Real World SQL Azure: Interview with Eugene Shustef, Chief Engineer, Global Document Outsourcing, Xerox

[This article was contributed by the SQL Azure team.]

As part of the Real World SQL Azure series, we
recently talked to Eugene Shustef, Chief Engineer in the Global Document
Outsourcing group at Xerox, about using Microsoft SQL
build an innovative new printing service for mobile workers. Let's listen in.


MSDN: What exactly have you created with SQL Azure?

Shustef: We've created a
service called Xerox Cloud Print that allows mobile workers to print to any
available public printer from their smartphones, iPads, and other mobile

MSDN: Wow. I could have used that earlier today!

Shustef: That's what we hear constantly from our customers. Thousands of their
employees are on the move all the time. Some don't even have permanent offices.
Their smartphones are their primary computing devices, because smartphones have
gotten really ... well, smart. About the only thing they don't come with is a
print button.


MSDN: So you decided to add one.

Shustef: You bet. Who's better qualified than Xerox, the global leader in
printing, to give you a way to print from your phone?


MSDN: How does it work?

Shustef: Your mobile phone manufacturer or wireless provider would provide Xerox
Cloud Print as an app on your phone. When you get an email attachment that you
want to print, you just pop open a dialog box that lets you locate a nearby
printer, perhaps at a copy shop, and you route your print job there and pick it
up later.


Xerox Cloud Print gives mobile workers a way to locate and print to
nearby printers by routing print jobs through the Windows Azure platform.


MSDN: So where does SQL Azure come in?

Shustef: We use SQL Azure to store the user account
information, print-job information, device information, and other related data.
We also store the actual print files in Windows Azure Blob storage.


MSDN: Why is SQL Azure
a good fit for this application?

Shustef: SQLAzure provides multitenancy, dynamic
scalability, and cost effectiveness. We can securely  stack data from multiple customers in a
single SQL Azure instance, which makes it very cost effective. Also, our
development staff is Microsoft trained. We used Microsoft SQL Server 2008 for
the predecessor to Xerox Cloud Print, a private-cloud version of the service
that enables phone-based printing from inside a corporate firewall. We wanted
to reuse that SQL Server development investment, and SQL Azure provided the
most economical way to do so.

MSDN: Is Xerox going to do more with SQL Azure and the Windows
Azure platform?

Shustef: Absolutely. Our customers demand continuous
innovation, but innovation is expensive. You have to try things that may not
pan out and scale quickly if an idea takes off. Building a physical
infrastructure for development and deploying new ideas is cost-prohibitive.
Doing development, testing, staging, and hosting in the cloud removes all those
upfront costs; it lowers the barrier to innovation.


MSDN: What about the sliding payment scale?

Shustef: Oh definitely, another great benefit. With
SQL Azure, we pay only for the storage resources we use; not a cent more. If
5,000 customers sign up for Xerox Cloud Print tomorrow, we just click a few
buttons and increase the number of SQL Azure instances. If they all leave in
droves, then we can scale back.


MSDN: You can't beat that kind of efficiency.

Shustef: You certainly can't. The Windows Azure
platform makes good business sense.


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