As part of the Real World Windows Azure interview series, I talked to Rajasekar Shanmugam, Chief Technology Officer at AppPoint, about using Windows Azure for its cloud-based process automation and systems integration services. Here’s what he had to say.
Himanshu Kumar Singh: Tell me about AppPoint.
Rajasekar Shanmugam: AppPoint is an independent software vendor and we provide process automation and system integration services to enterprises. At the core of our solutions is a business-application infrastructure with a unique model-driven development environment to help simplify the development process. We originally developed our platform on Microsoft products and technologies, including the .NET Framework 4 and SQL Server 2008 data management software.
HKS: What led you to consider a move to the cloud?
RS: We traditionally used our platform to develop solutions that were deployed on-premises at customer locations, but we started seeing interest from our customers for cloud-based computing solutions. In fact, several of our customers had previously deployed AppPoint solutions by using third-party hosting providers, but with limited success. Some of these customers who attempt cloud-based deployment struggle to integrate the solution with their enterprise resource planning [ERP] systems and still have to invest in additional software for virtual machines and don’t get the benefits of true cloud computing.
HKS: Tell me about the move to the cloud with Windows Azure.
RS: To meet customer demand for cloud-based process automation solutions, we developed a version of our existing business process automation platform, called AppsOnAzure, on Windows Azure. Windows Azure was the obvious choice for our platform, which is already built on the .NET Framework and offers a complete end-to-end architecture.
HKS: Can you tell me about a customer using AppsOnAzure?
RS: Yes, Biocon is a prominent biotechnology company in India that earned revenues of approximately U.S.$516 million in 2010. As part of its manufacturing process, Biocon manages artwork for drug labels, leaflets, and packages, which is regulated by the Food and Drug Administration and involves multiple stakeholders and approval cycles. This artwork management process was manual, time-consuming and sometimes error-prone, which led to expensive product recalls. To help speed the artwork process and minimize error-prone processes, Biocon turned to us for a cloud-based solution.
HKS: How did AppsOnAzure help Biocon?
RS: We used AppsOnAzure to develop an automated artwork management system for Biocon in only eight weeks. This system automates and controls the entire artwork life cycle process, from concept to product and eliminates the paper-based approach. Biocon employees can upload documents and files, which are processed through worker roles in Windows Azure and stored in Blob Storage. Biocon uses SQL Azure to store its relational data, including product information for the drugs it manufactures. We also implemented Windows Azure AppFabric Service Bus to connect to Microsoft Dynamics, the on-premises ERP system that Biocon uses.
HKS: Is AppsOnAzure useful for other companies?
RS: Yes, There has been tremendous change in mind set, where customers are moving their LOB/Business critical apps onto cloud. Though above solution was developed for Biocon, we’ve found that the solution is relevant across a variety of industries and we already have several customers evaluating the solution. We license the solution on an unlimited-user basis, and customers can either sign up for Windows Azure themselves, paying for hosting and storage on a per-use basis directly with Microsoft, or they can choose to have AppPoint manage instances of Windows Azure for them and pay a flat-rate monthly subscription fee.
HKS: What are some of the benefits you’ve seen from using Windows Azure?
RS: We’ve already seen some dramatic benefits as a result of our move to Windows Azure. The first is speed to market: the development process is so straightforward with Windows Azure that we expect to have 20 more cloud-based process automation solutions ready for customers to evaluate in less than eight months. This faster time to market coupled with less investment in infrastructure also lowers customer barriers to adoption, which has led to more companies evaluating a move to the cloud with us.
And as a Microsoft Partner, we receive ongoing support from Microsoft, which helps the us reach new customers. While some customers embrace the cloud, other customers can be more hesitant without proper education about the cloud-computing model. Being part of the Microsoft partner community and working with the Windows Azure Incubation sales team to help educate customers on the benefits of cloud computing has a tremendous influence on our ability to tap into new markets.