Although HubOne started as an entrepreneurial business making enterprise software, a call for help from a local company encouraged HubOne to transform its business by promoting Microsoft Online Services. To demonstrate to customers the benefits of cloud services, HubOne first needed to retool its own infrastructure and create a cloud-based web portal. By using the Windows Azure platform and Microsoft Visual Studio, HubOne built a public website, customer portal, partner portal, and e-commerce ordering solution. HubOne closed its physical office in 2010, and the team now collaborates by using cloud-based tools and Microsoft Office 365. The company and its customers benefit from a high-quality development paradigm, the tightened security model of Microsoft SQL Azure, and greatly reduced capital and operating expenditures. Today, HubOne is one of the major cloud services providers in Australia.
Based in Sydney, Australia, HubOne is an entrepreneurial company that started in 2008 by developing enterprise software. In October 2009, Nick Beaugeard, who founded the company and serves as Managing Director, received a call from a friend at a company that manufactures pet products and engraves personalized dog tags. His friend needed help troubleshooting an issue with Microsoft Exchange Server email messaging and collaboration software. Because HubOne didn’t specialize in this type of work, Beaugeard was reluctant but agreed to look at the company’s IT infrastructure. He found that they were running a host of enterprise software in the middle of a warehouse where an engraving machine was flicking aluminum bits onto a nearby rack of servers. Beaugeard quickly recognized that this was not an ideal IT environment.
The pet products company had no internal IT support and had cost concerns. Instead of addressing the issue with Exchange Server, Beaugeard recommended that the company consider an alternative to managing on-site infrastructure. He introduced the company to the Microsoft Business Productivity Online Standard Suite from Microsoft Online Services, a set of messaging and collaboration tools delivered as a subscription service that does not require customers to deploy and maintain software and hardware on-premises. The suite includes Microsoft Exchange Online for email and calendaring; Microsoft SharePoint Online for portals and document sharing; Microsoft Office Communications Online for presence availability, instant messaging, and peer-to-peer audio calls; and Office Live Meeting for web and video conferencing.
“It was our first customer,” says Beaugeard, “and it was a massive success.” The pet products company had been paying U.S.$50,000 annually for IT support and it reduced its IT expenses to less than $5,000. It also experiences less downtime and greater productivity. HubOne decided to support its software development business by providing cloud services. On July 1, 2010, the company switched its business model and rebranded itself as a professional consulting service organization for customers who want to take advantage of opportunities to conduct business in the cloud. HubOne offers a managed migration process from an on-premises or hosted solution to the cloud platform, and it provides 24-hour support services.
Within four months of its first cloud services sale, the company went from having no customers to having more than 200 customers who required ongoing management. To support its growing customer base, HubOne needed to build the proper infrastructure. Previously, it ran the Windows Server 2008 operating system, Microsoft SharePoint Server 2010, Microsoft SQL Server 2008 R2 data management software, Microsoft Office Communications Server 2007, Microsoft Visual Studio Team Foundation Server 2010, and a large file server. However, HubOne decided to use cloud services to run its own business and would offer only products and services that would provide the highest quality and the greatest reliability. The company also determined that its 15 employees no longer needed an office; they could communicate by using online productivity tools and hold meetings at local pubs.
By eliminating its network infrastructure and conducting affairs through the cloud, HubOne could demonstrate to customers how a company could run a business by using online services exclusively. “Before we could present cloud services to our customers, we needed to use the tools ourselves,” says Beaugeard. “If the cloud works for HubOne, I can say to a customer, ‘This is how my company works and it’s really cool.’ That’s a really good selling point.”Solution
To prepare its infrastructure for growth, in May 2010, HubOne developers began creating the company’s full-service web portal in the cloud. The project took less than two months and the site went live on July 1, 2010. It built its site on the Windows Azure platform, a cloud services operating system that serves as the development, service hosting, and service management environment. Developers can use it for on-demand compute and storage to host, scale, and manage web applications
on the Internet through Microsoft data centers. The site also includes Windows Live Messenger, Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online, and Microsoft Online Services into one portal. Says Beaugeard, “The whole HubOne.com site—including a public website, customer portal, partner portal, and e-commerce ordering solution—is a single Windows Azure application.”
|Cloud services are changing the economic model of a lot of businesses. I’ve dealt with all the major vendors in this space … and Microsoft offers the best tools to grow a business. There’s no doubt.|
Managing Director, HubOne
Customers and partners authenticate to the HubOne web portal with Windows Live credentials. HubOne chose Windows Live ID
because it is a Microsoft cloud-based service that interoperates seamlessly with Windows Azure. When customers sign in, they can access the company’s knowledge base, order services, and monitor account activity.
To manage its rapidly expanding customer base with automated professional services, HubOne deployed Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011 Online over the course of one weekend—a feat that Beaugeard describes as “the world’s fastest implementation of Microsoft Dynamics CRM.” HubOne also developed its CRM Customer Portal, an add-in to the Microsoft Dynamics CRM software, which customers can use to view the status of service issues. The company then ported the add-in software to the Windows Azure platform. “Windows Azure enables developers to stage and test a solution before releasing it to production, which is brilliant,” says Beaugeard. “Once it’s in production, you don’t have to change anything and you can’t break it. Our production website has not gone down since the day we launched it.”
HubOne has been able to quickly transition into a cloud services integrator because its developers can create applications and services on Windows Azure by using their existing expertise with the Microsoft .NET Framework, a platform for building applications. The company develops applications by using Microsoft Visual Studio 2010 Ultimate—a development system that supports popular standards and protocols including SOAP, REST, and XML—and Microsoft Visual Studio Team Foundation Server 2010, which automates and streamlines the software delivery process. HubOne then moves its C# code to the Windows Azure platform.
The company also employs Microsoft SQL Azure, which provides database capabilities as a fully managed service without the need for on-premises hardware or software. HubOne uses SQL Azure to build web applications that are supported by a database that can scale horizontally on a pay-per-use basis. It also uses SQL Azure database capabilities to process large amounts of XML data from Microsoft Office 2010 compatibility tools. “We get the same performance with SQL Azure as with Microsoft SQL Server data management software—without running servers,” says Beaugeard. “Plus, wherever I am in the world, I can interact with the SQL Azure database by using a USB drive filled with data.”
Through Microsoft Online Services, HubOne implemented the beta version of Microsoft Office 365, the next-generation of cloud productivity applications including Microsoft Office, SharePoint Online, Exchange Online, and Lync Online—all backed by an enterprise-ready service level agreement. The company uses these tools, which are available through most browsers and on many smartphones, to collaborate and communicate internally. In September 2010, HubOne closed its offices and all employees began working remotely. “I see my team now more than I saw them before,” says Beaugeard. “We use Lync, we schedule time with Office Live Meeting, and we hold ad-hoc meetings as well.”
Because HubOne is a systems integration partner, Microsoft provided it with a partner account manager who helped the company navigate the landscape of cloud solutions and restructure its business plan. Microsoft also invested in the company with funding, software, training, and access to other partners. Additionally, HubOne manages portions of software-as-a-service implementations for Microsoft enterprise customers—making Microsoft one of its biggest customers.
“An amazing convergence of events occurred when Microsoft started producing cloud services at a price accessible to customers of all sizes,” says Beaugeard. “We were able to rapidly refocus on cloud computing in advance of our competitors. Our one-year transition to cloud integrator wouldn’t have happened without Microsoft.”
HubOne now has more than 600 customers including a number of enterprise accounts. In October 2010, the Australian Financial Review (AFR.com) named the company as one of the country’s top-10 rising business stars. Says Beaugeard, “We’re aiming to be the leading cloud provider in the Asia Pacific region within three years.”Benefits
HubOne uses Windows Azure and Microsoft Online Services to rapidly provide customers with quality solutions on a pay-as-you go model with no infrastructure investment. The company has benefited by taking advantage of familiar development tools that work seamlessly within its new business paradigm. HubOne and its customers enjoy enhanced security and have experienced significant cost savings in both capital and ongoing operating expenditures. “Cloud services are changing the economic model of a lot of businesses,” says Beaugeard. “I’ve dealt with all the major vendors in this space—including IBM and Amazon—and Microsoft offers the best tools to grow a business. There’s no doubt.”
High-Quality Development Model
HubOne has found that there is little difference between developing an application for Windows Azure and developing an application for the Windows operating system, giving the company an easy way to make its software available in the cloud. “The interoperability between various components of Windows Azure, Office 365, and Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online is awesome,” says Beaugeard. “We can easily create industry-standard web services and use them across client applications. This means high-quality code and a better environment for our developers.”
|We get the same performance with SQL Azure as with Microsoft SQL Server data management software—without running servers. Plus, wherever I am in the world, I can interact with the SQL Azure database by using a USB drive filled with data.|
Managing Director, HubOne
HubOne now recommends Windows Azure to customers for all applications based on the .NET Framework and has several large-scale projects underway. “By using the Windows Azure platform, we’ve taken control of the development cycle and can leverage the ability to have both staging and production environments at the same time,” says Beaugeard. “My team can focus on delivering customer value, rather than focusing on whether the server is up or whether we are using all our bandwidth.”
Because Windows Azure cloud computing offers a pay-as-you-go model with low upfront investments, it shifts business costs from capital expenditures to reduced operating expenditures. For example, HubOne’s first cloud services customer—the pet products company—now spends only $3,000 annually on IT maintenance such as backups, server and hardware support, and acquisitions. “Where we’ve implemented cloud services for customers, whether it be Windows Azure or Microsoft Online Services, we’ve found that they no longer need to be involved in the IT side of the business,” says Beaugeard. “The Windows Azure platform is reliable and works like a treat. Customers are able to redeploy IT resources to higher value activities.”
Windows Azure has helped HubOne change its business model and delivery paradigm, reducing management costs by more than $120,000 a year. By embracing cloud computing, the company also avoids significant infrastructure investments and only needs to purchase portable computers for its employees.
“It’s still early in the cloud computing era, so people talk a lot about the cost of acquisition. There are upfront costs, but we don’t have to buy servers and infrastructure,” says Beaugeard. “People forget about the permanent IT cost reductions. At HubOne, we have removed 90 percent of the complexity of an IT environment and about 60 percent of the management costs, year after year. That’s the massive economic shift in cloud computing and it’s those ongoing economics are what really change the game.”
Because HubOne uses SQL Azure to control which ports and servers can see the related database, the company can provide customers with tighter security than it could with a traditional on-premises web services model. Data is stored in the cloud and is neutral to the type of hardware device used to access it, plus data will not be lost if a hard disk fails, for example. “The Windows Azure platform is more secure by default,” says Beaugeard. “As a development manager, I don’t have to worry about whether it’s secure. That’s a huge boon to me and my customers.”
Since its transition to cloud computing, HubOne no longer needs an IT team to manage its infrastructure and ensure the safety of its information. “In the Windows Azure cloud, several thousand employees make sure our IT environment is secure and reliable,” says Beaugeard. “We have six Microsoft data centers worldwide and more than $5 billion has been invested in our IT environment.”
Windows Azure Platform
The Windows Azure platform provides an excellent foundation for expanding online product and service offerings. The main components include:
Windows Azure. Windows Azure is the development, service hosting, and service management environment for the Windows Azure platform. Windows Azure provides developers with on-demand compute and storage to host, scale, and manage web applications on the Internet through Microsoft data centers.
Microsoft SQL Azure. Microsoft SQL Azure offers the first cloud-based relational and self-managed database service built on Microsoft SQL Server 2008 technologies.
Windows Azure platform AppFabric. With Windows Azure platform AppFabric, developers can build and manage applications more easily both on-premises and in the cloud.
—AppFabric Service Bus connects services and applications across network boundaries to help developers build distributed applications.
—AppFabric Access Control provides federated, claims-based access control for REST web services.
Microsoft "Dallas." Developers and information workers can use the new service code-named Dallas to easily discover, purchase, and manage premium data subscriptions in the Windows Azure platform.
To learn more about the Windows Azure platform, visit: For More Information
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