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Real World SQL Azure: Interview with Robert Johnston, Founder and Vice President, Paladin Data Systems, a Microsoft Gold Certified Partner

[This article was contributed by the SQL Azure team.]As part of the Real World SQL Azure series, we talked to Robert Johnston, Founder and Vice President of Paladin Data Systems, about moving to SQL…

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

As part of the Real World SQL Azure series, we talked to Robert Johnston, Founder and Vice President of Paladin Data Systems, about moving to SQL Azure to easily and cost-effectively serve both larger customers and small civic governments and local jurisdictions. Here’s what he had to say:

MSDN: Can you tell us about Paladin Data Systems and the products and services you offer?

Johnston: Our core philosophy is simple; we combine a commitment to old-world values and service with modern technology solutions for industries such as military and government organizations, the natural resource community, and city and county agencies. Our solutions help automate business processes and drive efficiencies for our customers.

MSDN: Why did you start thinking about offering a Microsoft cloud-based solution?

Johnston: Well, the story starts when we decided to recreate our planning and permits solution, called Interlocking Software, using Microsoft technologies. It had been built on the Oracle platform, but most local jurisdictions have settled into the Microsoft technology stack, and they considered Oracle to be too complicated and expensive. So with our new product, called SMARTGov Community, we made a move to Microsoft to open up that market. To ease deployment and reduce costs for small jurisdictions, we wanted to offer a hosted version. But we didn’t want to get into the hosting business; it would be too expensive to build the highly available, clustered server scenario required to meet our customers’ demands for application stability and availability. Luckily, it was around this time that Microsoft launched SQL Azure.

MSDN: Why did you choose SQL Azure and Windows Azure to overcome this challenge?

Johnston: We looked at Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud, but with this solution we would have had to manage our database servers. By comparison, Microsoft cloud computing offered a complete platform that combines computing services and data storage. Our solution is dependent on a relational database. Having a completely-managed relational database in the cloud proved to us that SQL Azure was made for SMARTGov Community. Talking to customers, we found that many trusted the Microsoft name when it came to cloud-based services. We liked the compatibility angle, because our own software is based on the Windows operating system and Windows Azure offers a pay-per-use pricing model that makes it easier for us to predict the cost of our expanding operations. And with SQL Azure, our data is safe and manageable. We can keep adding more customers without having to provision back-end servers, configure hard disks, or work with any kind of hardware layer.

MSDN: How long did it take to make the transition?

Johnston: It took a couple of months. It was a very easy transition for us to take the existing technology that we were developing and deploy it into the cloud. There were a few little things we had to account for to get SMARTGov Community to run in a high-availability, multitenant environment, but we didn’t have to make major changes. Microsoft offered us a lot of help, which made the transition to SQL Azure much more successful.

MSDN: What benefits did you gain by switching to SQL Azure?

Johnston: With SQL Azure, we’ve taken a product with a lot of potential and tailored it to meet customers’ needs in an untapped market: and our first customer, the City of Mukilteo, signed up for the solution as soon as it was released. Running SMARTGov Community in the cloud will reduce the cost of doing business compared to the on-premises, client/server model of its predecessor. And we are more agile: instead of spending up to 300 hours installing an on-premises deployment of Interlocking Software, we now offer customers a 30-hour deployment. Faster deployments reduce sales cycles and impress our customers. With SQL Azure, we found the perfect computing model for smaller jurisdictions that want easy, maintenance-free access to SMARTGov Community’s rich features and functionality at low cost.

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