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Windows Azure helps ClickDimensions cut development time

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Windows Azure’s intuitive features have helped ClickDimensions manage large quantities of real-time web tracking data and interoperate it with Microsoft Dynamics CRM. …

Windows Azure’s intuitive features have helped ClickDimensions manage large quantities of real-time web tracking data and interoperate it with Microsoft Dynamics CRM.

“The most obvious advantage of Windows Azure is that we can continue to program with .NET and Visual Studio,” says Chief Technical Officer, ClickDimensions.

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  • 1. Windows Azure PlatformPartner Solution Case Study00CRM Experts Take Integrated Web Tracking and Marketing Automation to the Cloud<br />OverviewCountry or Region: United StatesIndustry: Software engineeringPartner ProfileClickDimensions, based In Atlanta, Georgia, embeds cloud-enabled email marketing, website tracking, and marketing automation into Microsoft Dynamics CRM for use by customers in a variety of industries.Business SituationClickDimensions needed a powerful and scalable cloud computing platform that could manage large quantities of real-time web tracking data and interoperate with Microsoft Dynamics CRM.SolutionClickDimensions chose the Windows Azure platform for its ease of use, sophisticated functionality, and straightforward interoperation with Microsoft Dynamics CRM.BenefitsPowerful and familiar development toolsVibrant developer communityTrusted technology partner“As more and more applications are built for the cloud, I think it’s inevitable that Windows Azure will become the leading platform. We’re at the beginning of a revolution, and it is very exciting.”Chief Technical Officer, ClickDimensionsClickDimensions was founded by a group of entrepreneurs with expertise in building applications for Microsoft Dynamics CRM business management software. The company’s first product, ClickDimensions Marketing Automation for Microsoft Dynamics CRM, embeds cloud-enabled email marketing, web tracking and marketing automation features directly within Microsoft Dynamics CRM. ClickDimensions chose Windows Azure as its cloud-computing platform, and the development team found it to be easy to learn and use, full of powerful features, and perfectly suited for Microsoft Dynamics CRM application development. The first release was completed in only four months, and customers have responded to it enthusiastically. The company’s innovative approach to marketing automation earned it a place in the invitation-only Microsoft BizSpark One incubation program for high-potential startup companies.<br />Situation<br />The development staff employed by Atlanta, Georgia–based ClickDimensions has extensive expertise in marketing automation and customer relationship management (CRM) software. The ClickDimensions team is geographically dispersed, with developers in the United States, Israel, and India. Prior to the company’s founding in 2010, each staff member worked on numerous CRM projects, with a focus on developing applications and extensions for Microsoft Dynamics CRM.<br />6902455573395 00 7359654733290Figure 1. The ClickDimensions dashboard provides detailed information about website visitors.00Figure 1. The ClickDimensions dashboard provides detailed information about website visitors.With more and more applications moving to cloud-based platforms, the founders of ClickDimensions saw a niche for a new product that could take advantage of cloud technology directly from Microsoft Dynamics CRM. “We believe Microsoft Dynamics is the best CRM package out there,” says the Chief Technical Officer (CTO) of ClickDimensions. “And while there are stand-alone applications that add cloud functionality, they require you to use two separate programs. We wanted to embed that functionality directly within the application so that users have a single entry point to all features.” <br />The team came up with a design for the new application, and the application requirements included email marketing, extensive analytics for tracking webpage views, page view durations, form entries, and visitors’ interaction with images and documents (Figure 1). This data would be collected by embedded web scripts, transferred to a cloud-based application for real-time processing, and then synced with the customer’s on-site CRM application to generate leads. This lead data could then be used to automatically create targeted marketing materials from within the CRM application.<br />With a design in place, the team needed a cloud platform that could provide the necessary processing power, storage, and scalability to handle large amounts of such data in real time. Given the company’s focus on Microsoft Dynamics CRM, it also wanted a platform that would integrate easily with that application.<br />Solution<br />5207004791075Figure 2. The ClickDimensions email templates are created and managed directly within the Microsoft Dynamics CRM marketing module.00Figure 2. The ClickDimensions email templates are created and managed directly within the Microsoft Dynamics CRM marketing module.The ClickDimensions team investigated cloud offerings from Microsoft, Google, and Amazon. “The Google App Engine has a very different architecture, and it uses no Microsoft technologies,” explains the CTO. “You can’t develop with the [Microsoft] .NET Framework or Visual Studio 2010 Professional development system, so it didn’t make sense for us, because that’s where our programming expertise is. There are some similarities between the Amazon and Microsoft offerings, but our focus is on Microsoft Dynamics CRM, and Visual Studio has extensions specifically designed for working with Windows Azure, so we went with the Microsoft approach.”<br />Although the development team was new to Windows Azure, they found it very easy to get up-to-speed. The training kit provided with the product got them started, and when they needed additional resources, they were able to turn to forums and blogs on the Microsoft Developer Network (MSDN), as well as other developers. “One of the great things about Windows Azure is the large and growing developer community,” says the CTO. “If we had a question or ran into a problem, it usually took only a simple web search to get an answer.”<br />5207005845175 00 Because Visual Studio directly supports Windows Azure, developers didn’t need to learn a lot of new techniques. “The Windows Azure web role is just a [Microsoft] ASP.NET application, the worker role is a Windows service, and Windows Azure works with Windows Communication Foundation services—and these are all things we know well,” the CTO explains. “The work that Microsoft has done abstracting the different pieces of the architecture lets developers concentrate on just their own coding, and the new [Microsoft] Silverlight-based Windows Azure Portal makes it easy to provision resources and manage deployments.”<br />Developers needed only four months to complete the initial release of the ClickDimensions application. Guided by their past expertise in CRM development and the strength of the Microsoft Dynamics CRM software development kit, they found it easy to integrate ClickDimensions directly into Microsoft Dynamics CRM, where the application appears as an option on the Marketing tab. The ClickDimensions functionality is tightly integrated with existing Microsoft Dynamics CRM entities such as contacts, accounts, and leads (Figure 2).<br />By infusing its well-planned architecture with Windows Azure features, the team has created a high-performing application that is easily scalable with no changes to the code. “We can collect real-time tracking data, process it in the cloud, and import it into the customer’s on-site Microsoft Dynamics CRM application in less than 10 seconds, even during peak usage periods,” says the CTO. “The current architecture supports millions of tracking requests per month; to scale it, we just multiply the number of Windows Azure instances we use. Each scale stage can support tens of millions of requests.”<br />Customers have been impressed with the final product. “ClickDimensions has done a fantastic job creating a program that is easy to install and easy to work with,” says Bas van Sluis, CRM Consultant at CRM Resultants. “The speed of the application is amazing.”<br />Benefits<br />The ClickDimensions team has used Windows Azure to give customers the first cloud-based web tracking and marketing automation application embedded directly into Microsoft Dynamics CRM. With the help of familiar tools and an extensive array of online resources, developers created a fast and highly scalable application built on technology from a trusted provider.<br />Powerful and Familiar Development Tools<br />ClickDimensions found that developing for Windows Azure was easy because they were able to use the same programming tools and techniques they’ve used for years. “The most obvious advantage of Windows Azure is that we can continue to program with .NET and Visual Studio,” says the CTO. “Because many applic5403852063115“The most obvious advantage of Windows Azure is that we can continue to program with .NET and Visual Studio. Because many application resources are handled in the cloud, we don't have to manage them, and that makes development faster and cheaper.”Chief Technical Officer, ClickDimensions00“The most obvious advantage of Windows Azure is that we can continue to program with .NET and Visual Studio. Because many application resources are handled in the cloud, we don't have to manage them, and that makes development faster and cheaper.”Chief Technical Officer, ClickDimensionsation resources are handled in the cloud, we don't have to manage them, and that makes development faster and cheaper.”<br />Vibrant Developer Community<br />Although ClickDimensions chose Windows Azure for its features and integration with other Microsoft technologies, the development team found that an extra advantage to developing for Windows Azure is the large and growing community of developers who are excited about the platform. <br />“When we needed solutions to programming challenges, we could find them easily,” says the CTO. “For example, when developing for a pay-as-you-go cloud platform, it’s important to take into account things like CPU and storage usage because that’s how the user is charged. We found plenty of examples in the developer community for how to optimize resource usage and minimize cost.”<br />Trusted Technology Partner<br />ClickDimensions developers were comfortable with the choice of Windows Azure as their cloud platform because of their long history working with Microsoft products, and their belief that Microsoft is taking Windows Azure in the right direction. “Microsoft wasn’t the first cloud provider on the market, but they’re quickly becoming one of the best,” says the CTO. “As more and more applications are built for the cloud, I think it’s inevitable that Windows Azure will become the leading platform. We’re at the beginning of a revolution, and it is very exciting.”<br />28575007470140Software and ServicesWindows Azure PlatformWindows AzureMicrosoft DynamicsMicrosoft Dynamics CRMMicrosoft Visual StudioMicrosoft Visual Studio 2010 ProfessionalTechnologiesMicrosoft ASP.NETMicrosoft .NET Framework 4Microsoft Silverlight00Software and ServicesWindows Azure PlatformWindows AzureMicrosoft DynamicsMicrosoft Dynamics CRMMicrosoft Visual StudioMicrosoft Visual Studio 2010 ProfessionalTechnologiesMicrosoft ASP.NETMicrosoft .NET Framework 4Microsoft Silverlight5645158255000This case study is for informational purposes only. MICROSOFT MAKES NO WARRANTIES, EXPRESS OR IMPLIED, IN THIS SUMMARY.Document published February 201100This case study is for informational purposes only. MICROSOFT MAKES NO WARRANTIES, EXPRESS OR IMPLIED, IN THIS SUMMARY.Document published February 20115403852056765For More InformationFor 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.comFor more information about ClickDimensions products and services, call (888) 214-4228 or visit the website at:www.clickdimensions.com00For More InformationFor 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.comFor more information about ClickDimensions products and services, call (888) 214-4228 or visit the website at:www.clickdimensions.comWindows Azure Platform<br />The Windows Azure platform provides an excellent foundation for expanding online product and service offerings. The main components include:<br />Windows Azure. Windows Azure is the development, service hosting, and service management environment for the Windows Azure platform. It provides developers with on-demand compute, storage, and bandwidth, and a content distribution network to host, scale, and manage web applications through Microsoft data centers.<br />Microsoft SQL Azure. Microsoft SQL Azure offers the first cloud-based relational and self-managed database service built on Microsoft SQL Server technologies.<br />Windows Azure AppFabric. With Windows Azure AppFabric, developers can build and manage applications more easily both on-premises and in the cloud.<br />−   AppFabric Service Bus connects services and applications across network boundaries to help developers build distributed applications.<br />−   AppFabric Access Control provides federated, claims-based access control for REST web services.<br />Windows Azure Marketplace DataMarket. Developers and information workers can use the new service DataMarket to easily discover, purchase, and manage premium data subscriptions in the Windows Azure platform.<br />To learn more, visit: <br />www.microsoft.com/windowsazure<br />