As part of the Real World Windows Azure series, we talked to Carl Ryden, CTO at MarginPro, about using the Windows Azure platform for its loan pricing and profitability system. Here's what he had to say:
MSDN: Tell us about MarginPro and the services you offer.
Ryden: MarginPro develops loan deposit pricing and profitability management software for community banks and credit unions. Our solution takes the intuition and guesswork out of loan structures and risk assessments to help banks increase their net interest margin and to be as competitive as possible when competing for the best borrowers.
MSDN: What were the biggest challenges that you faced prior to implementing the Windows Azure platform?
Ryden: From the beginning, we developed MarginPro for the cloud-to allocate resources for an on-premises server infrastructure would have been a no-starter for us, especially considering that we have to have a certifiably-secure data center. We hosted MarginPro at a third-party hosting provider, GoGrid, where we maintained virtual application servers and a database server. However, maintaining those servers took a substantial percentage of my time each day. At times, it was all consuming and worse yet, more often than not, I had to perform this work during off hours, such as late nights and weekends. That's time that I could be devoting to our core business. Customers don't pay me to manage servers; they pay me to deliver world-class loan pricing software.
MSDN: Can you describe the solution you built with the Windows Azure platform to address your need for a highly secure, low-maintenance cloud solution?
Ryden: Our web-based application is built on Microsoft ASP.NET MVC 2 and uses the Microsoft Silverlight 4 browser plug-in. We host that in Windows Azure web roles. We also use Queue storage and worker roles to handle some of our complex computing needs. All of our data is stored in Microsoft SQL Azure, which is deployed in a multitenant environment. We also cache that relational data into Table storage in Windows Azure so that each time a customer calls data from the application, it is pulled from the tables and doesn't have to hit the database each time. When we need to deploy updates, we create new instances, use MSBuild [Microsoft Build Engine] to deploy the updates to the new instance, and then flip a switch to go live. We don't have to take down virtual servers and risk interrupting our service now.
MSDN: How does the Windows Azure platform help you better serve your customers?
Ryden: MarginPro integrates with our customers' core banking systems and enables customers to update the strategic value of their accounts for optimum loan pricing. This is a computationally-heavy process. Without Windows Azure, we'd have to run these processes sequentially for each customer, but now, we can run them in parallel by scaling up new computing instances. The integration module wouldn't be possibly without Windows Azure.
MSDN: What kinds of benefits are you realizing with the Windows Azure platform?
Ryden: A lot of times, benefits come down to money. For us, it's not that simple. The biggest benefit for us is that we don't have to worry about maintaining an infrastructure. We have a SAS 70 Type II-compliant infrastructure that is maintained by Microsoft, which leaves us to focus on what we do best. We can let Microsoft take care of what they do best, we can focus on creating world-class loan pricing software, and our customers can focus on their core business, too.
To read more Windows Azure customer success stories, visit:www.windowsazure.com/evidence