Real World SQL Azure: Interview with Kai Boo Lee, Business Development Director, aZaaS

[This article was contributed by the SQL Azure team.]

Real World SQL Azure: Interview with Kai Boo Lee, Business Development Director, aZaaS

As part of the Real World SQL Azure series, we recently talked to Kai Boo Lee, Business Development Director at aZaaS, about using Microsoft SQL Azure and Windows Azure to host the aZaaS Cloud Application Engine, a business application that customers can tailor to their needs. Here’s what he had to say:

MSDN: Where did you come up with the name aZaaS?

Lee: Our company name—aZaaS—means “anything from A to Z as a service.” We provide software-as-a-service solutions that make it possible for customers to enjoy the benefits of technology and automation without the need to purchase, install, or maintain software, hardware, and data centers.

MSDN: Tell me more about aZaaS.

Lee: aZaaS has been providing solutions to global customers of all sizes since 2009. During our first year of operations, we won the Partner of the Year award from Microsoft and we’ve been a Microsoft Gold Certified Partner since 2010. We also participated in Microsoft BizSpark, a program that supports the early stages for technology startup companies with software, training, support, and marketing resources. We have 40 employees who work in China, Taiwan, and Singapore. Microsoft has honored two of our employees with expert designations: One is a Microsoft Regional Director and another is a Microsoft Most Valuable Professional. We specialize in cloud solutions based on Microsoft technologies and are recognized experts with Microsoft Silverlight, a development platform for creating rich media applications and business applications.

MSDN: What made you decide to build aZaaS Cloud Application Engine and make it customizable?

Lee: We developed a cloud-based application that features functionality for human resources management. Our customers around the world were frequently asking for customizations. A key factor for all our customers is time-to-market. We decided to build a platform that includes ready-made modules that could be customized with minimal effort by anyone. It had to be flexible enough that customers could easily develop solutions based on their own business models and processes.

MSDN: Why did you choose SQL Azure?

Lee: We’re at the point where we have a lot more customers—200 and growing—and as the volume of transactions on each customer’s application increases, we need to be able to scale on demand. We decided to go with SQL Azure, the cloud-based relational and self-managed database service. It’s part of the Windows Azure platform, a general-purpose cloud platform that makes complicated tasks simple across a dynamic environment. We needed the relational capabilities in SQL Azure to build complex relationships between the data that customers use. At the moment, SQL Azure has the only fully fledged relational database management services available for the cloud.

MSDN: How does the aZaaS Cloud Application Engine work?

Lee: The aZaaS Cloud Application Engine consists of two parts: Application Designer and Application Workspace. We developed the Application Designer to be used by people who are experts in their business domains. That is, business users who are familiar with their organizations’ work processes can easily design the various modules—and create forms or define reporting mechanisms—to meet internal requirements. After customizing the application, users can then publish their updates to the cloud. From the Application Workspace, users can operate the customized aZaaS Cloud Application Engine in the familiar Windows environment.

MSDN: What did you have to do to build the database functionality with SQL Azure?

Lee: aZaaS uses the relational cloud database, which is built on Microsoft SQL Server technologies, to provide a fully automated and highly available multitenant database service on the aZaaS Cloud Application Engine. We are capitalizing on the scale-out database features of SQL Azure. We are also taking advantage of the streamlined SQL Azure features for consolidating databases in the cloud and quickly provisioning databases. We partition the aZaaS Cloud Application Engine database for each tenant. Each tenant can access only those portions of the database that belong to them. It helps that SQL Azure has very granular access control, so we were able to achieve multitenancy quite easily.

MSDN: What benefits have you and your customers realized?

Lee: For any customer that’s making use of web-based applications—which is basically everyone—we believe that the Windows Azure platform is the way to go. It speeds time-to-market, for starters. We can deploy a new tenant to SQL Azure in less than one day. The entire deployment process is at least nine times faster than it is with an on-premises model. Plus, the cost of hosting the SQL Azure solution on the Windows Azure platform is about 20 percent of the cost of hosting it in a customer’s own data center. For aZaaS, we can provide subscription-based services to a larger portion of our customers at a much reduced cost. This gives us a more consistent revenue base. Also, we can add functionality and services without interrupting a customer’s business processes.

Read the full story at: www.microsoft.com/casestudies/casestudy.aspx?casestudyid=4000010017

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