4-page Partner Case Study
Posted: 11/18/2010
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metaSapiens ISV Optimizes Data Browsing Tool for Online Data, Expects to Enter Global Marketplace

Fabrice Marguerie owns metaSapiens, a software development company. The company’s flagship product, Sesame Data Browser, will help developers browse, query, and view data without writing SQL queries. Sesame is compatible with OData, a web protocol developed by Microsoft that simplifies access to data from a variety of sources. With Sesame nearing completion, Marguerie began thinking about how a freelance developer could market his product to a global audience. He achieved this objective with little cost and effort by aligning Sesame with DataMarket, which is part of the Windows Azure Marketplace. DataMarket offers one-stop shopping for data using an application programming interface based on OData. Sesame connects easily to DataMarket data sets, thereby offering developers an enhanced browsing and viewing experience that Marguerie expects will help attract millions of potential customers.

Situation
Fabrice Marguerie, the owner of metaSapiens, is a Microsoft Most Valuable Professional award-winner who lives in Paris, France. His company’s flagship product, Sesame Data Browser, helps address an everyday problem for developers. “I started working on this project because I share with many developers the need for a tool that will allow me to easily browse and query data,” he explains. “Developers want to view data in a user-friendly way, but it’s not so easy to navigate and browse data when you have to write SQL queries by hand. This is time-consuming and labor intensive. The Sesame Data Browser does that work for us.”

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* If I was going to align Sesame Data Browser to any online information marketplace, it needed to support OData and meet my expectations for one-stop shopping for high-quality data. *

Fabrice Marguerie
Owner, metaSapiens

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Marguerie originally focused on building Sesame for developers to browse and query relational databases. However, he began to rethink this approach with the rising popularity of the Microsoft-developed Open Data Protocol (OData). Released under the Open Specification Promise, OData is a web protocol for querying and updating databases. Developers can use OData to expose any data source as a web-friendly data feed. They can break through data silos and increase the shared value of data and its associated business logic through the web to enable a new level of interoperability across desktops, servers, services, and tools.

While attending the Microsoft-hosted MIX conference in March 2010, Marguerie heard Microsoft announce that it would be promoting OData through www.OData.org. Marguerie took immediate steps to ensure that Sesame Data Browser became one of the official OData consumers listed on the site. “Everyone wanting to find out about this new protocol will go to www.OData.org, and when they look for a consumer tool, they can easily find Sesame there,” says Marguerie.

For Marguerie, fine-tuning Sesame to support OData offered the promise of differentiating his data browsing tool from competitors. Now he needed a way to market his product to his initial target market, developers. He saw the growing number of online data markets as a possible forum for promoting Sesame Data Browser.

“I looked at websites, such as infochimps.com and factual.com that offer collections of data sets, each with a slightly different approach,” Marguerie says. “Some offered free access to data sets but only those published by government and other public organizations. Others focused on the collaborative aspects of data sharing, meaning that they expected content providers to publish data by directly editing the data sets on the website. This approach would not appeal to a wide market.”

Marguerie was disappointed that the online data markets offered data in many different formats, such a XML, CSV (comma separated values), and XLS (Excel file format) forcing developers to use all of them to integrate the data into their applications. “If I was going to align Sesame Data Browser to any online information marketplace, it needed to support OData and meet my expectations for one-stop shopping for high-quality data,” he says.

Solution
In August 2010, Microsoft made another announcement that had even better implications for Marguerie and Sesame Data Browser. Microsoft declared that its new cloud-based information marketplace, DataMarket (a part of the Windows Azure Marketplace) would offer standard OData feeds for most of its data sets. DataMarket is a service that developers and information workers can use to easily discover, purchase, and manage premium data subscriptions in the Windows Azure platform. It is an information marketplace that brings data, imagery, and real-time web services from commercial data providers and public data sources together into a single location, under a unified provisioning and billing framework.

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* I have been working with Microsoft development tools and the Microsoft .NET Framework for long enough to know that DataMarket will provide a great environment in which to grow my business. *

Fabrice Marguerie
Owner, metaSapiens

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When Marguerie learned that DataMarket would offer consistent, REST-based OData application programming interfaces (APIs) across all its data sets, he immediately saw the labor-saving value to developers. He reasoned that DataMarket would be of interest to developers looking for a simple way to consume data for their applications, and he saw the value of support for adding service references in the Microsoft Visual Studio development system. Developers can use the DataMarket API to generate service references and embed data into their applications by using Visual Studio. “In DataMarket, you can use a single, simple protocol to query many types of data,” says Marguerie. “Here was a global marketplace with one-stop shopping for data where I could showcase the value of Sesame Data Browser.”

A Strong Business Model
Developers can use DataMarket as an attractive option for building applications with minimal overhead and administration. “I believe in the business model on which DataMarket is built because there has always been a need for people to sell and consume data,” says Marguerie. “Now that Microsoft is endorsing online data services through DataMarket, I’m even more convinced that this type of data-as-a-service marketplace will succeed.”

The varied, high-quality content available for data consumers in one location is another differentiator for DataMarket that Marguerie expects will attract developers. “The fact that partners, such as the United Nations, Weather Central, and Data.gov, have committed to the marketplace is encouraging,” says Marguerie. “For me, it is important to see that Microsoft is not working alone on the solution, that many big name players are willing to build DataMarket and the solutions around it.”

Enhancing the Browsing Experience
To capitalize on a significant potential market for his product, Marguerie built additional functionality and features into Sesame Data Browser to enhance developers’ experience browsing and querying data in DataMarket. Instead of having to write code to query and view data as they build their applications, developers can use Sesame to view the data directly with enhanced viewing, zoom-in and zoom-out, filtering, and sorting features.

“Sesame enhances an already very good data browsing experience on DataMarket,” says Marguerie. “You can browse by directly viewing the data without writing any queries. This simplifies your search for the right information. When you decide on the data you want, Sesame automatically provides you with the URL for the data you want to include in your application.”

Sesame also offers improved service operations support and HTTP basic authentication support. Developers will benefit from the advantage of being able to view images, videos, and geospatial data on maps (Figure 1).

Screenshot of the Sesame Data Browser.
Figure 1. Figure 1. Sesame Data Browser enhances the browsing experience
for developers as they consume data from the DataMarket online marketplace.
Extra functionality includes automatically displaying items on a map if
latitudinal and longitudinal information is included in the data set.

“Creating a connection to a DataMarket data set in Sesame is easy,” explains Marguerie. “First you visit https://datamarket.azure.com and sign in with a Windows Live ID to acquire your account key. Then you can browse the data sets available in the marketplace and choose which ones you would like to subscribe to. If you choose Data.gov, for example, you can visit its preview page where you will find the URL you will use to create a connection to Sesame. Once the connection is made, you can view any data within the service right in your browser—all without writing a single piece of code.”

Benefits
Marguerie is aligning his company with a data marketplace that offers developers world-class, one-stop shopping for premium commercial and public data sets. The business rationale for Marguerie to capitalize on the buzz around DataMarket is simple: The more value developers see in DataMarket, the more likely they are going to want a tool to maximize their data-browsing experience in the marketplace.

Instant Access to a Global Market
As a developer himself, Marguerie sees the value of DataMarket from the perspective of his intended customers. “DataMarket will attract top-notch development talent, the kind of customers I want for Sesame Data Browser,” he says. “Instant access to new customers around the world is an invaluable business opportunity.”

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* In DataMarket, you can use a single, simple protocol to query many types of data. Here was a global marketplace with one-stop shopping for data where I could showcase the value of Sesame Data Browser. *

Fabrice Marguerie
Owner, metaSapiens

*
Marguerie will have greater access to a large pool of potential customers because DataMarket is interoperable with Microsoft development tools. “This feature will expand the appeal of DataMarket globally because many developers use Microsoft Visual Studio development tools” he says.

And because the 600 million information workers who use Microsoft Office applications can also take advantage of DataMarket and subscribe to data sets to integrate information into their documents, spreadsheets, and presentations, Marguerie has even greater opportunities to reach more customers. “In the future, I plan to sell Sesame as data-browsing software for end users,” he says. “The more business people who are browsing data sets in DataMarket, the better I can build that part of my business. There’s nothing like the opportunity to reach millions of Microsoft Office users!”

Opportunities to Diversify Product
DataMarket is only one component of the Windows Azure platform, which also contains Microsoft SQL Azure, a cloud-based, relational database platform built on Microsoft SQL Server data management software. Marguerie has already enabled connections between Sesame and SQL Azure data sets.

“I wanted to add specific support to be able to display SQL Azure data in Sesame because I can see a lot of people are already moving to SQL Azure,” he says. “I wanted to be one of the first browsing tools to offer support for these new relational database services from Microsoft.”

Expected Savings in Marketing Costs
Marguerie plans to release Sesame Data Browser around the time that Microsoft will launch DataMarket as a subscription-based service. “My marketing plans will depend somewhat on what Microsoft communicates about DataMarket, but I’m sure that I’ll be able to save money in advertising through exposure and alignment with the marketplace,” he says. “I’ll see which way Microsoft targets its marketing, and I will adapt to and focus on the same customers.”

Marguerie hopes to gain exposure and visibility for metaSapiens by aligning the Sesame Data Browser with Microsoft, OData and DataMarket. He adds, “I have been working with Microsoft development tools and the Microsoft .NET Framework for long enough to know that DataMarket will provide a great environment in which to grow my business.”

Windows Azure Platform
The Windows Azure platform provides an excellent foundation for expanding online product and service offerings. The main components include:
  • Microsoft SQL Azure. Microsoft SQL Azure offers the first cloud-based relational and self-managed database service built on Microsoft SQL Server technologies.

  • Windows Azure. Windows Azure is the development, service hosting, and service management environment for the Windows Azure platform. Windows Azure provides developers with on-demand compute and storage to host, scale, and manage web applications on the Internet through Microsoft data centers.

  • Windows Azure AppFabric. With Windows Azure AppFabric, developers can build and manage applications more easily both on-premises and in the cloud.
    −   AppFabric Service Bus connects services and applications across network boundaries to help developers build distributed applications.
    −   AppFabric Access Control provides federated, claims-based access control for REST web services. 

  • Windows Azure Marketplace DataMarket. Developers and information workers can use the new service DataMarket to easily discover, purchase, and manage premium data subscriptions in the Windows Azure platform.

To learn more, visit:
https://datamarket.azure.com

For More Information
For more information about Microsoft products and services, call the Microsoft Sales Information Center at (800) 426-9400. In Canada, call the Microsoft Canada Information Centre at (877) 568-2495. Customers in the United States and Canada who are deaf or hard-of-hearing can reach Microsoft text telephone (TTY/TDD) services at (800) 892-5234. Outside the 50 United States and Canada, please contact your local Microsoft subsidiary. To access information using the World Wide Web, go to:
www.microsoft.com

For more information about metaSapiens products and services, contact info@metasapiens.com or visit the website at:
www.metasapiens.com

Solution Overview




Business Situation

Marguerie needed to differentiate his data browsing tool from competitors and develop a marketing plan to maximize exposure for Sesame when it becomes commercially available in early 2011.


Solution

Marguerie built support for the OData protocol into Sesame, which will enable developers to connect with data services in DataMarket, a part of the Windows Azure Marketplace.


Benefits

  • Instant access to a global market
  • Potential access to millions of Microsoft Office users
  • Opportunities to diversify product
  • Expected savings in marketing costs


Software and Services
  • Microsoft Azure
  • Microsoft Azure Marketplace DataMarket
  • Microsoft SQL Azure

Vertical Industries
IT Services

Country/Region
France

Business Need
Cloud & Server Platform

Languages
English

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