Real World Windows Azure: Interview with Arthur Haddad, Development Lead and Architect at Esri

As part of the Real World Windows Azure series, we talked to Arthur Haddad, Development Lead and Architect at Esri, about using the Windows Azure platform to deliver the company’s cloud-based geospatial data service. Here’s what he had to say:

MSDN: Tell us about Esri and the services you offer.

Haddad: Esri is a leading developer of Geographic Information System (GIS) technology, earning as high as a one-third share of the worldwide GIS software market. Governments and businesses in dozens of industries use our products to connect business, demographic, research, or environmental data with geographic data from multiple sources.

MSDN: What was the biggest challenge Esri faced prior to implementing the Windows Azure platform?

Haddad: Traditional GIS applications have required a significant investment in software, hardware and development because of their extensive ability for customization. We wanted to reach new markets by developing a lightweight offering that organizations could use to connect enterprise and spatial data, without having to invest in new on-premises infrastructure and staffing. In 2009, we introduced a software solution called MapIt that customers can deploy in their on-premises IT environment; we also wanted to develop a cloud-based version of MapIt.

MSDN: Describe the solution you built with the Windows Azure platform?

Haddad: We built the MapIt Spatial Data Service to work with the Windows Azure cloud services platform and Microsoft SQL Azure. MapIt connects to Windows Azure to prepare and serve data for viewing in a geographical context. Customers can upload map data to SQL Azure and geo-enable existing attribute data to prepare it for use in mapping applications. The MapIt Spatial Data Service connects to SQL Azure and provides a web service interface that allows mapping applications to access the spatial and attribute data that is stored in SQL Azure.

MSDN: What makes your solution unique?

Haddad: We developed the ArcGIS application programming interface (API) for the Microsoft Silverlight browser plug-in and Windows Presentation Foundation. Customers can use ArcGIS to build rich mapping applications with data in SQL Azure or use application solutions developed on Silverlight and integrated with Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007 or Microsoft SharePoint Server 2010. What’s unique is that when customers deploy MapIt on Windows Azure, they can write a simple application that allows them to use GIS without having to be a GIS expert. It’s mapping for everybody and extremely easy to employ.

Esri developed the ArcGIS API for Microsoft Silverlight and Windows Presentation Foundation. This application displays a map provided by Bing Maps, integrated with census data stored in SQL Azure and accessed using the MapIt Spatial Data Service.

MSDN: Have you reached new markets since implementing the Windows Azure platform?

Haddad: By introducing MapIt as a service offered through Windows Azure, we are opening channels with a whole range of new customers. We are reaching new markets among organizations that traditionally have not used GI, and expanding our relationships with customers who want to introduce GIS to other parts of their organization.

MSDN: What benefits have you seen since implementing the Windows Azure platform?

Haddad: One of the key benefits is that we’ve lowered the cost barrier for customers to adopt GIS technology. Customers can deploy the MapIt service in Windows Azure without having to configure and deploy new hardware and install software packages, which can take weeks or months and cost tens of thousands of dollars-not to mention the ongoing costs associated with IT maintenance, power, and data storage. Also, by taking advantage of Windows Azure, we are offering our customers new ways to deploy new services quickly.

Read the full story at: www.microsoft.com/casestudies/Case_Study_Detail.aspx?CaseStudyID=4000007771

To read more Windows Azure customer success stories, visit:  www.windowsazure.com/evidence