As part of the Real World Windows Azure series, we talked to Husam Laswi, IT Director of Factory Operations at Flextronics, about using the Windows Azure platform to deliver the Authorized Service Center (ASC) application to retail stores. Here’s what he had to say:
MSDN: What does Flextronics do?
Laswi: Flextronics is in the business of contract manufacturing. We tailor design, manufacturing, and services for electronics OEMs in market segments, including computing, medical, consumer mobile, power supply, automotive, and more.
MSDN: Tell us about the ASC application.
Laswi: Originally developed in 2008, ASC is a tool that Flextronics developed by using Microsoft ASP.NET. Retailers can use ASC at their retail repair shops to process repair service requests. For example, employees can use it to review the customer’s warranty, search for parts in inventory, prepare quotes, upload photos of products, and track the status of repairs.
MSDN: What was the biggest challenge Flextronics faced prior to implementing ASC on the Windows Azure platform?
Laswi: We wanted the solution to be scalable because we didn’t know how fast our customer would adopt the application at its retail locations. We didn’t have enough data centers to cover the many regions in which our customer conducts business. If you’re a retail store in Asia, you don’t want to worry about logging onto a data center in the United States. Plus, our timeline was limited. We knew that if we hosted the application in our own data centers, we would have had to deal with requisitions for capital expenditures.
Retailers can use ASC at their retail shops to process repair requests.
MSDN: Did you look at other cloud computing solutions?
Laswi: We evaluated cloud solutions including Salesforce.com and Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2). If we had used Salesforce.com, we would have needed to spend time and effort redeveloping the solution. By using Windows Azure, we could leverage existing ASC technology. We also determined that using Amazon EC2 would be like having another server that just happens to be in the cloud, and we wanted greater interoperability with our traditional development paradigm.
MSDN: Describe the solution you built with the Windows Azure platform?
Laswi: Our development partner, CloudXtension, a member of the Microsoft Partner Network, did all the development work to migrate ASC to the Windows Azure platform. It transformed a static ASP.NET application into a dynamic client-side application with a rich user interface. CloudXtension also developed a workaround to enable database object creation and reporting by using Microsoft SQL Azure. The application also uses Language Integrated Query (LINQ), a set of extensions to the Microsoft .NET Framework, to retrieve uploaded product photos, which ASC stores by using server-side Blob storage. ASC also uses Access Control, a part of Windows Azure AppFabric, to get access to a proprietary web application that provides estimated payment information.
MSDN: How long did it take to deploy to the Windows Azure platform?
Laswi: Starting in April 2010, CloudXtension conducted a proof-of-concept pilot program that featured the ASC application with basic functionality—checking in service orders—running on the Windows Azure platform. CloudXtension spent three months reworking ASC, followed by three months developing feature enhancements and conducting user acceptance tests. ASC went into production at one of our customer’s retail stores on September 15, 2010.
MSDN: What benefits have you seen since implementing the Windows Azure platform?
Laswi: We got ASC to market quickly, saved costs on capital expenditures and maintenance, and used familiar and reliable Microsoft technologies. Our customer is extremely happy with the Windows Azure implementation of ASC. We have been able to sustain our business and enable our customer to grow its business.
Read the full story at: www.microsoft.com/casestudies/casestudy.aspx?casestudyid=4000009957
To read more Windows Azure customer success stories, visit: www.windowsazure.com/evidence