Broad Reach Mobility wanted to create a full-featured solution for the field-service industry—but wanted to avoid the cost and complexity of on-premise software and managing their own data center. The firm decided to build its new ServiceReach solution on the Windows Azure platform. Windows Azure provides the scalability, flexibility, and cost-effectiveness that helped Broad Reach Mobility deploy a compelling field-service solution that can be used by any sized business.
Broad Reach Mobility began as a value added reseller of equipment for the field services industry, providing electricians, HVAC technicians, and other kinds of mobile, skilled workers with devices to help them do their jobs. The company’s immersion in the industry, however, led to eye-opening revelations.
“The entire mobility space in this industry was crying out for innovation,” says Jeff Fildey, President of Broach Reach Mobility. “We did not see any clear solutions that could really improve the workflow of our field-service customers, especially the small and medium-sized businesses that are such a big part of the field-service industry.”
Other solutions existed, but most were custom developed and geared towards large enterprises. “Typical field-service solutions are locally hosted applications that reside on a customer’s site,” Fildey says. “That kind of installation usually comes with high start-up costs and ongoing management concerns.”
Broad Reach Mobility management felt there was a large opportunity for a flexible, comprehensive solution that could provide small and medium-sized field-service businesses with enterprise-level functionality plus the flexibility to select and configure the features they need to run their operations.
The challenge was to figure out how to deliver a solution efficiently and cost effectively. “The whole idea of supporting the infrastructure that is necessary to deliver a hosted application was daunting,” says Jonathan Stevens, Software Architect for Broad Reach Mobility. “That was a big question mark, as was the price. We didn’t want to spend $200,000 or more for a data center if we could avoid it.”Solution
Broad Reach Mobility created a new solution, called ServiceReach, on the Windows Azure platform. ServiceReach is a mobile field workforce application that is hosted on Windows Azure and is accessed through smartphones. As part of its decision, Broad Reach Mobility took advantage of its participation in the Microsoft Platform Ready program, which provides free training and technical support.
“Windows Azure was the only cloud platform that provided the complete package that we needed – the infrastructure, the scalability and redundancy, the management tools, and a rich development environment that fit our existing in-house skill sets,” says Fildey. “Plus its pay-as-you-go model allows us to add computing resources only when they are needed.”
||Windows Azure and the SQL Azure Database allowed us to avoid the headaches that usually accompany a typical client-server software application.”
Broad Reach Mobility
ServiceReach includes a web management console for configuring the solution to fit specific business needs. Features include flexible dispatch options, geo-spatial tracking, messaging, asset management, and reporting. Small businesses can tailor ServiceReach so the features—and associated cost— fit their needs. The solution, however, can also be scaled to accommodate very large organizations.
ServiceReach is hosted in Windows Azure web roles, and was developed using Microsoft ASP.NET MVC. ServiceReach uses the SQL Azure Database for data storage and the Windows Communication Foundation to communicate with field-based clients. The Windows Mobile version of the client software is managed by the Microsoft .NET Compact Framework.
As ServiceReach evolves, Broad Reach Mobility plans to add other Windows Azure components. These include the Windows Azure AppFabric Cache Service, which the company will use for session management and for maximizing overall application performance. The company also plans to use new Windows Azure reporting capabilities that will be based on SQL Server Reporting Services technology.Benefits
Using the Windows Azure platform allowed Broad Reach Mobility to launch a powerful, flexible, and affordable field-service solution. ServiceReach is highly scalable to accommodate small businesses or large organizations. The solution can be easily configured by business customers to suit their specific business processes—and can be easily modified and updated by Broad Reach Mobility. Windows Azure also provides a rich platform for growth for Broad Reach Mobility as it pushes into new vertical markets.
Windows Azure provides a highly scalable platform that helps Broad Reach Mobility fulfill its goal of providing a field-service solution that can fit the widest range of customers, from small operations to the largest enterprises. “By hosting ServiceReach in the Windows Azure cloud, we can easily scale our solution up or down to support large and small customers alike,” says Fildey. “Windows Azure and the SQL Azure Database helped us avoid the headaches that usually accompany a typical client-server software application. With Windows Azure, computing resources can be configured and added simply and quickly to meet the specific situations for each customer.”
Easily Customized, Modified
By deploying ServiceReach in the cloud and using a smartphone-based client, Broad Reach Mobility can make quick modifications to a highly customizable field-service solution. “We are continually looking for ways to enhance the functionality and value of ServiceReach,” says Fildey. “We have goals for new features, such as integrating with on-premise customer software and integrating with Bing Maps. Windows Azure and the Microsoft development tools allow us to easily make changes and quickly update the solution—a perfect complement to the flexibility that customers have to add or modify features that they need.”
Rich Platform for Growth
Windows Azure helps companies like Broad Reach Mobility innovate and push quickly into new markets. “As a small business ourselves, Windows Azure lets us put our money where it is best spent—innovating our core technology instead of investing in a backend infrastructure that has to be managed and maintained,” Fildey says. “And due to the way Windows Azure is priced and delivered, our revenue and cost models line up because our costs grow only as our revenue increases. The cloud resources behind Windows Azure can be linked directly to our customer needs—and to our business goals of expanding into various vertical markets.”
Related Resources and Information
To learn more about the Windows Azure platform, visit the website at www.windowsazure.com, or:
Watch: Channel 9’s interview with Broad Reach Mobility’s Software Architect and Senior Developer.
Download: Windows Azure SDK
For More Information
For more information about Microsoft Cloud Services, go to: www.microsoft.com/cloud This case study is for informational purposes only. MICROSOFT MAKES NO WARRANTIES, EXPRESS OR IMPLIED, IN THIS SUMMARY.
To view the video documentation of Broad Reach Mobility and other success stories visit the Microsoft Success Web site at: www.microsoft.com/business/success/
See how other companies successfully implemented money and time saving solutions in their business using the Windows Azure platform. View an additional case study here.