As part of the Real World Windows Azure series, we talked to Johannes Schick, CEO of höltl Retail Solutions, about using the Windows Azure platform to run the company's point-of-sale (POS) system. Here's what he had to say:
MSDN: What service does höltl Retail Solutions provide?
Schick: höltl Retail Solutions is a Microsoft Gold Certified Partner that offers innovative products for optimizing retail processes for the clothing and nonfood industries. The most popular of these is the POSFlow chain software solution for midsize retailers-more than 50,000 people throughout Europe use the POSFlow solution.
MSDN: What was the biggest challenge höltl Retail Solutions faced prior to adopting the Windows Azure platform?
Schick: POSFlow is popular among midsize retailers, and we wanted to make the solution viable for smaller retailers, too. However, because POSFlow is an on-premises solution, we had to send technicians out to customers' locations to set up, install, and configure the software, which could take up to three or four hours plus travel time. That wasn't a cost-effective or time-efficient model for smaller businesses.
MSDN: Can you describe the solution you built with the Windows Azure platform to help address your need for efficient deployment?
Schick: We migrated our existing solution to the Windows Azure platform using the Microsoft .NET Framework 3.5 and the Microsoft Visual Studio 2008 Team Suite development system. We are using the Windows Azure platform AppFabric Service Bus to bridge cloud, on-premises, and hosted deployments. For our relational database needs, we're using Microsoft SQL Azure. For the visual interface, we used the Microsoft Silverlight 3 browser plug-in.
The POSFlow solution takes advantage of the Windows Azure platform to deliver cloud-based POS services.
MSDN: What makes höltl Retail Solutions unique?
Schick: Unlike other POS solutions that typically run on-premises, POSFlow runs in the cloud on the Windows Azure platform. As a result, customers can now handle routine setup and upgrades themselves, minimizing costs and saving time.
MSDN: Have you been able to reach new markets as a result of using Windows Azure?
Schick: We are now able to offer POSFlow to small retailer stores since moving to Windows Azure. By eliminating the cost of having to send technicians to customer locations, we're able to pass those savings on to customers, which makes POSFlow an affordable solution for small businesses.
MSDN: What are some of the key benefits höltl Retail Solutions has seen since implementing Windows Azure?
Schick: By using Windows Azure, we're able to improve the services we offer our customers. Instead of waiting for up to four hours to get their POSFlow solution set up, customers can get up and running in just four minutes. In addition, the scalability of Windows Azure helps us ensure a reliable solution that our customers can rely on. The scalability makes our high-tech solutions especially appealing to large chains and purchasing associations, because we can combine communications streams from several thousand registers without issue.
Read the full story at: www.microsoft.com/casestudies/casestudy.aspx?casestudyid=4000007121
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