Atea is a leading supplier of IT solutions, including tools for managing software license compliance. Although the tools provide a wealth of information, each customer faced an identical challenge: how to turn complicated data into actionable
reports. As requests for reporting assistance grew, Atea wanted to satisfy customer demand with a reporting solution that did not require more software, support, or complexity. Atea found its solution in Windows Azure SQL Reporting. Using SQL Reporting as
the report engine, Atea launched Cloud SAM as an online software asset management service that combines centralized reports with hosted customer data in single-tenant databases. By building on the Windows Azure platform, the company launched a new online service
with minimal upfront investment. The success of the solution has created opportunities for global partnerships and offers a new direction
||Atea has transitioned from selling stand-alone products to combining tools and online services into a single offering. Quite simply, Windows Azure has fundamentally changed how we think about our business.
| Ilja-Otis Godau
Business Development Director
Atea Global Services
Atea is the leading Nordic and Baltic supplier of IT infrastructure, delivering IT solutions from major software vendors and assisting customers with specialized services. With 6,500 employees in 82 cities across northern Europe and 7,500 technology certifications,
Atea was well-positioned to respond to an increasingly urgent request for an online software asset management service.
Software asset management refers to a range of activities related to the administration of licenses, including over compliance where installations exceed available licenses, under compliance indicating excess licenses, expiration schedules, and so on. As
costs for software licenses increase, so does the importance of managing these assets wisely.
For Atea customers, who were already using the company's stand-alone software asset management tool, a big challenge was how to transform their software inventory data into useful reports. Customers, many of them large institutions with limited IT staff,
wanted to offload the complex data collection and compilation work required to analyze the raw software inventory data obtained from network monitoring software. Scrubbing the data and putting it into useful formats was typically resource-intensive, often
requiring the expert skills of in-house IT staff who might otherwise be performing more valuable work.
Requests for an online service as a way to address this need continued to build. Armands Ozoliņš – Senior SAM specialist and Cloud Service Manager - took on the challenge of developing the first version of Cloud SAM with his team.
“We were intrigued by the idea of bundling software and service together, particularly in the area of software asset management. Our stand-alone tool did the job, but it required training, people to run it, and maintenance. By adding a service, we could
remove many of the challenges of software asset management, providing just the actionable information that our customers wanted.”
After comparing costs and functionality of various platforms, Atea chose Windows Azure. “When we made the cost estimations for different hosting solutions, Azure was by far the most cost-efficient platform,” explains Ozoliņš. “Since the other alternatives
could not offer SQL Server as a service, we were looking at paying for both the hosting and maintenance of physical servers, with a price tag of eight times the cost of going with Azure. This price difference combined with the great scaling possibilities in
Azure made the choice easy.”
A second part of the cost-reduction strategy included using existing technologies and components wherever possible. To facilitate this goal, the company used SQL Reporting and report definition language (RDL) reports for data visualization, and SQL Database
and SQL Data Sync for the data pipeline.
At the customer’s site, a local server polls devices for licensing information. Any device that supports either Microsoft Assessment and Planning (MAP) Toolkit or System Center Configuration Manager (SCCM) is polled for software installation and usage information.
That data is collected into a central database on premises and then synchronized with single-tenant databases on Windows Azure.
||SQL Reporting is key to our business strategy. Report execution and HTML rendering occurs in the cloud, with no server maintenance or configuration on our part.
| Ilja-Otis Godau
Business Development Director
Atea Global Services
In the cloud, SQL Data Sync retrieves data from each subscriber, storing the data in single-tenant customer databases managed by Atea. The development team creates and manages databases and Data Sync groups, and also runs internal tools and processes that make
the data suitable for reporting. Part of this work includes incorporating licensing information that is compiled and maintained by Atea licensing specialists. Says Ozoliņš, “An Azure-hosted database is so similar to an on-premises database that we didn’t have
to rewrite any of our internal tools to work with the Azure platform.”
|Cloud SAM architecture
SQL Reporting is used throughout the solution, from the main report that serves as a dashboard, to detailed reports about software license usage. The team can use an internal administrative reporting layer, also RDL-driven, to proactively see which subscribers
need help resolving specific errors or synchronization problems.
Using available technologies and the Windows Azure platform allowed for rapid development. The entire project took less than six months to complete. Between the Windows Azure platform and local data collection components that can be run free of charge, Atea
was able to concentrate its development efforts on delivering a robust solution quickly and cheaply, rather than spending resources on functionality already available.
Using Windows Azure helped Atea meet its goal of taking advantage of a new business opportunity with minimal upfront investment. By building the service on Windows Azure, the company is now expanding its reach through global partnerships in Canada, the US,
Australia, the UK and Germany. A global presence is facilitated by the geographically dispersed data centers on which Windows Azure runs.
Scale at a Fraction of the Cost
Cloud SAM launched in January 2012 and, one year later, has more than 200,000 devices attached to the service. The company is pleased with how well Windows Azure has scaled with its business, allowing it to match incremental costs with incoming revenue in
the same period.
Proactive Customer Support
By using SQL Reporting for internal reports, the team can quickly identify issues as they arise, contacting customers with further instruction, sometimes resolving a problem before the customer is even aware of it.
Rapid Deployment of Software Updates
Because Cloud SAM is built as a service, Atea can swiftly address issues as soon as they arise, rolling out hotfixes and enhancements to its entire customer base in minutes rather than hours, without destabilizing the customer environment.
“Two weeks ago, we had a performance issue with one of our reports that was taking too long to load,” says Ozoliņš. “We made a hotfix that was then applied to all of our customer databases. Because we manage all our databases in Azure, we could deploy the
hotfix for all customers in 30 minutes. This is a great example of the advantages of hosting the databases in the cloud as opposed to having them on premises at the customer sites.”
With a proven solution working well at home, the company is now exploring new markets for its Cloud SAM service with the help of global partners. Additional SQL Reporting instances are now running in US data centers to service the North American market.
Because Windows Azure data centers are located worldwide, the company can deploy and manage its services in different countries, placing the service where customers are located to reduce latency.
With Windows Azure, you can quickly build, deploy, and manage applications across a global network of Microsoft-managed data centers. You can build applications using any operating system, language, or tool.
For more information, please visit www.windowsazure.com.
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:www.microsoft.com
For more information about Atea products and services, call +371-67359600 or visit the website at: http://www.ateaglobal.com
Atea Global Services