As part of the Real World Windows Azure series, we connected with Oguz Kucukbarak, Managing Partner at ODC to learn more about how the IT firm improved its flagship product and reached more customers with Windows Azure. Read ODC’s success story here. Read on to find out what he had to say.
Himanshu Kumar Singh: Tell me about ODC
Oguz Kucukbarak: Based in Istanbul, Turkey, ODC is an IT business and technology consultancy with more than 50 employees, and it has offices in Istanbul, Dubai, and Baku, Azerbaijan. ODC was founded in 2005 with the launch of its flagship products SmartMessage and SmartMessage On-Demand, and it currently has more than 800 enterprise customers in a variety of industries, including banking, insurance, automotive, and telecommunications.
HKS: How does ODC deliver its services?
OK: SmartMessage and SmartMessage On-Demand are e-marketing and campaign management platforms that companies use to communicate with customers and employees through mass distribution of email, short message service (SMS) messages, and other electronic formats. SmartMessage synchronizes with customer databases to easily target campaigns based on criteria such as age, occupation, or location. SmartMessage is an on-premises solution that runs on a customer's hardware, while SmartMessage On-Demand is hosted on ODC servers and requires no customer investment in infrastructure.
HKS: What led you to evaluate cloud services as a possible solution?
OK: Although ODC has successfully engaged customers with existing products, we faced challenges trying to reach customers in the small and medium enterprise (SME) segment, which is a strong emerging market in the region. For these customers, the hardware investment to host an on-premises SmartMessage deployment may be prohibitive, and they may not need the product's advanced features.
SmartMessage On-Demand is an alternative for these customers, but the rapid growth of the product was straining the ODC hosting infrastructure. Each month, more than 20 million email messages and 10 million SMS messages are sent via SmartMessage On-Demand. On peak usage days, it was becoming difficult and expensive for us to scale our hosting hardware to meet demand levels and satisfy our service level agreements for performance. So we began looking for a more flexible and scalable solution that is suitable for SME customers.
HKS: How did you decide on Windows Azure?
OK: Given the increasing viability of cloud-based solutions for highly scalable and cost-effective enterprise applications, ODC felt that a cloud solution would be a perfect match for the company's new version of SmartMessage. Specifically, ODC considered Windows Azure. We have partnered with Microsoft since our company was founded. So, we felt that Windows Azure would fit perfectly with our product development strategy. Windows Azure allows us to dynamically scale our resources, which makes it much easier to accommodate peak demand without additional infrastructure costs for us.
HKS: How did the migration to Windows Azure go?
OK: A team of three developers began to work on the new product, SmartMessage Lite, in early 2012. Because the developers had experience with the Microsoft Visual Studio 2010 development system, the transition to Windows Azure went smoothly. Our developers also found it easy to access helpful resources during development. We were able to turn to MSDN for answers and received strong support from the local Microsoft team. There is a growing community of Windows Azure developers online and we were able to find solutions to any problems we encountered.
HKS: What are some of the operational benefits you’ve seen with Windows Azure?
OK: In addition to making SmartMessage Lite more scalable with Windows Azure, the development team also made the product easier to use so that it is a better fit for SME customers. The initial release of SmartMessage Lite includes simplified user interface and core functionality for SMS distribution. A second phase of the product, currently scheduled for late 2012, will add email features.
Development of SmartMessage Lite took only three months; we were impressed by Windows Azure storage, which makes it easy to store huge amounts of data. We also found the Windows Azure emulator very useful for locally testing new versions before moving them to the cloud. The dynamic scalability of Windows Azure meant that we could spend less time worrying about resource allocation and more time enhancing product features.
HKS: And the benefits for your customers?
OK: Being able to meet extreme peaks in demand is a key part of SmartMessage Lite. We are now able to give our customers a more available product, a better experience, and we have reduced our own costs.
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