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Real World Windows Azure: Interview with Andy Harjanto, Founder and Chief Executive Officer at Gestone

As part of the Real World Windows Azure series, we talked to Andy Harjanto, Founder and CEO at Gestone about using the Windows Azure platform for its social-media project management solution. Here'…

As part of the Real World Windows Azure series, we talked to Andy Harjanto, Founder and CEO at Gestone about using the Windows Azure platform for its social-media project management solution. Here’s what he had to say:

MSDN: Tell us about Gestone.

Harjanto: Gestone is a small startup company that has a simple philosophy of combining social media and productivity tools to help people “get stuff done.” Our project management solution, also called Gestone, combines basic project management tools with the social-networking site Facebook.

MSDN: What were the biggest challenges that you faced prior to implementing the Windows Azure platform?

Harjanto: When I was still in the planning stages for Gestone, I knew that we would have to build it for the cloud. As a business tool that takes advantage of Facebook, I knew that security would be a key concern for many organizations, so I wanted a security-enhanced infrastructure as the backbone for Gestone. Plus, because Gestone is a new service, we couldn’t predict demand with any accuracy, so we wanted an infrastructure that we could scale up and down as needed. That said, it would have been impossible from a cost perspective for us to build our own data center that was both scalable and secure-so cost prohibitive that we never would have gotten off the ground.   

MSDN: Why did you choose the Windows Azure platform?

Harjanto: In addition to meeting our needs for scalability and security, Windows Azure offers a platform that easily integrates with other infrastructure technologies that businesses use, such as Active Directory services and the Windows Server operating system-many cloud providers, such as Amazon and Google, do not integrate as well.

MSDN: Can you describe the project management solution you built with the Windows Azure platform to address your need for scalability and security?

Harjanto: The solution is a browser-based application that uses the Silverlight 4 browser plug-in on the client side and is hosted in web roles in Windows Azure. Gestone uses Windows Azure storage services, including Table and Blob storage, deployed in a multitenant environment. Gestone uses one table for each project, which stores hierarchical data for work items, updates, and posts. For our unstructured data, such as documents, presentations, and spreadsheets, we use Blob storage in Windows Azure. We also use SQL Azure to store relational data, such as billing information.

By using Gestone, team members can come together through Facebook and collaborate on projects.

MSDN: What makes Gestone unique?

Harjanto: What’s different about Gestone compared to other project management tools is that it combines project management with social networking and is based on a modern POT (Progress, Ownership and Transparencies) model. This model encourages greater participation from team members, focus on team goals, and transparency for all team members. It’s designed specifically for our busy, always-connected, modern digital lifestyle. There’s no complicated software to install and, unlike other robust project management tools, Gestone has a short learning curve-if you can use Facebook, you can use Gestone. In addition, because all Gestone components are running on Windows Azure, a company can request a new cloud account running this service, separate from Gestone.com. This way, the company has full management control over the data, security, and privacy. Without the Windows Azure platform, we would not have been able to bring this vision to life.

MSDN: What kinds of benefits have you realized with the Windows Azure platform?

Harjanto: We achieved critical levels of scalability that have helped us meet demand, such as when we saw a high-volume of traffic after receiving prominent press. We can also take advantage of that scalability to try new business models with little investment or risk, which is very important to us as a startup company. We also have the security-enhanced infrastructure that we need to garner trust from our customers. Microsoft has a commitment to security and meets rigorous standards in its data centers, and our customers trust the Microsoft name.

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