DrillBoard Worldwide, which creates coaching software for football clubs and associations, wanted to use the software-as-a-service model to deliver its product over the Internet. It is replacing CD-ROM distribution with a subscription-based system
using the Windows Azure platform. The company’s first major customer—the Football Association of Wales—aims to sign up every affiliated football coach from amateur level to the national team.
DrillBoard is the company behind DrillBoard Soccer Coaching Software, which helps football coaches, clubs, and national associations plan and share drills, tactics, and match analysis. Founded in 2007 in London, United Kingdom (U.K.), by its president Tim
Gentles, the service provides a way to create, save, and share football training programmes. It is a vital tool for coaches, giving them the tools they need to structure learning and share training plans with players and across teams. Gentles, who has 20 years’
experience in the sport, media, and entertainment industry, says: “DrillBoard software is easy to use and a fantastic alternative to traditional coaching methods. It’s appropriate for use at international level and simple enough for those starting their journeys
as coaches or players.”
DrillBoard has been actively promoting its football coaching software to users across the U.K., Europe, and North America and has already made contacts with leading football coaching organisations, including the Football Association of Wales.
Until recently, DrillBoard was using a traditional distribution model, writing information to CD-ROMs and sending them to customers from individuals and small teams to large clubs. This made upgrading the coaching software complicated and expensive—ultimately
hampering business growth. Gentles says: “We needed to expand the market for our software by making it subscription-based and more of a shared environment. We wanted to give large football associations, such as the Football Association of Wales, the ability
to market the software as their own product. Our secondary aim was to make the service membership-based.”
To solve the challenge facing DrillBoard, it enlisted Microsoft Partner and systems integrator IQ Cloud Consulting to create a solution based on the Windows Azure platform. The solution comprises Microsoft SQL Azure for data management, Windows Azure Web
and Worker roles, as well as Blob, Queue, and Table services.
Matt Quinn, Managing Director, IQ Cloud Consulting, says: “We worked with DrillBoard to understand what it wanted in extending its product to coaches and footballers at all levels—from grass roots to large national associations. The Football Association
of Wales was the first major interested customer.”
Quinn ran a series of workshops for DrillBoard and demonstrated how the company could avoid the slow adoption experienced using traditional hosting or on-premises methods. He showed how cloud hosting could provide immediate access to the coaching software
using the Windows Azure platform and the Microsoft Silverlight browser plug-in for writing and running rich Internet applications. Furthermore, the technology can run on both Microsoft and non-Microsoft operating systems.
The solution uses SQL Azure for data storage. Gentles says: “Windows Azure is highly flexible and can scale up easily as national football associations, professional clubs, or big coaching organisations bring on large numbers of customers.”
By moving to a software-as-a-service model on Windows Azure, DrillBoard has made its football coaching software easily and instantly accessible through a browser to thousands more users. Football clubs can now sign up and grant licences to all their members
and coaches, from top professionals to youth teams and amateurs. Gentles says: “Ensuring that players at every level have access to the same training programmes will be a big boost to what is already the most popular sport worldwide.”
Football Association of Wales backs DrillBoard cloud solution. Osian Roberts, Technical Director, Football Association of Wales, says: “DrillBoard really helps us improve coaching at all levels of Welsh football and it’s great that players
in local youth teams can share the same system that the first team uses. I would recommend it to any coach, player, or parent.”
Pay-as-you-go financial model minimises upfront investment. With Windows Azure, DrillBoard can offer its customers for football coaching software a highly scalable information-rich service on a pay-as-you-go basis, without any need for capital
investment in physical servers.
Cloud-based coaching software encourages sharing of training programmes.The previous way of distributing DrillBoard coaching software—on CD-ROM—made it difficult to create communities of users. Gentles says: “With the Windows Azure platform,
it’s much easier to create, save, and share football training programmes with players and across teams. Our software is much more customised and can build a community of users faster than traditional hosting. Windows Azure also integrates well with social
Windows Azure easily handles bulk increments of users. Traditional hosting solutions can handle steady growth in subscriptions but find it challenging to manage large bulk increments. Gentles says: “Hosters typically require long lead times
to purchase and provision extra hardware, but with Windows Azure this can be done in 10 minutes by starting another instance. This means that with Windows Azure, DrillBoard can scale easily while only paying for what it needs.”
Football coaching software reaches a wider market. Through cloud computing, DrillBoard provides a truly global service. Gentles says: “We no longer need to consider investment in physical infrastructure to promote our service around the
world. We can go beyond selling to individual coaches and reach out to football organisations, members, and young players.”
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