelastic?
We initially evaluated a few other PaaS services before we decided to go with Jelastic. We looked at Amazon, CloudFoundry, and Google App Engine, among others. We had past experiences with each of these PaaS solutions. With Amazon, we had to deal with tedious setup. Moreover, we had a bad experience with their pricing model: you need to pay, even if your machine is idle! Now, of course you can tune these things, but that leads us again to configuration time we wanted to avoid. Additionally, we wanted to reduce vendor lock-in. Amazon has very powerful solutions, but migrating to other cloud services becomes much harder as you use more of their services.
We spent a lot of time looking into CloudFoundry as well, since we use Spring framework. We thought it would be a natural match. However, we soon found out that their solution is not mature enough. At the time, there was no support for Java 7 and no support for some of the latest Spring module versions. That made the shift to CloudFoundry technically impossible. Regarding Google App Engine; we had positive experiences in the past, and the pricing is attractive (at least at a small scale), but again, there is serious vendor lock-in.
In short, we wanted:
– Zero IT requirements, so we could develop quickly and focus solely on application development
– Out of the box scalability
– No vendor lock-in – we wanted standard Java technology.
– Fair pricing model
This lead us to try Jelastic. Jelastic makes things simple, so we opted to use it.
What were your specific needs/challenges?
Soon, PixMix experienced a high download rate, which increased the need for bursting computing power. As you recall, PixMix enables multiple users to upload pictures to the same album. We wanted users to have a smooth experience during their social events, so taking photos must not be interrupted while photos are uploaded and processed on our servers. Moreover, we wanted album participants will be able to instantly see every new photo on the wall via a projector. That required handling I/O in a fast manner and handling CPU bursts, due to the compression and resizing algorithms that the server uses. Additionally, we faced a technical challenge with photo storage location migration. We needed to use 3rd party storage but have it integrated with Jelastic. Last but not least, we use Continuous Delivery methodology, so we needed tools to support it.
How did Jelastic address those needs or challenges?
Jelastic was a perfect fit for those needs. The out of the box cloudlet auto-scaling works great when a social event with multiple participants (such as a wedding) occurs. All of the photos taken by the wedding guests are immediately shown on a large screen. It was like we hooked all the PixMix devices in a fiber cable directly into the projector. Jelastic infrastructure handled all of the images uploaded to PixMix simultaneously. We eliminated any downtime that might have been caused by war file deployment, with the switch of a button (the high-availability switch). This is a small example how the Zero IT handling keep us focused on the things that matter most.
So far, how do you like Jelastic? Is there anything in particular that stands out to you?
Jelsatic proved to be the right choice, due to how easy it was to get started, zero IT, good value for money, and the proven ability in production. I must say that another thing that impressed us, other the UX, was the incredible technical support we got from your hosting partner, Layershift. Really. This is the best support I have ever seen. Any given ticket I opened in any time of the day (and night…) was answered in minutes! At first I considered it a one time occasion, but they kept doing it! This made me feel I can count on these services and gave me confidence for the future. Please tell the Layershift support team that they are doing an amazing job.
What are your plans for the future with respect to your application?
The speed at which we need to scale shows us that the need is indeed there. As a customer oriented application, we want to make it even easier for non-English speakers to use. (We recommend oneHourTransaltion.com that helped us to achieve that, in an affordable way). Better social sharing, so albums could be shared easily, frictionless. We think users would appreciate the fact that we will have PixMix open for social networks integration. We hope to eliminate the need for that annoying copy & paste one needs to do today when sharing cross social networks. We also have many exciting features in our roadmap, but we listen to our customers and value their needs, so every further plan we have is a subject to change.
What’s your favorite hobby?
We follow Daniel Frankel, a high jump European championship finalist and Israel’s national record holder. Her achievements, effort and dedication inspires us to always aim higher.
What do you like most about your work?
The team. All are talented individuals with high passion. We also like to create a feature and then see the users’ positive feedback. This gives us confidence to follow the direction we choose.
Do you have a philosophy by which you live, something that you rely on when making decisions or use to guide you in tough times?
We have continuous delivery in our blood, we believe in small development iterations and out of the box thinking. We also believe in respect. Respect inside the team and respect for our users.
Thanks for your time, Gal.
You can contact Gal and PixMix team by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org