As part of the Real World Windows Azure interview series, I spoke to Randy Starr, Vice President of Technology at Blue Dot Solutions, and Sebastian Witzmann, CEO at Vela Entertainment Studios, about how they used Windows Azure to lower sales barriers, control costs, scale applications to demand, and develop new revenue opportunities. Here’s what they had to say.
Himanshu Kumar Singh: Can you please tell us about your companies - Blue Dot Solutions and Vela Entertainment Studios?
Randy Starr: Blue Dot Solutions delivers mobile workforce management extensions for enterprise management systems developed by other ISVs. For example, we developed a mobile extension for Infor Enterprise Asset Management (EAM) software that allows field workers to connect to their company’s Infor EAM system from mobile devices. Infor brands the Blue Dot mobile solution as an extension to Infor EAM, and pays royalties to us on the licenses.
Sebastian Witzmann: My partners and I founded Vela Entertainment Studios in 2010 to develop education and entertainment applications for mobile devices. We sell directly to consumers through mobile app markets, and license applications to telecommunications companies to include with a mobile device or service.
HKS: So what led you to cloud computing and Windows Azure to develop your applications?
RS: When Infor sold a Blue Dot mobile extension, we typically charged the end customer to configure, install, and support our mobile workforce management solution in the customer’s on-premises IT environment. It was a significant investment for them – which could create sales barriers – and supporting all of those unique infrastructures was a complex and time-consuming logistical challenge for us that ate into the profitability of each project.
SW: We needed the computing capacity and flexibility to scale up or down instantly. If we gain 10,000 new users but we don’t have the capacity, we lose those customers. It would have cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to build an on-premises infrastructure that could support our business model, and while we are very good at developing mobile applications, we are not system administrators. We don’t want to provision or manage servers and databases
HKS: Tell us a bit about the solutions you developed with Windows Azure?
RS: We used Windows Azure to develop a multitenant cloud-based framework for mobile applications called Cyan, and used Windows Azure, SQL Azure, Windows Communication Foundation, and the Microsoft .NET Framework to build a Cyan-based Infor EAM extension called Advanced Mobile for Infor EAM that we can synchronize with hosted and on-premises Infor EAM environments supported by Java, Ruby, PHP, and other development standards.
SW: We have used Windows Azure to build and host more than 300 mobile applications that work with Android, iPhone, and Windows Phone 7 devices. For example, we used Windows Azure, SQL Azure, and Windows Communication Foundation to power a Windows Phone 7 application called Sports Manager Football for Vodafone, one of the world’s largest mobile telecommunications companies.
HKS: What benefits have you generated for your company and your customers by using Windows Azure to build and deliver these applications?
RS: By supporting Cyan mobile applications with Windows Azure, we eliminated the customers’ need for new infrastructure and support, which helped lower barriers and accelerate sales cycles. We eased our own installation and support costs by close to 40 percent, and we eventually expect a 75 percent revenue increase as we transition customers from a capital-expenditure model to subscription-based pricing.
SW: With Windows Azure, we can work with a broad range of technologies and partners and scale our applications to meet customer demand. Sports Manager Football is a great example of what we can do with Windows Azure. After only six months, 100,000 users were playing the game, and without knowing beforehand how many users the game would attract, we could expand capacity as soon as we needed it. We avoided more than U.S.$360,000 in infrastructure investment, and with the predictable Windows Azure cost structure, we can easily set licensing and download fees that we know will be profitable.