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Real World Windows Azure: Interview with Dano DeBroux, Dir. of Disruptive Business Technologies, ONR

As part of the Real World Windows Azure series, we talked to Dano DeBroux, Director of Disruptive Business Technologies with the Office of Naval Research (ONR) about using Windows Azure for its…

As part of the Real World Windows Azure series, we talked to Dano DeBroux, Director of Disruptive Business Technologies with the Office of Naval Research (ONR) about using Windows Azure for its open and innovative framework proof-of-concept solution. Here’s what he had to say:

MSDN: Tell us about the Office of Naval Research and the Disruptive Business Technologies division.

DeBroux: The ONR is an executive branch agency within the United States Department of Defense that supports innovative military operations for the Navy and Marine Corps. The Disruptive Business Technologies department supports the ONR by finding innovative technology solutions that integrate commercially available and emerging technologies as a way to address business and military operations.

MSDN: What were some of the challenges that you faced prior to implementing Windows Azure?

DeBroux: This industry is dominated by highly customized and specialized technologies and implementing new solutions typically involves lengthy research and development processes that are grounded in science. That means, it can take up to 20 years to develop new capabilities to a level of maturity that they can be deployed to active military personnel. Plus, with years of development work, the process is usually expensive.

MSDN: Why did you choose Windows Azure?

DeBroux: We wanted to use an open and innovative framework and take advantage of disruptive technologies—ones that were built on open standards and commercially-available—as a way to solve complex military problems. We want to move away from the idea that we have to force ourselves to start from a blank canvas and instead use off-the-shelf technology that we can package together to enable military capabilities and, in theory, reduce costs and the timeline associated with delivering those capabilities to the field. We had to look for commercially-available and mature technologies, pull them together rapidly, and hope there was little to no learning curve, because there simply wouldn’t be time to do anything else. Windows Azure was the best choice to enable us to do that.

MSDN: Can you describe the solution you built with the Windows Azure platform to address your need openness and interoperability?

DeBroux: We started a proof-of-concept project to test several off-the-shelf technologies to address three military scenarios: command and control, information sharing, and event reconstruction. At the heart of the solution is Inca X software, which runs on Windows Azure with global positioning systems, geocasting, data broadcast, and rich media capabilities. Then, because Windows Azure supports open standards and multiple programming languages, such as PHP and JavaScript, we added telecommunications components and smartphones running Windows Mobile 6.1. We also used Bing Maps platform for geographic and location-based information, Windows Live Mesh for synchronizing and sharing information across devices, and a web-based user interface based on Microsoft Silverlight 3 browser technology.

MSDN: What makes this solution unique?

DeBroux: We took Windows Azure and combined it with smart devices and other off-the-shelf technologies and ended up with a platform for creativity. With that platform, we can build very powerful business and military capabilities.

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

DeBroux: When we started the project, we deliberately gave ourselves a compressed timeline of only two weeks in order to prove how rapidly we could develop new capabilities. We were able to easily meet that goal. Plus, once the solution was deployed, we could quickly gather feedback from the field, make changes, and deploy new capabilities in a matter of minutes or hours. In addition, the pay-as-you-go model helps us to reduce costs by only paying for the resources we use. We could peak at 200 users and then be down to zero users until the next training exercise starts. If we had to rely on an on-premises infrastructure, or any other traditional client-server model, we’d be paying for resources even when they’re sitting idle.

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