Based in Hungary, CASON supplies solutions for monitoring geographically wide-area industrial systems. It developed its SIMSIM AMI application, which manages real-time data coming from electricity, gas, and water meters and can build a consumption profile to help achieve maximum efficiency. To serve its customers worldwide, CASON needed a cloud solution. Working closely with Microsoft, CASON adopted the Windows Azure platform as its standard architecture for the SIMSIM AMI application. The company used Microsoft Visual Studio Team Foundation Server 2010 to manage development. The solution employs Microsoft SQL Azure as a cloud-based relational database and designed a user interface using Microsoft Silverlight. CASON and its customers benefit from fast deployments, extreme scalability, and the peace of mind and long-term support that come from using Microsoft technologies.
Based in Hungary, CASON supplies solutions for monitoring geographically extensive industrial systems—for example, oil and gas pipelines, power supply networks, and water distribution systems. Established in 1992, the company has more than 80 employees and annual revenues of U.S.$7.2 million. CASON customers include energy companies and utility service providers in Central and Eastern Europe, the Persian Gulf, and North Africa.
“We have been developing our software solutions for nearly ten years with Microsoft technology,” says Ferenc Szakacs, Chief Executive Officer of CASON. “We were among the first in the field of industrial automation in Hungary to adopt Microsoft. We had a positive experience with Microsoft right from the start and we have stayed with them ever since. Microsoft technology is the keystone of our development strategy.”
In 2009, CASON started developing its SIMSIM AMI
(advanced metering infrastructure) application, which manages data coming from electrical energy, gas, and water consumers. It registers consumption data and builds a consumption profile to help achieve maximum efficiency in distribution. This high-definition profiling information creates an opportunity to shape habits by offering direct feedback to consumers.
For example, consumers can observe and analyze their own profiles and expenses during peak and base periods by using their smartphones. The direct feedback can result in lower consumption peaks and make energy production, transportation, and distribution more efficient.
The Last Mile Balance feature of SIMSIM helps utility companies to detect, locate, and eliminate technical and commercial losses in the last mile of distribution.
||We can respond immediately to new demands. This would be nearly impossible for a small Hungarian company like CASON without Windows Azure and cloud computing.
Chief Executive Officer, CASON
CASON industrial customers use the application on 95 percent of oil pipelines and 80 percent of gas pipelines in Hungary, and on 50 percent of gas pipelines in Romania. The company was looking for a solution that was international, flexible, scalable, and cost effective. It needed to deploy quickly and implement a stable and long-term solution. The company was looking for a cloud solution.
“Previously, we installed servers for our customers and configured communication systems according to the peculiarities of local markets. This meant overcoming cultural differences and doing months of work to prepare a functional solution,” says Szakacs. “With cloud computing, the infrastructure is ready right from the beginning and can be accessed from anywhere.”Solution
CASON had originally tried to develop the automated metering product with open source code, but it wanted to make sure that the life span of the software was ensured. The company is a Microsoft Partner and was able to start working with Windows Azure a year prior to its release. It adopted the Windows Azure platform as its de facto standard architecture for the SIMSIM AMI application to provide a framework for intelligent data collection in extensive industrial systems.
Windows Azure is a cloud services operating system that serves as 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.
To build the application for the Windows Azure platform, CASON developers used Microsoft Visual Studio Team Foundation Server 2010, a collaboration platform that automates the software delivery process and provides tools needed to manage software development projects. Several development groups can work on the same code in this environment simultaneously. Additionally, the SIMSIM AMI application can be customized to meet the demands of individual customers.
“Previously, we consumed time and energy deciding what kind of server, operating system, and database we should use,” says Szakacs. “Now, because of Windows Azure, this architecture is available right from the beginning and we can focus on features.”
The application includes database functionality that uses Microsoft SQL Azure, a cloud-based relational database built on SQL Server technologies. It’s a highly available, scalable, and multitenant database service hosted by Microsoft.
The SIMSIM AMI application provides both the operators and the consumers with a user interface based on Microsoft Silverlight for viewing consumption data and other data on a computer. Users can also access the information from their mobile phones or by using RSS feeds. CASON is preparing a similar interface for a Wi-Fi–connected digital picture frame.
||We can respond to new demands extremely flexibly and fast. This would be extremely difficult for a small Hungarian company like CASON without Windows Azure and cloud computing.
Chief Executive Officer, CASON
For customers with regulations or preferences that don’t allow for the use of external data centers, CASON creates a private cloud. It also can deploy a hybrid system that runs the application on both the Windows Azure cloud and a private cloud. For one customer, the company installed SIMSIM AMI locally for the test operation and then scaled some functions to the cloud.
“It is very important for us to be able to offer our customers a solution that demonstrates the cost-effectiveness of the SIMSIM AMI application immediately,” says Tamas Boday, Manager of Development at CASON. “With Windows Azure, the application is extremely scalable. It can handle the data of several millions or tens of millions of customers as reliably and effectively as it handles the data of a few customers during a pilot program.”
CASON is working with Microsoft on the SIMSIM AMI deployment, and it’s using the solution on nine projects at the same time. The company is planning to make other industrial applications compatible with Windows Azure. “It is very important that we serve all our clients quickly and at a high standard,” says Szakacs. “To do that, we are expanding the size of our development team, but it’s support from Microsoft and the Windows Azure platform capabilities that guarantee that we can succeed at this business opportunity.” Benefits
By deploying the SIMSIM AMI application with Windows Azure, CASON benefits from a fast deployment timeline, cost-effective and flexible scalability, and long-term technology solutions. “We were on the market with a new product and service and couldn’t foresee how many clients would be installing the solution within a given time period,” says Boday. “However, this caused no trouble because of the fast, flexible, and cost-effective scaling
available with the Windows Azure platform.”
Offering services for international energy companies and utility service providers is a huge task with respect to both time and geography. With the SIMSIM AMI application running on the Windows Azure platform, CASON can install a test operation at a customer’s site in half a day.
“We can respond immediately to new demands,” says Szakacs. “This would be nearly impossible for a small Hungarian company like CASON without Windows Azure and cloud computing.”
CASON customers provide geographically extensive services, often in several countries, and from several sites. With the SIMSIM AMI running on Windows Azure, scalability and load distribution is ensured even when the cloud environment is within the company. It can be scaled cost-effectively to handle even the data of tens of millions of meters. “Our application is scalable and is always available for our customers,” says Boday. “I am convinced that Windows Azure and cloud computing will fundamentally change the future of industrial information services.”
Because of the nature of the business, CASON needs solutions that can serve its customers in the utility service sector in the long term. “These investments are for a minimum of ten years,” says Szakacs. “The Windows Azure platform makes it possible for CASON to succeed with international clients on a global scale. We’re confident that Microsoft products and technologies can support this long life cycle.”
Windows Azure Platform
The Windows Azure platform provides an excellent foundation for expanding online product and service offerings. The main components include:
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.
Microsoft SQL Azure. Microsoft SQL Azure offers the first cloud-based relational and self-managed database service built on Microsoft SQL Server 2008 technologies.
Windows Azure platform AppFabric. With Windows Azure platform 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.
Microsoft "Dallas." Developers and information workers can use the new service code-named Dallas to easily discover, purchase, and manage premium data subscriptions in the Windows Azure platform.
To learn more about the Windows Azure platform, visit: For More Information
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