Global Grid for Learning Limited

Online Learning Resources Platform Chooses Cloud Solution to Improve Service Delivery

Solution Overview:

Organization Size

30 employees

Organization Profile

Global Grid for Learning offers an online platform where teachers and students can search for and use learning resources from one of the world’s largest collections of digital educational content.

Software and Services

Windows Azure

Vertical Industries

Higher Education


United Kingdom



Company Overview:

Global Grid for Learning (GGfL), a global online platform for teachers and students to access educational resources, needed to replace its on-premises solution. It chose Windows Azure, which provided a cloud-based platform that best met the requirements for flexibility and lower costs. GGfL is now delivering digital content from 50 different providers, and teachers and students are able to work with content through the Microsoft Office 2010 suite.


Business Needs:

GGfL—originally pioneered by Cambridge University Press—provides one of the world’s largest collections of digital educational content. Now a United Kingdom subsidiary of EduTone of the United States, it offers an online platform where teachers and students can search for and use learning resources. GGfL acts as a trusted broker for digital services from around 50 partners, including Cambridge University Press and Hutchinson Encyclopedia. Its service contains more than 2 million resources, such as images, audio and video files, documents, hyperlinks, and interactive learning objects.

The use of digital content is changing teaching and learning in education, and the publishing industry needs to respond to new challenges—one route is to use the cloud to provide scalable digital services. The GGfL platform was originally a traditional on-premises, Java-based service using several different physical servers, but it was reaching the end of its life cycle. The projected increases in both the amount and type of content and the number of users for online services led the organisation to re-evaluate its suitability and whether to replace it with a cloud-based platform as a service (PaaS). For this development, GGfL wanted to work with a leading technology vendor with experience of dealing with schools and colleges.

Julian Mobbs, Managing Director, Global Grid for Learning, says: “We were keen to develop our digital education service with a technology partner using a cloud-based platform, without the need for expensive physical infrastructure. The previous architecture didn’t have a serviceable application programming interface to allow third parties to write integration solutions. It required a large amount of development time to produce a solution.”


GGfL decided to work with Microsoft to develop a series of integrated solutions for the educational publishing industry, having rejected the option of an on-premises infrastructure as too expensive to operate. Two other vendors of cloud-based services—Rackspace and Amazon—were considered, but Windows Azure best met the GGfL requirements, offering a flexible programming environment at lower cost.

Mobbs says: “Of particular value to GGfL was the ability to use the latest productivity applications from Microsoft to provide a seamless teaching and learning experience for our customers worldwide. Microsoft Office is the most commonly used software in classrooms around the world.” The first of these new online services—launched in July 2012—saw GGfL embedded within both PowerPoint and Word in Microsoft Office 2010 and delivered to customers using SQL Database, Blobs, and Tables in Windows Azure. A primary driver was that Windows Azure scales easily to meet increased demand and is offering GGfL a low-risk solution for its business development ambitions under its new ownership. In future, GGfL plans to use Access Control and Caching in Windows Azure.

Mobbs says: “Hosting our service using Windows Azure ensures that we can deliver the service around the world without loss of performance. Teachers and students who register or subscribe to GGfL can quickly and easily download and install files from the GGfL website. They can search for, stream, and drag learning resources from GGfL directly into their presentations without leaving their PowerPoint or Word pages.”


Using Windows Azure, GGfL is delivering digital content from more than 50 different providers to customers worldwide using the cloud to provide scalable digital services. Teachers and students can discover new digital content easily, securely, and reliably through the familiar Microsoft Office suite of products due to the GGfL Office integration add-in. The partnership with Microsoft will give GGfL a competitive edge in an emerging sector of the educational market on a pay-as-you-go basis.

Windows Azure offers stable, accessible web service for GGfL users. The solution uses different components of Windows Azure to provide a stable, scalable web service. Users can access resources either directly or through third-party applications, supported by federated single sign-on through Access Control in Windows Azure.

Cloud solution provides fast access to digital learning content. Mobbs says: “The ability to access relevant, high-quality, digital resources quickly and reliably is critical for teachers and students. Windows Azure helps us to deliver a global service to teachers and students without loss of performance.”

User-friendly tools ensure rapid adoption. Mobbs says: “GGfL offers content to be discovered and used seamlessly by educators and students. In addition, Microsoft Office users enjoy the ability to integrate and work with GGfL content from within Office itself. Microsoft delivers content through its own software and platforms, which are familiar to users and therefore easy to use.”

Scalability and reliability underpin new venture for GGfL. Windows Azure scales in line with demand and maintains maximum uptime. Mobbs says: “Hosting our service on Windows Azure helps ensure we can deliver the integrated service in locations around the world without loss of performance. We expect to make savings as a result of moving to Windows Azure.”


Microsoft Case Study: Global Grid for Learning Limited

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