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Canvas Case Study: With Engine Yard Cloud, Canvas Can Match Its Creative Brilliance With Engineering Ingenuity


Industry: Digital Agency
Location: New York, NY, USA

Opportunity: Deliver differentiated digital campaigns across clients in varying industries while continually fostering collaboration and engineering growth

Solution: Use Engine Yard Cloud to efficiently deploy client campaigns and meet scalability and reliability requirements


  • Meet predictable and unpredictable spikes in traffic with on-demand scalability
  • Accelerate development, deployment, and iteration of creative web apwith shorter deploy times on Engine Yard Cloud
  • Build consistency in application design and deployment by using Engine Yard Support’s expertise and best practices
  • ave time and cost of investing in internal infrastructure and focus resources on driving business success for clients
  • Troubleshoot and resolve issues quickly by relying on Engine Yard Support 24×7

The Opportunity:

Companies want to use technology to build their brands and get closer to their customers. Digital agencies have all kinds of creative ideas to help accomplish those goals—innovative branding, edgy communications, cool web apand campaigns that connect with customers. They use technology as a means of delivering those creative ideas, but they don’t want to spend their resources on configuring servers and maintaining infrastructure to run clients’ campaigns.

Canvas, a New York City-based digital agency, was looking for new ways to transform technology into a source of competitive advantage and deliver their big ideas. The company wanted to use technology to take client collaboration to a higher level and enable its creative team and engineering staff to focus on novel ways to grow the client’s business.

The Solution:

Canvas chose Engine Yard Cloud as their application cloud for deploying clients’ apps. The agency has access to commercial-grade tools and infrastructure; it pays only for what it actually uses; and it can scale up on demand.

Michael Smith, CTO at Canvas, explains: “Our clientele varies from international television networks down to a real estate agency serving a niche market in New York City. We’ve built Facebook Games up through content management systems for huge enterprises. Our clientele doesn’t have one technological persona, so we needed a partner who could help us handle all of our clients’ needs.”

Equally important, Michael described, is the fact that Engine Yard Cloud allows Canvas to truly distinguish itself from other full-service digital agencies by facilitating stronger and more diverse client relationships.

“Our client relationshicenter around collaboration. We aim to build success for clients while pushing ourselves to grow. These are some of our core values. The tools that Engine Yard gives us, such as the ability to get projects out there in prototypes, facilitates collaboration with our clients. We don’t work in a cave and then just release projects to clients. They’re involved throughout the entire process. Our ability to show them our work at various states is key to that goal.”

Deploying applications to the cloud also helCanvas to be more nimble, both with choosing the latest technology for building apand being able to show off those apto clients. Michael explained: “We previously had relationshiwith hosting providers that limited what we could offer to our clients, including the new technologies we could work with and how quickly we could deploy a new project. With Engine Yard, we get a vast offering from application cloud platform through the amazing customization and deploy system with Chef to the support and professional services. We can attack any of our loftiest goals now.”

The client relationship doesn’t end for Canvas at final deploy. “Our clients span the gamut. That means for an international television brand, we may have peak traffic in a 3-hour period that outweighs the rest of the month or a hotel that sees very different traffic during holiday periods than it would the rest of the year. We needed the exact opposite of a one-size-fits-all approach. We needed to be able to custom tailor server support.”

The service and support provided by Engine Yard have also been invaluable to Canvas. “Having a relationship with a support team that will gladly jump on a server to diagnose problems is huge. We’ve had Engine Yard help us through issues with our custom Chef recipes and our own applications. Every time, Engine Yard has given us immeasurable help and made sure our clients were 100% taken care of. We know we can rely on them 24×7. In addition, I have this amazing resource in Dan, our account manger, who I speak to before every big holiday and client event. He makes sure that be it a random Tuesday, or Christmas, we have the support we need.”

According to Michael, Canvas now uses Engine Yard Cloud for all of its clients’ projects. Recent examples include a new website for the Gramercy Park Hotel and the content management system and Afor an iPhone and Android Afor Grand Central Terminal. “These two projects couldn’t be more different. One, a website for one of the most fascinating and luxurious hotels in NYC; the other, an Afor one of the most famous NYC landmarks, Grand Central Terminal. The engineering challenges, the requirements and the resulting projects were all very different, but ultimately, they both lived on a foundation at Engine Yard. The time we saved getting infrastructure built up and the cost savings across the projects helped us to create projects that made our clients overwhelmingly happy.”


Canvas’ clients have also been very happy with the performance of their apps running on Engine Yard Cloud. The new Gramercy Park Hotel site has been featured around the web for its amazing CSS- and HTML5-based storybook like interfaces. The new responsive site built for ShowTime Sports was chosen as a Communication Art’s Site of the Day. “Both we and our clients come out of the process excited and invigorated about the new sites and applications we’ve built. We’re beyond excited to see how everyone enjoys some of our new work coming especially the Grand Central Terminal apps!”

For Canvas, the results are equally compelling, particularly in terms of efficiency and consistency in application design and deployment. “We’re building projects at scale and likewise, we need to build our engineering team and practices to scale too. We’ve built internal tools and infrastructure using Chef because we can use the same recipes at Engine Yard. Every time we have a new project, we sit down and look at what we’ve already built, and we often have great opportunities to reuse existing infrastructure recipes–all because of the great infrastructure Engine Yard has built. That translates to more time spent on engineering great projects and large cost savings. Nothing about that, I don’t love.”


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