ExelGroup was able to drive operating costs down to 1/10 after opting for Soft1’s cloud ERP solution and turn its IT focus to business-related critical information management. Furthermore, having recently initiated their expansion efforts to the Balkan area, they avoided spending on infrastructure that would be useless, if the expansion proves unsuccessful, and achieved real-time flexibility in resources to support their needs should the endeavor becomes a success and the company grows in a high pace.Situation
ExelGroup was founded in 1978 and is a leading provider in the market of metal structures and photovoltaic systems (having a production capacity of 75 MW per year). ExelGroup owns two (2) bioclimatic production facilities in Thessaloniki and Kilkis and a
||Our strategic objective in terms of cost reduction, resource flexibility & IT simplification is fulfilled by selecting the Soft1 on Windows Azure service for our operations
branch office in Athens. Prior to moving their ERP system to the cloud, the company utilized Soft1's ERP solution on premise to meet its continuously increasing requirements for optimized management decision making and information distribution within the company. Thus, they operated a system with a central installation at their headquarters and two peripheral installations at the local facilities with online communication between them, thus creating a complex environment with increased management requirements and significant operating costs.
More specifically, in order to assure the smooth and efficient operation of ExelGroup, two-way communication is essential between the central IT system and both the ExelGroup partners’ network nationwide and its network of salespeople (for product availability, information on changes in pricing policies, sales quotations, simultaneous implementation of new policies and procedures, etc.). These requirements will increase significantly in 2011 as ExelGroup is expanding abroad aiming to complete this growth by the end of 2012 through the creation of production facilities and promotion centers in the Balkans.
To improve efficiency at all operational levels, ExelGroup has been looking for a technological solution that could be implemented easily and without significant burden to its everyday operation and especially for a solution that could meet the needs of the company’s escalating growth based on actual requirements, avoiding unexploited (unnecessary) investments. Furthermore, the IT staff sought a system that would allow them to utilize their available time on tasks with higher added value to the enterprise, such as improving the quality of information and spend less time on technical work supporting the IT infrastructure (network maintenance, updates, data protection, backups, etc.).Solution
The solution, “Soft1 on Windows Azure”, is provided by Soft One Technologies S.A., one of the very first Greek ISVs to provide SaaS business solutions (since 2007). It’s customer base for SaaS solutions consists of more than 500 companies. Soft1 software and services are suitable for companies of any size and business activity supporting several languages such as English, Romanian, Bulgarian, Russian and Turkish.
The transition of the ExelGroup system to the cloud was completed in November 2010, by moving the traditional on-premise Soft1 ERP installation to the Windows Azure platform.
|Architectural diagram of "Soft1 on Azure" ERP Solution for ExelGroup|
Soft1 ERP runs on the state-of-the-art Microsoft data center infrastructure and now all users (internal workforce and external partners/sales force in Greece and abroad) use the same Soft1 software that they have already been using so far to handle their daily tasks, but more efficiently and easily via a simple Internet connection.
The access to the system, the data transfer, storage and backup are performed following certified secure procedures (different security levels, data encryption, etc.). These procedures, as well as the continuous system availability are guaranteed by a certain Microsoft SLA (Service Level Agreement). Thus, ExelGroup provides all its users with the capability of continuous and secure use of the system, practically from anywhere and anytime.
Lower Cost. ExelGroup utilizes the new Soft1 on Windows Azure cloud service enjoying significant economic benefits since transferring its system to the cloud does not require the procurement of any new hardware and software. The company uses the IT resources needed with a small fraction of the cost that would be required for the on-premise operation.
The cost for the system administration is also reduced dramatically. No installation is required for each user, no version updates, no backup systems, etc., while the cost of these services is included in the subscription fee of the new Soft1 on Windows Azure cloud service. Furthermore, the cost of the necessary telecommunications services is significantly reduced, since accessing Soft1 and exchanging information does not require installing and maintaining complex and costly VPN network to meet the communications needs. Therefore, the use of S1 on Windows Azure service provides a significant reduction in the total cost of software use (Total cost of ownership) of the company.
High Flexibility. ExelGroup’ system is formed on the basis of the actual needs for every specific subscription period regarding the number of users, the content of the software, the required computing power, the storage space, etc. Respectively, the subscription fee to the service is formed based on the pay as you go / pay as you grow model covering the diversifications of the corporate IT needs as and when the company grows.
Increased Productivity. With the adoption of the remote cloud computing technologies of Soft1 on Windows Azure service, the ExelGroup ERP system is available to its executives and partners from anywhere there is a connection to the Internet, whenever they need it, virtually eliminating the pre-existing constraints and commitments, increasing the staff productivity and improving the levels of service all partners and end customers enjoy. Furthermore, the new SoftOne cloud service minimizes the time-consuming and demanding technical operations for maintenance and system availability, reducing the overall IT cost for ExelGroup and utilizing the resources of the IT department more efficiently.
The customer’s view
“Our strategic objective is fulfilled by selecting the Soft1 on Windows Azure service for our operation and based on the current evidence we will soon have impressive results.
Since 2009 ExelGroup “runs” a cost reduction & efficiency increase program with a goal to improve the level of competitiveness of its products. Focused on the so-called mission critical areas of our company we took the strategic decision to fully utilize the Internet so as to reduce the ERP system administration and communication costs. Simultaneously, the company is undergoing rapid growth, therefore there was an urgent need for a software system / service that would provide the necessary flexibility regarding the number of users, the database size, the data storage needs, as well as matching the relevant charges with the actual system use and flexibly covering our scaling of growth. Furthermore, we wanted to adopt reliable and low-cost technology solutions for the remote use of all the system functionality, so as to improve the delivery of information processes and services to our sales force and partners.”
Stavros Triantafillou– Managing Director ExelGroup SA
The vendor’s view
“SoftOne, carrying an extensive experience on business software running as a service, has identified the following attributes of the Windows Azure platform during the enrichment of its cloud computing offerings with the implementation of Soft1 ERP on Windows Azure service:
Integrity. Although the platform initially seems restrictive due to the development in the strictly defined environment of "Azure Roles", in practice this proves to be one of the strong points of Windows Azure. These "restrictions" of the environment turn out to be an advantage, because while you do not have the opportunity to work as freely as you may wish, there is great safety, reliability and zero problems (that may arise in an environment you have to "create" on your own).
||The Windows Azure Platform enabled us to concentrate on our “core business", the development of software, by relieving us from providing support to IT issues
CTO, Soft One Technologies S.A.
Flexibility. Moreover, while the platform seems at first rather “closed” (MS-friendly), you can always find ways to incorporate other development technologies. Thus, although a large part of the Services performed in Soft1 ERP are developed with Microsoft technologies (Visual Studio -.Net), an equally large part has been developed with non-Microsoft technologies. Furthermore, there are no limitations to the capabilities of the system. On the contrary, the system can be adapted to the operational needs and requirements of our customers (for example, supplying more instances during working hours or during periods when there is stretching of our system).
Low cost. Where did the solution really "fit" the needs of SoftOne? In the Database field (SQL Azure): To create reliable solutions in Datacenter or Cloud environment you need expensive hardware and software to start (cluster servers, expensive hot backups), even if you ultimately need a small database for a middle size customer. With SQL Azure you can find a much cheaper startup environment for the cloud. The implementation of corresponding reliability in Microsoft’s competitors cloud environments require expensive “equipment” and only if there is a large customers base this cost can be depreciated. Therefore, Windows Azure makes it easier to support the database scalability due to the existence of SQL Azure.
Finally, for SoftOne, a major benefit that justified the selection of Windows Azure was the minimization of the IT Cost and the “transfer” of the support procedures from the developers to the "system's technicians". SoftOne is a software development company and the expertise of its people is mainly to develop than to support systems. The Windows Azure environment enabled us to concentrate on our “core business", that is, the software development and relieved us from providing support to IT issues that would burden our people and waste our precious time."
Dimitris Valachis – CTO Soft One Technologies S.A.
Windows Azure provides developers with on-demand compute, storage, networking and content delivery capabilities to host, scale and manage Web applications on the Internet through Microsoft data centers. Windows Azure serves as the development, service hosting and service management environment for the Windows Azure platform. Windows Azure is now commercially available in 40 countries.
The Windows Azure platform includes a cloud services operating system and a set of developer services, which provide the functionality to build applications that span from consumer Web to enterprise scenarios. Windows Azure and SQL Azure are the key components of the Windows Azure platform.
For more information about Microsoft Windows Azure Platform, please visit: www.azure.comFor 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:
For more information about Soft one Technologies SA products and services, call +30 211 1022222 or visit the website at:
For more information about ExelGroup products and services, call +30 2310 722536 or visit the website at:
www.exelgroup.grThis case study is for informational purposes only. MICROSOFT MAKES NO WARRANTIES, EXPRESS OR IMPLIED, IN THIS SUMMARY.