To meet customer demand, AppPoint wanted to provide a cloud-based version of its process automation platform that would integrate with customers’ existing systems. The company migrated to Windows Azure and developed an automated artwork management system for a customer in eight weeks. AppPoint lowered the barrier for customer adoption, reached new markets, and is releasing 20 more cloud-based solutions.
AppPoint is an independent software vendor and a member of the Microsoft Partner Network that provides process automation and system integration services to enterprises. At the core of its solutions is a business-application infrastructure with a unique model-driven development environment to help simplify the development process. AppPoint developed the platform on Microsoft products and technologies, including the Microsoft .NET Framework 4 and Microsoft SQL Server 2008 data management software.
AppPoint traditionally used the platform to develop solutions that were deployed on-premises at customer locations, but AppPoint noticed interest from its customers for cloud-based computing solutions. “There’s a significant demand and strategic commitment from customers to take advantage of cloud-computing technologies,” says Venki Muthana, Chief Executive Officer at AppPoint. In fact, several of its customers had previously deployed AppPoint solutions by using third-party hosting providers, but with limited success. “Customers will attempt cloud-based deployment, but struggle to then integrate the solution with their enterprise resource planning [ERP] systems and still have to invest in additional software for virtual machines—they don’t get the benefits of true cloud computing with other providers,” says Muthana.
One such customer is Biocon, a prominent biotechnology company in India that earned revenues of approximately U.S.$516 million in 2010. As part of its manufacturing process, Biocon manages artwork for drug labels, leaflets, and packages. The precision process is regulated by the Food and Drug Administration and involves multiple stakeholders and approval cycles.
The artwork management process at Biocon, however, was a manual, paper-based process that was time-consuming and, even more importantly, error-prone. Errors in the artwork can lead to expensive product recalls. Biocon therefore turned to AppPoint for a cloud-based solution that would speed the artwork process and minimize the manual, error-prone processes. Solution
To meet customer demand for cloud-based process automation solutions, AppPoint had developed a version of its existing business
||Developing this application would have taken us 8 to 10 months and required infrastructure resources. With Windows Azure, we had the solution up and running in less than eight weeks.
Chief Information Officer, Biocon
process automation platform on Windows Azure. The company chose Windows Azure because it was already familiar with the technology. “Windows Azure was the obvious choice for our platform, which is already built on the .NET Framework,” says Rajasekar Shanmugam, Chief Technology Officer at AppPoint. “In addition, Windows Azure offers a complete end-to-end architecture.”
When Biocon approached AppPoint, the company used its new automation platform, called AppsOnAzure, to develop an automated artwork management system for Biocon in only eight weeks. The artwork management system automates and controls the entire artwork life cycle process—from concept to product—and eliminates the paper-based approach.
The web-based application runs in web roles in Windows Azure, which serves as the Microsoft cloud services development, hosting, and management environment. Biocon employees can upload documents and files, which are processed through worker roles in Windows Azure and stored in Blob Storage. The company uses Microsoft SQL Azure to store its relational data, including product information for the drugs it manufactures. AppPoint implemented Windows Azure Caching, which is a distributed, in-memory, application cache service that helps speed access to data stored in the cloud. AppPoint used Windows Azure Service Bus to connect to Microsoft Dynamics, which is the on-premises ERP system that Biocon uses.
Though AppPoint developed the system for Biocon, the company found that the solution is relevant across a variety of industries, and already has several customers evaluating the solution. It licenses the solution on an unlimited-user basis, and customers can either sign up for Windows Azure themselves, paying for hosting and storage on a per-use basis directly with Microsoft, or they can choose to have AppPoint manage instances of Windows Azure for them and pay a flat-rate monthly subscription fee. Benefits
As a result of using Windows Azure to develop a cloud-based version of its business process automation platform, AppPoint has:
Reduced time-to-market. AppPoint has reduced development time and can bring solutions to market at a quicker pace than with on-premises solutions. “The development process is so straightforward with Windows Azure that we expect to have 20 more cloud-based process automation solutions ready for customers to evaluate in less than eight months,” says Shanmugam.
Lowered barriers to adoption. The short development time, coupled with less investment in infrastructure, helps entice more customers to adopt automation solutions from AppPoint, just as Biocon did. “Developing this application would have taken us 8 to 10 months and required infrastructure resources,” says Radhakrishnan Menon, Chief Information Officer at Biocon. “With Windows Azure and AppsOnAzure, we had the solution up and running in less than eight weeks.”
Improved ability to reach new customers. As a Microsoft Partner, AppPoint receives ongoing support from Microsoft, which helps the company reach new customers. “While some customers embrace the cloud, other customers can be more hesitant without proper education about the cloud-computing model,” explains Muthanna. “Being part of the Microsoft partner community and working with the Windows Azure Incubation sales team to help educate customers on the benefits of cloud computing has a tremendous influence on our ability to tap into new markets.”
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