“With the help of Falcon 9, we’ve made the most of the services available on AWS.… We’re able to test technologies quickly and put ideas into action in a matter of seconds.”

- Saed Ghorani, Founder and Chief Technology Officer, Alpha Apps

Alpha Apps launched in the United Arab Emirates in 2011. Since then, it has helped businesses of all sizes—from startups like customer loyalty app SnappCard to enterprises like conglomerate Abdul Latif Jameel—launch and run Arabic content applications. Alpha Apps also develops its own applications, one of which is Almwajaha, a trivia game available on iOS and Android devices in which two participants compete to answer a series of questions. The gamer who answers the most questions correctly in the quickest time wins. It’s a game that has proved popular, with more than 1.5 million downloads in 2016. 

In the mobile app market, there’s no question as to where on the IT adoption curve you need to be: right at the front. According to Saed Ghorani, founder and chief technology officer of Alpha Apps, it’s the key to gaining competitive advantage and delivering successful projects. “We’re always asking ourselves what we can do better and how,” he says. “Developing state-of-the-art applications requires constant innovation and access to technologies that allow fast testing in a flexible environment.”

Working with a traditional hosting provider was hampering the company’s ability to deliver reliable, high-quality apps. The situation was highlighted as its Almwajaha game started to gain traction. “The app generates intensive activity that requires low latency and high scalability,” says Ghorani. “But as it attracted more players, the infrastructure couldn’t take the load.” By the time the application had reached 20,000 users, there were major problems in speed and response. “We were losing new users because they couldn’t access the app, and provisioning additional servers was too expensive and time-consuming,” says Ghorani.
Alpha Apps looked for a solution to this urgent scalability issue.  

Alpha Apps ruled out managing its own infrastructure. It recognized that the flexibility of the cloud would be the ideal way to support the business, so it turned to Amazon Web Services (AWS) and AWS Partner Network (APN) Standard Partner Falcon 9. “We came on the scene as Alpha Apps was experiencing issues with the infrastructure supporting its Almwajaha trivia game,” says Mouteih Chaghlil, lead cloud architect and founder of Falcon 9. “The company wanted to make a real impact on the app market in the Middle East, and, to do this, it needed more responsive IT. We quickly got to work on building an architecture for Alpha Apps in the AWS Cloud.”

The team began this process using services such as Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2) and Elastic Load Balancing to run its Almwajaha app as well as its clients’ apps. “From the start, the team at Alpha Apps loved AWS, so we started adding more advanced services,” says Chaghlil. For example, by using AWS Lambda, Alpha Apps would benefit from the cost-efficiency and speed of an automated infrastructure. Falcon 9 introduced Amazon Cognito, saving developers time and effort in managing user authentication. “We then found Alpha Apps needed more complicated Lambda functions,” says Chaghlil, so Falcon 9 introduced AWS Step Functions. Showcased at re:Invent 2016, AWS Step Functions coordinates the components of microservices using visual workflows.

“Each suggestion Falcon 9 has made about which AWS technologies to adopt has benefited the business,” says Ghorani. By moving from its existing NoSQL database solution to Amazon DynamoDB, Alpha Apps now has an easier, more cost-effective way to run real-time queries on millions of records. In addition, content delivery has improved through Amazon CloudFront, ensuring that even as user numbers increase, cost and speed of delivery aren’t affected.

“What’s great is that Falcon 9 identifies all these features that save us time and take the pressure from the team,” says Ghorani. “Security is a good example. AWS provides rich security features and has certification for ISO and PCI DSS.” He highlights the protection Alpha Apps gets from using AWS WAF, a web application firewall, as well as security groups within Amazon EC2 instances.  

Ghorani says that the competitive, pay-as-you-go pricing of services such as Amazon CloudFront and Amazon DynamoDB has helped Alpha Apps make its business more streamlined and cost-efficient. It has also enabled the firm to pass these savings on to its customers. “The switch from our previous NoSQL database to Amazon DynamoDB reduced our database costs by 97 percent, and introducing Amazon CloudFront has cut content delivery costs by 80 percent. We pass on these savings to our clients—something that’s particularly important to our startup customers. Cost of IT is a big barrier to startups when they’re trying to get their ideas to market. We help them overcome this hurdle.”

In addition, the company finds that the apps it develops—whether for clients or its own apps such as Almwajaha—aren’t subject to capacity limits. “The brilliant thing about the microservices architecture on AWS is that we can configure it to scale automatically,” says Ghorani. “The thought that we could only handle 20,000 users seems funny to us now. We can scale to millions with no impact on performance. We no longer worry about losing users because they can’t access the app.”

Maintaining the high levels of security Alpha Apps and its customers require doesn’t drain the team’s resources. “It would take at least two people to ensure compliance if we weren’t using AWS. We have some highly regulated customers, but we tick all their boxes with no effort on our part.” These sorts of savings allow the Alpha Apps team to focus on the core business of developing successful apps.
The process of creating apps is now faster too, because the time between provisioning and testing is much shorter. “With the help of Falcon 9, we’ve made the most of the services available on AWS,” says Ghorani. “It’s all about trying different things until you find the one that fits, and now we’re able to test technologies quickly and put ideas into action in a matter of seconds. We can stay ahead of the curve, which is essential in the fast-moving app market.” 

Falcon 9

  • A Standard Partner of the AWS Partner Network (APN). Dubai-based Falcon 9 helps customers transition to the cloud by offering innovative cloud application development and managed services.
  • For more information about how Falcon 9 can help transform your infrastructure in the cloud, see Falcon 9’s listing in the AWS Partner Directory.