[This article was contributed by the SQL Azure team.]
As part of the Real World SQL Azure series, we talked to Andreas Falter, Head of Developments, and Karsten Horn, Director of International Sales, both in the Materials Management Division at INFORM, about using the Windows Azure platform, including SQL Azure, to extend its inventory sampling solution to the cloud. Here's what they had to say:
MSDN: Can you tell us about INFORM and the services you offer?
Horn: INFORM is the Institute for Operations Research and Management. We are a Microsoft Gold Certified Partner that develops IT solutions based on advanced decision support technologies and that complement customers' existing enterprise resource systems to optimize planning and control of business processes. Our customers come from various industries, including discrete manufacturing, wholesale, and process industries.
MSDN: What were some of the challenges that INFORM faced prior to adopting SQL Azure?
MSDN: Why did you choose the Windows Azure platform as your solution?
Falter: Deciding on Windows Azure and Microsoft SQL Azure was a quick decision for us. Of course, we looked at Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud and Google App Engine, but neither offered a solution that worked well with Microsoft SQL Server databases, which INVENT Xpert uses extensively. The Windows Azure platform does, plus it supports multiple technologies, such as Java, which is important for our development model. Plus, Microsoft is transparent about its data center locations-our customers want to know that their data is close in proximity to their physical location and with Amazon or Google, we simply couldn't guarantee that it was.
MSDN: Can you describe how INFORM is using SQL Azure to help address your need to provide lower-cost deployment of INVENT Xpert for customers?
MSDN: What makes your solution unique?
Horn: To our knowledge, we are the only company in our industry segment to offer an inventory sampling solution in the cloud. Our customers want these kinds of cloud-based solutions; we are unique in that we can offer them that. Because we are the first to market, that means we also get the competitive advantage.
MSDN: What kinds of benefits is INFORM realizing with SQL Azure?
Falter: Our customers are important to us, and anything we can offer them to improve operations or their bottom line is a benefit to us. With SQL Azure and Windows Azure, we can offer them a 100-percent cloud-based inventory sampling solution that is faster and less expensive to deploy. We can deploy a new customer and provision a database to SQL Azure in a day, and the entire deployment process is 50 percent faster than previously. Plus, customers do not have to purchase additional hardware and software-an 85-percent savings compared to an on-premises version. What's really great to think about is that as we bring more of our solutions to the cloud, and fine-tune our processes, we expect those savings to grow even more.
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