Altaven wanted to create a Web-based version of its corporate tax software to satisfy customer demand. To ensure that the company was developing an effective solution, it took advantage of the Microsoft® Technology Center to validate the use of an architecture that relies on Windows Server® 2008 Terminal Services. With the solution, it was able to add Web support and a host of other features to the product in time to meet an aggressive launch date.
Altaven, based in Paris, France, produces tax optimization software. The company’s premier product, Optim’is premium, enables corporations to aggregate financial information to simplify auditing and reporting and to ensure regulatory compliance. The product also helps enterprises realize annual savings by consolidating statements from multiple subsidiaries to take advantage of tax optimization rules. More than 200 of the largest French corporations rely on Altaven software. In 2009, the company was selected for the Microsoft® IDEES program, a France-based initiative designed to accelerate the growth and business development of Microsoft start up partners.
The first version of the Optim’is software was developed using the C++ programming language. Altaven planned to release a new version of the product that also included Web-based functionality, for which it saw a growing customer demand, but needed a delivery framework that would allow them to accomplish this goal quickly. Frédéric Queudret, Architect at Altaven, says, “Optim’is was a pure, Windows®-based, client/server application, and it was a huge challenge for us to migrate it to a Web scenario in time for our launch date.”
With less than nine months to migrate the solution to a new environment, the company considered using Windows Server® 2008 Terminal Services Web Access (TS Web Access), part of the Windows Server 2008 operating system. But, says Queudret, “Windows Server 2008 was still a beta version at the time. We had to ensure that the product could provide the stability, security, and performance our customers needed.”
Altaven also wanted to update the Optim’is code to the Microsoft Visual C#® programming language and the Microsoft .NET Framework, and incorporate other capabilities that customers were demanding, such as a workflow feature, integration with Active Directory® Domain Services, and the ability to send tax data directly from Optim’is through a company’s e-mail application to other involved parties.
||The MTC gave us access to the experts we needed. It was a very efficient engagement, and it helped us make the right decisions about our product.
||Sacha Hodzaj Cofounder and Chief Executive Officer, Altaven
In the summer of 2008, Microsoft invited Altaven to attend a two-day Architecture Design Session at its Microsoft Technology Center (MTC) in Paris. During the session, Microsoft architects proposed a design to Altaven using TS Web Access, which would enable the company to provide a Web-based solution without a lengthy restructuring of code. “The solution looked viable,” says Queudret. “The next step was to ensure that the architecture would meet our customers’ security requirements, scale appropriately, and be fully reliable.”
Altaven then engaged in a two-week Proof-of-Concept workshop at the MTC. During the workshop, Altaven worked closely with Microsoft architects to create a prototype of its new solution. The teams deployed the TS Web Access to make Optim'is available to users through a Web browser. The Terminal Services Gateway role allows authorized users to connect to resources on internal corporate networks, and the Terminal Services Session Broker role distributes the session load among servers. “We needed to make sure that this new feature of Windows Server was the right answer for us and for our customers,” explains Queudret. The prototype also employed Microsoft Application Virtualization (previously called SoftGrid®) technology. Altaven worked with Microsoft to customize a landing page that functions as a company-branded virtual desktop and provides access to the Optim’is software. The prototype was modeled on a fully redundant architecture to ensure reliability.
Altaven left the MTC with a working prototype of a Web-based version of the Optim’is software. The prototype and the test results from the MTC were used to produce a white paper that helps Altaven customers evaluate the TS Web Access–based architecture. In October 2008, Altaven launched Optim’is premium with Web access in front of more than 1,000 of its current and potential customers. The new version is based on the Microsoft .NET Framework and includes 60 new and enhanced features.
The MTC gave Altaven access to technical expertise that enabled it to bring a new product with customer-requested features and Web functionality to market quickly. With the backing of Microsoft, Altaven has higher confidence in its product and has boosted its credibility with customers.
- Access to Experts. At the MTC, key decision makers from Altaven spent dedicated time with Microsoft architects. Sacha Hodzaj, Cofounder and Chief Executive Officer at Altaven, says, “The MTC gave us access to the experts we needed. It was an efficient engagement that helped us make the right decisions about our product.”
This was especially important because Altaven was deploying on a prerelease version of Windows Server 2008. “Because it was beta software, we didn’t have the in-house expertise to be able to best configure and optimize the platform,” says Queudret.
- Higher Confidence. The white paper, a by-product of the MTC engagement co-authored by Altaven and Microsoft, helps build credibility with Optim’is customers. “It boosts our image to have Microsoft behind us as our technical sponsor,” says Laurent Ludvig, Altaven Cofounder and Chief Operating Officer.
Queudret adds, “Our experience at the MTC provided us with a vision for how the technologies will continue to evolve and how that evolution can fit into the strategy of the large companies we serve.”
- Ability to Meet Customer Demand. The MTC helped Altaven accelerate production of Optim’is premium. With less than nine months to ready the product for release, the time-savings was critical. “To produce a stable product, it was essential that we use the best practices gained through the MTC.” When asked how much more quickly the MTC engagement enabled the company to launch the product, Queudret answers, “It was not just quicker, it was crucial. Quite simply, had we not attended the MTC, we would not have been able to provide Web support with the October release.”