Real World Windows Azure: Interview with Soluto Founder Tomer Dvir

As part of the Real World Windows Azure series, I connected with Soluto Founder Tomer Dvir about how Windows Azure helped their hosted server environment scale to millions of downloads after the solution won Best in Show at TechCrunch Disrupt.  Read Soluto’s success story here. Here’s what he had to say:

Himanshu Kumar Singh:  Tell me about the idea behind Soluto.

Tomer Dvir:  Co-founder Ishay Green and I have been programming software since before we were teenagers. In 2008, we started a business and built Soluto, which helps PC users manage their Windows-based PCs of their friends and family over the web. As technology becomes ubiquitous, we want to help people do more and enjoy their devices.  And we wanted to do it in Tel Aviv, where we could be at the center of all that innovation.

HKS:  When did you launch Soluto?

TD:  We publicly launched Soluto in May 2010 at the inaugural TechCrunch Disrupt, a worldwide competition for IT startup companies. Everyone at TechCrunch was talking about Facebook and Twitter applications, and we showed up with PC stuff. But the idea that Soluto could help make people happier with their technology really resonated. Soluto won Best of Show, and suddenly we were an international thought leader, with media coverage in global outlets such as The New York Times, CNN, and the BBC.

HKS:  How did winning the award affect your business?

TD:  In the month after TechCrunch Disrupt, almost 1 million people downloaded Soluto. As people use Soluto, it collects information about the PCs they work on and then analyzes and presents that data for use in managing other PCs, which requires a lot of computing capacity. We supported Soluto with a hosted environment running SQL Server and Amazon Web Services, but the system failed under the sudden demand. Our server environment couldn’t scale up fast enough. We needed a better, more flexible solution, but we still wanted to avoid the risk of a big IT investment. 

HKS:  What did you do?

TD:  We wanted to power the application with cloud technology. We expected that transferring a live application to the cloud would be challenging, and quickly determined we could support Soluto most effectively with Windows Azure. Because we could utilize platform services and not just infrastructure (like storage), and also work with familiar tools such as .NET and Microsoft Visual Studio, we knew that we could get to market much faster with Windows Azure than we would with Amazon or other cloud services.

HKS:  How are you using Windows Azure?

TD:  Soluto users connect to Windows Azure through a web browser and use Soluto to see what has been going not-so-well on a PC and allows people to do simple safe things to make things work better, and also do more with their devices. Each PC added to the service starts sending events about things that are not working well, and also about what’s available on that PC.  Using the data from all agents calculating statistics and detecting patterns – Soluto can help people make better decisions by showing data at an aggregate.

HKS:  What can users do with Soluto? 

TD:  Soluto users can remotely understand PC problems, add updates, or install applications, often in a few mouse-clicks and with no action required by the user. From any location, I can update my mother’s Skype, turn on her firewall, or install Dropbox on her PC. If her PC is off, the command will be stored on Windows Azure and executed when she turns her machine on.

Soluto uses Windows Azure Storage to save PC data, deliver it to users, and process it with data from other machines. Soluto users generate tens of millions of data transactions every day, making Soluto one of the largest consumers of Windows Azure resources among startups worldwide.

HKS:  What are some of the benefits that you’re seeing from using Windows Azure?

TD: Platform-as-a-service services (Such as TableStorage, Compute) allowed us to quickly develop components that are very easily scalable, without thinking about the backend “pipes”. Demand can spike by as much as 30 million transactions per day, but the team can quickly and easily scale Windows Azure to avoid any break in service. 

After migrating to Windows Azure, we grew rapidly. By the beginning of 2012, our application had 3 million downloads. With Windows Azure, we have complete elasticity and endless scalability and we’re ready to serve any peak in consumer demand.

HKS:  How do you think Windows Azure compares to other cloud services?

TD:  Platform-as-a-service is the number one benefit. Windows Azure is not just infrastructure to run an operating system – it provides services that just work. We don’t have to think about how those services are running in the background (even though we were curious enough to learn – we’re geeks after all..). Also, We didn’t have to learn new development tools—or build a server infrastructure—so we could stay focused on the unique value we offer.

HKS:  What’s next for Soluto? 

TD:  We’re still perfecting the user experience and adding more value, in order to bring more happiness to more people. But with Windows Azure, we have the capacity and flexibility to serve our global user base and maintain our high-profile industry position in the meantime. Using Windows Azure, we have the capacity to process hundreds of terabytes of data. That releases our growth potential and gives us the agility to watch the market evolve, learn from our customers, enhance our products, and develop a profitable model.

Read how others are using Windows Azure.