With growing demand for software as a service, AFAS looked to deliver its on-premises enterprise resource planning (ERP) software over the Internet. The service’s performance was key, but its price point was equally important. The company successfully delivered AFAS Online by using Microsoft SQL Server 2008 data management software. Now, more than 3,000 customers use the reliable, cost-effective service, and AFAS revenues have increased by 22 percent this year.
AFAS, headquartered at Leusden in the Netherlands, delivers ERP software solutions to business customers. Launched in 1996, the company also has offices in Belgium and on the island of Curaçao, and a client base of more than 10,000 customers ranging from small to large organizations.
The firm has seen major changes in the ERP market over the past years. While all businesses once installed software on their own servers, many now demand to access programs as a service online. AFAS needed to develop its business model in line with these changes to ensure continued success. What’s more, by delivering its ERP solution over the Internet, the company could also target a completely new audience. Rolf de Jong, Director of Architecture and Innovation at AFAS, explains: “With an online version of our ERP solution, we could help businesses that didn’t have the resources to build or manage their own IT environments.”
Microsoft SQL Server had been at the heart of the ERP solution from AFAS for more than 10 years. But, with the development of AFAS Online, it was time to evaluate the market and choose the right database to support an online service. It was crucial that the database helped AFAS price the service competitively to attract new customers. De Jong says: “Scalability was also important. It had to be easy and cost effective to expand the solution with the growing needs of our clients.”Solution
Having looked at databases built on Oracle and open-source technology, AFAS decided to remain with SQL Server. “SQL Server really fitted the online business model that we had planned. It was simple to virtualise and offered great scalability and pricing to make AFAS Online a compelling proposition to all businesses,” says de Jong.
In addition, the database solution offered long-term advantages as AFAS looked to develop its ERP solution as a cloud-based service. “In the back of our minds, we had the idea of SQL Server supporting cloud versions of our ERP service,” de Jong says. “We already decided to develop our service on the Windows Azure cloud platform and knew that SQL Azure had a lot in common with SQL Server.”
Next, AFAS began work with hosting provider LeaseWeb to bring AFAS Online to customers. To maximize its advantage in a relatively new market, the company set a tight timeline for delivery. LeaseWeb built the service’s underlying hardware platform, a virtualized infrastructure with round-the-clock technical support in a carbon-neutral data center. AFAS engineers then implemented the AFAS Online solution with Microsoft SQL Server 2008 as the database. De Jong says: “Because of our SQL Server expertise and the hardware skills of LeaseWeb, we were able to launch the service in little more than three months.”
More than 3,000 businesses now use the AFAS Online service, a number that continues to expand. They vary in size from small businesses, which might have less than one gigabyte of data in SQL Server 2008, to large enterprises with hundreds of gigabytes of data spread across a number of databases. “Our market has changed completely,” says de Jong. “The online service is now the first choice for the majority of new customers. Fewer and fewer consider installing software on-premises.” Benefits
AFAS has increased sales and opened up a new market as a result of the AFAS Online service. Due to the solution’s cost effectiveness, ease of use, and performance—which stems in part from the SQL Server 2008 database—AFAS continues to see client numbers grow. It also has a platform that it can easily develop to deliver as a cloud service.
AFAS boosts revenues by 22 percent. Since launching AFAS Online with SQL Server, AFAS has seen a significant increase in income due to the success of the offering. “As a result of the pricing and performance of SQL Server, AFAS Online has been a success, helping increase our revenues by 22 percent this year,” says de Jong.
Company sees 100 percent growth in online service. Customer numbers continue to rise, helping AFAS expand year on year. “With AFAS Online, we’ve been able to pursue a different type of customer—namely, one that doesn’t have the resources to build and support an IT infrastructure,” says de Jong. “They gain the same high performance as an on-premises ERP system built on Microsoft software. In 2011, we’ve already doubled AFAS Online customers.”
Customer satisfaction rates are high. Feedback from clients has been good, particularly in terms of the stability and ease of use of AFAS Online. “Our solution is designed so that employees can use the ERP system effectively with minimal training. The advantage of SQL Server is that customers enjoy the same reliable performance every day,” says de Jong.
AFAS creates foundation for cloud-based expansion. AFAS is now developing its ERP software to run on Windows Azure and Microsoft SQL Azure. “We’ve made a long-term commitment to Microsoft, so that we can take full advantage of the move to cloud-based IT services,” says de Jong. This case study is for informational purposes only. MICROSOFT MAKES NO WARRANTIES, EXPRESS OR IMPLIED, IN THIS SUMMARY.