[This article was contributed by the SQL Azure team.]
Real World SQL Azure: Interview with Tom Naylor, Founder and Chief Technology Officer, Advanced Telemetry
As part of the Real World SQL Azure series, we talked to Tom Naylor, Founder and Chief Technology Officer at Advanced Telemetry about changing the fortunes of his startup company by moving to Windows Azure and using Microsoft SQL Azure data storage and Windows Azure AppFabric connectivity services. Here’s what he had to say:
MSDN: Can you tell us about Advanced Telemetry and the services you offer?
Naylor: Our product is highly customizable telemetry software—a remote monitoring and control framework that can be used for many applications in different business scenarios and different vertical markets. We began with a single product and a local infrastructure, delivering an end-to-end solution under a brand name, EcoView, which brings the benefits of energy management to owners of medium and small buildings.
MSDN: As a startup, what were the biggest challenges that Advanced Telemetry faced prior to moving to Windows Azure?
Naylor: Originally, we wanted to leverage our core telemetry infrastructure for a number of applications. But we needed immediate and direct access to the market, which was why we developed EcoView. We got stuck there because we didn’t have the resources to support the physical infrastructure and rack space required to store our growing amount of customer data. I wanted to back out of the direct market approach and deliver our product to new verticals through OEM licensees, but first we needed to get away from the unavoidable link between adding new customers and buying more servers and rack space.
MSDN: Why did you want to change to an OEM model?
Naylor: The OEM model could be used to showcase our uniquely adaptable and extensible middleware. It would absolve us from directly marketing and supporting our product to customers, freeing up time and resources to build more features into our middleware. Also, with OEM licensees marketing our product in new verticals, we would gain a cost-effective way of entering untapped markets.
MSDN: What role did Windows Azure play in helping you make that change?
Naylor: Windows Azure was absolutely key to making this strategic business move: it could be the most important technological shift that I have made during my career. To be attractive to potential OEM licensees, we had to move our infrastructure to a cloud-computing model where our application and data could reside on remotely hosted servers for which the OEMs would not be responsible. Otherwise, they would end up with the same problem we had, the reliance on physical hardware that just eats into any profitability you may gain from adding new customers.
MSDN: How has SQL Azure helped you grow your business?
Naylor: SQL Azure gave us scalable, cloud-based data storage for our relational customer configuration information and metadata that’s required by the application at run time. Before, with our physical infrastructure, we were forced to cull this data every six months because we couldn’t afford to keep paying for more servers. With SQL Azure, we don’t have to worry about culling customers’ data because we have a cost-effective online data storage solution to grow our business.
MSDN: What benefits have you gained from Windows Azure AppFabric connectivity services?
Naylor: Windows Azure AppFabric gave us cloud-based middleware services that our developers can use to build more flexibility into our core telemetry software, really driving our competitive advantage with customizable services and business logic tailored to individual OEMs, vertical markets, or customers—all without changing the core functionality of our middleware.
MSDN: Summing up, what are the overall benefits of moving to cloud computing?
Naylor: Windows Azure, SQL Azure, and Windows Azure AppFabric are business enabling technologies that we’re using as a new computing paradigm to build our business through OEMs. When we signed our first OEM license deal, we became instantly profitable for the first time. We’ve also reduced our IT infrastructure expenses by 75 percent and marketing costs by at least 80 percent. SQL Azure and Windows Azure AppFabric offered all the compute and data storage services that we needed to customize our telemetry software for OEMs wanting to offer the product in different vertical markets, helping to generate a new revenue stream for us. At the end of the day, Windows Azure changed our world.
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