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Real World Windows Azure: Interview with David Ruiz, Vice President of Products at Ravenflow

*NOTE:  RAVEN Cloud was released December 8, 2010 is now publicly available as a subscription service. Read the press release to learn more. As part of the Real World Windows Azure series, we…

*NOTE:  RAVEN Cloud was released December 8, 2010 is now publicly available as a subscription service. Read the press release to learn more.

As part of the Real World Windows Azure series, we talked to David Ruiz, Vice President of Products at Ravenflow, about using the Windows Azure platform to deliver the company’s cloud-based process analysis and visualization solution. Here’s what he had to say:

MSDN: Tell us about Ravenflow and the services you offer.

Ruiz: Ravenflow is a Microsoft Certified Partner that uses a patented natural language technology, called RAVEN, to turn text descriptions into business process diagrams. Our customers use RAVEN to quickly analyze and visualize their business processes, application requirements, and system engineering needs.

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

Ruiz: We already offered a desktop application but wanted to create a web-based version to give customers anywhere, anytime access to our unique process visualization capabilities. What we really wanted to do was expand the market for process visualization and make Ravenflow easily available for more customers. At the same time, we wanted to deliver a rich user experience while using our existing development skills and deep experience with the Microsoft .NET Framework.

MSDN: Can you describe some of the technical aspects of the solution you built by using the Windows Azure platform to help you reach more customers?

Ruiz: After evaluating other cloud platforms, we chose the Microsoft-hosted Windows Azure platform and quickly created a scalable new service: RAVEN Cloud*. It has a rich, front-end interface that we developed by using the Microsoft Silverlight 3 browser plug-in. Once a customer enters a narrative into the interface, Web roles in Windows Azure place the narrative in Queue storage. From there, Worker roles access the narrative and coordinate and perform the RAVEN language analysis. The results are placed in Blob storage where they are collected by a Worker role, aggregated back together, and then returned to the Web role for final processing. RAVEN Cloud also takes advantage of Microsoft SQL Azure to store application logs as well as user account and tracking information.

RAVEN Cloud uses the patented RAVEN natural language technology to generate accurate process diagrams from the text that users enter through a website.

MSDN: What makes your solution unique?

Ruiz: The natural language engine behind RAVEN Cloud and its ability to generate diagrams from text is what makes it really stand out. Natural language analysis and visualization is a complex mathematical operation, and the Windows Azure platform is a natural fit for such compute-heavy processes. The elastic scalability features of Windows Azure allow us to scale with ease as the number of users grows.

MSDN: Are you offering RAVEN Cloud to any new customer segments or niche markets?

Ruiz: Since launching RAVEN Cloud in May 2010, we have served more than 1,000 customers each week-a number that continues to grow. While there is no specific industry segment that stands out, we are finding a very significant audience of business analysts who struggle with process modelling and like the fact that RAVEN Cloud helps them do that automatically.

MSDN: What kinds of benefits is Ravenflow realizing with Windows Azure?

Ruiz: We were able to quickly develop and deploy our natural language engine to the cloud as a service, and we look forward to improved time-to-market for new features and products in the future. By offering our software as a service, we have not only opened new business opportunities and extended the market reach for our process visualization solutions, but we can also maintain high levels of performance for our CPU-intensive application while minimizing operating costs.

Read the full story at: www.microsoft.com/casestudies/casestudy.aspx?casestudyid=4000008080

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