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Real World SQL Azure: Interview with Vittorio Polizzi, Chief Technology Officer at EdisonWeb

[This article was contributed by the SQL Azure team.] As part of the Real World SQL Azure series, we talked to Vittorio Polizzi, Chief Technology Officer at EdisonWeb, about using Microsoft…

[This article was contributed by the SQL Azure team.]


As part of the Real World SQL Azure series, we talked to Vittorio Polizzi, Chief Technology Officer at EdisonWeb, about using Microsoft SQL Azure to host his company’s Web Signage application, which manages content for digital signs in retail stores and other venues. Here’s what he had to say:

MSDN: Can you tell us about EdisonWeb and the services you offer?

Polizzi: EdisonWeb is an Italian developer of cutting-edge technologies and advanced web-based solutions for commercial and government customers. Our flagship product is Web Signage, a software platform for creating and managing content for digital signage applications and proximity marketing campaigns. Using Web Signage, our customers can manage interactive and non-interactive digital signs, broadcast audio clips to in-store radios, and send Bluetooth messages.

MSDN: What prompted you to look into Microsoft SQL Azure and Windows Azure?

Polizzi: Customers deploy the Web Signage player software on their PCs and use it to play content created and distributed with the Web Signage platform. They access the Web Signage server application over the web from servers hosted by a local telco. This meant that we needed to identify at least one appropriate data center in each country where we want to offer our service. This made it difficult for us to grow outside Italy.

We also found that managing database servers in a data center environment involved higher costs when compared to Windows Azure and SQL Azure, because of the staff needed. With Windows Azure and SQL Azure, our customers are able to change their number of active licenses on a monthly basis, and the pay-per-use pricing model closely fits our business trends.

MSDN: How is EdisonWeb using SQL Azure and Windows Azure to help address these challenges?

Polizzi: We decided we wanted to move the entire application to the cloud and selected the Windows Azure platform. For customers that select a cloud deployment model, we use Windows Azure Blob Storage to store multimedia content, and the Windows Azure Content Delivery Network to cache that content at data centers around the globe. We use SQL Azure to store sign content metadata, configuration and statistical information, user credentials, and part of the application’s business logic.

Soon, we also want to use Windows Azure AppFabric, specifically the AppFabric Service Bus, to enable customers to link their applications to Web Signage. We also plan to use Windows Azure Marketplace DataMarket so customers can combine Web Signage with other data sources for greater effectiveness.

MSDN: So, what are the chief benefits of making SQL Azure and Windows Azure a deployment option for Web Signage?

Polizzi: We can significantly reduce our costs, easily expand outside Italy, and give customers more flexibility and lower costs. If we can get rid of most of our database servers, we can save nearly U.S.$30,000 a year in server, software, and maintenance costs. Plus, when customers change player licenses, we can scale the related Windows Azure instances up or down, reducing our outflow to match income.

Also, it’s far easier for us to deliver our service globally; we just choose the Microsoft data center closest to each customer. We can offer our service anywhere and deliver them tomorrow. Customers only pay for the services they use, and enjoy higher levels of service availability.

MSDN: What’s next for EdisonWeb?

Polizzi: We are always working on better, groundbreaking services. Microsoft is working hard to make Windows Azure and SQL Azure even more powerful, and we see new features coming. We enjoy this faster pace of innovation, which helps us deliver new features more rapidly. Also, with Microsoft managing our database infrastructure, our staff can focus on our core business: developing great software and providing the best customer support.

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