The Real World Windows Azure series spoke to Wolf Ruzicka and Evgeny Popov at EastBanc Technologies about using the Windows Azure platform to deliver a cloud-based solution for the public transportation industry. Here's what they had to say:
MSDN: Can you give us a quick overview of what EastBanc Technologies does and who your customers are?
Ruzicka: We provide custom software solutions and systems integration services for public agencies and private organizations that produce technology or use IT to manage their business more effectively. We help our customers succeed by delivering simple-to-use solutions for complex challenges, and then wherever possible-just as with the topic we are discussing here-we retain the IP necessary to develop repeatable software solutions that help our customers meet common challenges.
MSDN: Was there a particular challenge you or your customers were trying to overcome that led you to develop a cloud-computing solution?
Popov: Public transportation authorities have data on vehicles, routes, and schedules that the technology-development community could use to build applications and services that can enhance the public transit experience. But to expose the data in a way developers can use, the transit agencies would need complex IT infrastructures that require high initial investments. We wanted to lower that barrier by using cloud computing to aggregate transit data from multiple sources and expose it as a service on the web.
Ruzicka: From our perspective, we needed to remove the uncertainty from scalability. When you create a new service, it's too expensive and too risky to build in excess capacity. If the application becomes very popular, you can consume time and money with maintenance and hardware issues as you fight for scalability. We did not want to manage our own infrastructure-we wanted to minimize management and maximize flexibility.
MSDN: Why did you decide to adopt Windows Azure? Did you evaluate other offerings such as Amazon Web Services, Google App Engine, or Salesforce.com?
Ruzicka: We have previously developed applications on all these services. But for this high-profile public-transit project, we immediately eliminated providers that offered solutions based simply on virtual machine hosting, and of all the providers we looked at, Windows Azure was the only one that actually integrated the work we wanted to do with the tools and technologies we use. A big decision factor for us was the Microsoft SQL Azure database management service. With a familiar database engine in the cloud, our developers did not have to adjust to new data management processes.
MSDN: Can you describe the solution you built with Windows Azure?
Ruzicka: We built the Public Transit Data Community (PTDC), an external application programming interface that uses computing and storage resources in Windows Azure and SQL Azure to combine heterogeneous data feeds from transportation agencies around the United States into a variety of open formats. It exposes the data as a web service that developers can use to create desktop, web, and mobile applications like trip planning tools, interactive route maps, and live information and notification services. PTDC is a nationwide one-stop data shop that developers can use to build public transportation applications that can work across multiple geographical areas.
Figure 1: EastBanc Technologies used Windows Azure to build the Public Transit Data Community (PTDC), a data service that developers can use to create applications like trip planning tools and live information services for devices such as Windows Phone 7.
MSDN: How do you and your customers benefit from using Windows Azure?
Popov: We're using Windows Azure to connect public transportation agencies with a development community that creates applications to enhance and promote public transit services. With PTDC, transportation authorities, EastBanc Technologies, other ISVs, and independent developers around the world can build innovative applications for computers, smartphones, and other mobile devices that can streamline urban navigation and give commuters more transit options. These options can help make commutes more predictable, save time, and enhance the commuting experience, which makes public transportation more attractive and increases ridership.
Ruzicka: For us, our startup, operational, and maintenance costs are low compared to managing an on-premises infrastructure or using a local hosting provider, and we have quick, easy, pay-as-you-go scalability. Best of all, with Windows Azure, our team can concentrate on what they do best-software development-and not on solving maintenance headaches.
To read more Windows Azure customer success stories, visit: www.windowsazure.com/evidence