Zuora, a developer of online subscription management and billing applications, wanted to provide ISVs and developers with a way to quickly infuse cloud-based solutions with end-to-end commerce capabilities. Zuora opted to develop a toolkit for Windows Azure, a cloud operating system that provides developers with on-demand compute and storage resources to build, host, manage, and scale applications. By using Windows Azure Tools for Visual Studio and taking advantage of the interoperability and flexibility of the Windows Azure Development Fabric, Zuora was able to roll out its Zuora Toolkit for Windows Azure two weeks ahead of schedule.
Many companies are moving more business processes to the Internet to take advantage of lower costs and to reduce reliance on internal IT resources. Subscription billing and payments, a process typically managed in on-premises business systems, is a prime example of this trend.
“The subscription model is nothing new, of course,” says Jeff Yoshimura, Head of Product Marketing at Zuora, a pioneer in developing online subscription billing solutions. “But, in the past, companies had to buy expensive telecommunications billing systems to manage pricing and product bundling, and to track customer service change requests throughout the subscription lifecycle. The high cost of sourcing, maintaining, and connecting these systems with their existing business applications was a significant barrier for many e-commerce startups.”
From its founding in 2008, Zuora has emerged as the foremost provider of applications designed to help growing companies cost-effectively build and optimize their recurring revenue businesses. The company quickly garnered adoption after rolling out a portfolio of fully integrated managed applications that simplify such critical functions as pricing plan configuration, payment processing, and customer billing management. Its core offerings—Z-Billing, Z-Payments, and Z-Commerce—give companies the ability to quickly support new subscription revenue models without the need for costly infrastructure investments.
“The single most important service for ISV’s in the cloud is the ability to flexibly bill and receive payments from customers,” says Shawn Price, President and General Manager at Zuora. “Zuora removes the friction of building a payment ecosystem and manages the constant changes that come with subscription management. We’re excited to be chosen by Microsoft to offer our expertise in cloud-based billing and commerce so that the 10,000 Azure developers and customers will be able to quickly launch and monetize their applications.”
To capitalize on the burgeoning demand for a cloud-based subscription billing solution, Zuora sought to provide Microsoft ISVs and developers an easy-to- use toolkit. “Our goal was to create the building blocks for a cloud-based solution that ISVs and developers could use to automate subscription billing and usage,” says Yoshimura. “We wanted to develop it as a drop-in solution so that customers could go live with a customizable, subscription-enabled storefront and start collecting payments in 5 to 10 minutes. And, of course, we had to make sure that it met the two biggest requirements for any e-commerce solution: scalability and ironclad transaction security.”
||Windows Azure provided an easy-to-use, standards-based platform for rapidly building our toolkit and offering it to the Microsoft ecosystem of ISVs and developers.
Head of Product Marketing, Zuora
To lower internal development costs and minimize time-to-market, Zuora wanted to make the most of its team’s experience in building solutions on the Microsoft .NET Framework. And, to ensure uptake of the toolkit, Zuora wanted to ensure that it would support multiple Internet protocols and synchronize with applications based on a variety of programming languages, including Java, PHP, and Python.
Zuora chose to build its toolkit on Windows Azure. Windows Azure is a cloud service operating system that provides on-demand compute and storage resources for developing, hosting, scaling, and managing web applications through Microsoft data centers.
“We decided to build our toolkit for Windows Azure because it offers a comprehensive framework,” says Yoshimura. “We knew it would be a smart move to tap into the Microsoft .NET Framework developer and ISV network and enable them to use our toolkit for subscription billing and payments.”
Building a Subscription Billing Framework for Windows Azure Developers
The goal for the project was to complete the toolkit for Windows Azure within six weeks. The software development kit (SDK) enables developers and ISVs to connect Windows Azure applications or those written in Java, PHP, and other languages to the cloud-based Zuora subscription commerce service.
Zuora relied on Windows Azure Tools for Microsoft Visual Studio. Part of the Windows Azure SDK
, this tool set offers comprehensive functionality for creating, building, and packaging services to run in the cloud. To accelerate testing, the Zuora team used the Windows Azure Simulation Environment Development Fabric
, which provides a user interface and tools for running and managing a service locally before deploying it. The team also took advantage of IntelliTrace, a new feature in Visual Studio 2010 that provides access to a complete historical record of application execution events.
Ensuring Data Security Compliance and Interoperability
Zuora needed to ensure that the Zuora Toolkit for Windows Azure met rigorous data protection requirements in compliance with Payment Card Industry (PCI) standards. Throughout the development process, the company adhered to Microsoft Security Development Lifecycle
(SDL) guidance regarding the use of cryptographic operations in its Z-Commerce for the Cloud application. The application uses Advanced Encryption Standards
(AES) to safeguard customer data and meets standards for PCI Level 1 compliance.
|Figure 1. ISVs can use the Zuora Toolkit for Windows Azure to infuse |
cloud-based solutions with commerce capabilities in a matter of minutes.
The Zuora team also took advantage of Windows Azure Access Control Service
to enhance the security of its Z-Commerce for the Cloud solution. Windows Azure Access Control Service is an interoperable, claims-based service that provides federated authorization and authentication solutions for any resource, whether in the cloud, behind a firewall, or on a smart device. Because it uses the OAuth Web Resource Authorization Protocol (WRAP) specification—an open protocol supported by global technology vendors—it enabled developers to quickly create a claims-aware application that was highly secure and able to connect to services across multiple platforms. “We didn’t want to sacrifice interoperability for security—and vice versa,” says Yoshimura. “Because it builds on core Microsoft identity and access management technologies and uses open authentication standards, Windows Azure offers the best of both worlds, so we didn’t have to make that trade-off.”
Rolling Out the Zuora Toolkit for Windows Azure
Zuora worked closely with Microsoft as a participant in the Windows Azure Technology Adoption Program to create the Zuora Toolkit for Windows Azure. This toolkit includes documentation, APIs, and sample code for connecting Zuora subscription billing and payment processing functionality to any Windows Azure application, cloud service, website, or commerce portal.
Using this resource, ISVs and developers can add such commerce capabilities as setting up an online storefront to capture orders to their existing projects in a matter of minutes—all with complete PCI compliance. This gives emerging companies the ability to quickly operationalize pay-as-you-go business models without the need to invest in additional development resources.
“Windows Azure met all of our major requirements: It has a low learning curve and it’s an open, standards-based platform,” says Yoshimura. “So, we could move forward on this project with full confidence from day one that we’d be able to deliver an application toolkit that provides instant value to developers and ISVs.”
||Windows Azure met all of our major requirements—it has a low learning curve and it’s an open, standards-based platform.
Head of Product Marketing, Zuora
Through Zuora’s best-of-breed subscription commerce platform and Windows Azure, developers can enable subscription plans and pay-as-you-go models right from within their Window Azure applications and cloud services.
Accelerated Time-to-Market by Two Weeks
The Zuora team used existing skills and experience in working with the Microsoft .NET Framework and other Microsoft technologies to shorten the timeframe for the project. “Our team’s familiarity with the technology made it possible to develop the Zuora Toolkit for Windows Azure in four weeks, which was a full two weeks ahead of our original schedule,” says Yoshimura. “This meant we could get our toolkit in the hands of developers and ISVs even faster.”
Improved Rigor and Speed of Development Lifecycle
To help save time, developers took full advantage of Windows Azure Tools for Visual Studio. In particular, the team appreciated the availability of templates to quickly set up and configure the application, and a full tool set for testing and running it locally before deploying it to the cloud. In addition, the team used advanced debugging capabilities in Visual Studio 2010 to create production-level code in less time.
“Windows Azure provided an easy-to-use, standards-based platform for rapidly building our toolkit and offering it to the Microsoft ecosystem of ISVs and developers,” says Yoshimura. “Because it offers a low adoption curve and a fully integrated framework for building and publishing cloud services, all from within Visual Studio, Windows Azure provided the ideal environment to build this toolkit quickly and easily.”
Empowered ISVs to More Easily Monetize Applications
Through the Zuora Toolkit for Windows Azure, ISVs and developers can access prebuilt infrastructure for automating such activities as displaying products and pricing and processing credit card transactions online—all with PCI Level 1 security compliance. This gives cloud services vendors the ability to develop, run, manage, and profit from their applications, written in PHP, Java, or a number of other languages, without investing in costly billing system technology.
“We’re excited to bring our expertise in cloud-based commerce to the growing community of Windows Azure developers to help them launch and expand their recurring revenue businesses,” says Yoshimura. “Windows Azure provided the complete tool set we needed to quickly extend our technology to the cloud. Now, we can build on our success to continue bringing market-leading innovation to our customers.”
Windows Azure provides developers the functionality to build applications that span from consumer to enterprise scenarios. The key components of Windows Azure are:
- Windows Azure. Windows Azure is a development, service hosting, and service management environment. It provides developers with on-demand compute, storage, bandwidth, content delivery, middleware, and marketplace capabilities to build, host, and scale web applications through Microsoft data centers.
- Microsoft SQL Azure. Microsoft SQL Azure is a self-managed, multitenant relational cloud database service built on Microsoft SQL Server technologies. It provides built-in high availability, fault tolerance, and scale-out database capabilities, as well as cloud-based data synchronization and reporting, to build custom enterprise and web applications and extend the reach of data assets.
To learn more, visit:
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:
For more information about Zuora products and services, call (650) 641-3777 or visit the website at: