[This article was contributed by the SQL Azure team.]
As part of the Real World SQL Azure series, we recently talked to Eugene Shustef, Chief Engineer in the Global Document Outsourcing group at Xerox, about using Microsoft SQL Azure to build an innovative new printing service for mobile workers. Let's listen in.
MSDN: What exactly have you created with SQL Azure?
Shustef: We've created a service called Xerox Cloud Print that allows mobile workers to print to any available public printer from their smartphones, iPads, and other mobile devices.
MSDN: Wow. I could have used that earlier today!
Shustef: That's what we hear constantly from our customers. Thousands of their employees are on the move all the time. Some don't even have permanent offices. Their smartphones are their primary computing devices, because smartphones have gotten really ... well, smart. About the only thing they don't come with is a print button.
MSDN: So you decided to add one.
Shustef: You bet. Who's better qualified than Xerox, the global leader in printing, to give you a way to print from your phone?
MSDN: How does it work?
Shustef: Your mobile phone manufacturer or wireless provider would provide Xerox Cloud Print as an app on your phone. When you get an email attachment that you want to print, you just pop open a dialog box that lets you locate a nearby printer, perhaps at a copy shop, and you route your print job there and pick it up later.
Xerox Cloud Print gives mobile workers a way to locate and print to nearby printers by routing print jobs through the Windows Azure platform.
MSDN: So where does SQL Azure come in?
Shustef: We use SQL Azure to store the user account information, print-job information, device information, and other related data. We also store the actual print files in Windows Azure Blob storage.
MSDN: Why is SQL Azure a good fit for this application?
Shustef: SQL Azure provides multitenancy, dynamic scalability, and cost effectiveness. We can securely stack data from multiple customers in a single SQL Azure instance, which makes it very cost effective. Also, our development staff is Microsoft trained. We used Microsoft SQL Server 2008 for the predecessor to Xerox Cloud Print, a private-cloud version of the service that enables phone-based printing from inside a corporate firewall. We wanted to reuse that SQL Server development investment, and SQL Azure provided the most economical way to do so.
MSDN: Is Xerox going to do more with SQL Azure and the Windows Azure platform?
Shustef: Absolutely. Our customers demand continuous innovation, but innovation is expensive. You have to try things that may not pan out and scale quickly if an idea takes off. Building a physical infrastructure for development and deploying new ideas is cost-prohibitive. Doing development, testing, staging, and hosting in the cloud removes all those upfront costs; it lowers the barrier to innovation.
MSDN: What about the sliding payment scale?
Shustef: Oh definitely, another great benefit. With SQL Azure, we pay only for the storage resources we use; not a cent more. If 5,000 customers sign up for Xerox Cloud Print tomorrow, we just click a few buttons and increase the number of SQL Azure instances. If they all leave in droves, then we can scale back.
MSDN: You can't beat that kind of efficiency.
Shustef: You certainly can't. The Windows Azure platform makes good business sense.
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