Microsoft hosted its first Windows Azure Conference last month in Bangalore to showcase the customer adoption in India. Microsoft’s top executives didn’t miss the opportunity to highlight the competitive win in the form of MartJack. Hyderabad based Reasoning Global eApplications, the company that built the SaaS based eCommerce platform, MartJack had successfully migrated from AWS to Azure in just a few weeks. I reached out to Nitin Padmawar, Reasoning’s CTO to find out what motivated them to make this switch.
Reasoning Global eApplications has been in the business of enabling brick and mortar retailers and brands to embrace Multichannel commerce through MartJack. The flagship product offers an end-to-end SaaS enabled eCommerce platform for the sellers. Though there are many products that promise the traditional businesses with an online presence, MartJack is different. Apart from being a multi-tenant SaaS based eCommerce platform, it goes beyond the basics to offer end-to-end services including logistics, payments, 3rd party integration, Marketing and SEO, mobile site, mobile application, social media integration, training and loyalty programs to customers. Moreover it enables retailers by providing a seamless brand experience across different channels – Physical Store, Online, Mobile, Social and Marketplaces subsequently increasing footfalls, revenues and profits. MartJack has an elite clientele across India and Middle East in the form of Godrej, Garden Vareli, HCL, HomeTown, Indigo Nation, Clarks, Gini & Johny, Sangeetha Mobiles, Intex to name a few.
MartJack took a leaf out of Amazon’s playbook by emulating Amazon WebStore, one of the first SaaS platforms for eCommerce. But the similarity doesn’t end there. Like Amazon WebStore, MartJack was also powered by Amazon Web Services, the same cloud infrastructure that powers Amazon.com. Running a few hundreds of servers on AWS in Singapore region, MartJack has been a marquee customer for AWS in India. During the AWS India Cloud Tour in 2011, Nitin was invited to be a part of the customer panel moderated by Amazon’s CTO, Dr. Werner Vogels. MartJack was also positioned as a prominent AWS case study from India.
As an early mover in the market, AWS had a dream run in acquiring customers in Asia Pacific and India. But the scenario is changing fast. Microsoft is upping its ante on the cloud business in Asia and so are IBM and Google. IBM is putting their marketing muscle behind SoftLayer, which has a data center in Singapore. Google is expected to offer cloud services through their infrastructure investments in Singapore and Taipei. With increased choices, AWS customers are finding alternatives that are better aligned with their business needs.
According to Nitin, MartJack chose Azure because of their heavy investment in Microsoft technologies and the .NET stack. He states that,
For us the cloud was not an option, but it was the very way we can think of scale. The cloud platforms enabled us to invest in infrastructure when it was needed and freed us from the worries like what will happen when expected growth would happen suddenly. At one side we kept building newer applications on the platform and on the other side we kept tweaking and re-modeling the workflows to optimize and scale with minimum investment. With Microsoft .net stack at the core, Azure was a natural fit. Moreover the amazing tooling Microsoft has built around Azure with tight integration with the Visual Studio made the choice more obvious.
But a complex platform like MartJack also relies on open source technologies. There is a perception that Microsoft Azure may not be the right platform for running Linux and open source technology stack. When I asked about the same, Nitin said that, “We also employ multiple non-Microsoft technologies at the back-end including MySQL, Solr and MongoDB. The fact that Azure platform is agnostic to the OS that a VM runs combined with the proven stability of Linux, underlined that our decision to choose Azure over other cloud platform was indeed correct.”
Microsoft has a proven track record of engaging with enterprises and large ISVs. With more than two decades of presence in India, the enterprise and partner teams at Microsoft India built strong relationships with the customers and ISVs. This is the key factor that’s missing in Amazon’s DNA. With no presence in enterprise, AWS tries to win over the customers only through its breadth and depth of cloud services portfolio. For business decision makers, it’s never technology but the relationship that matters at the end. Many enterprise customers choose a cloud platform not just for its technical capabilities but also for the business benefits of partnering with the cloud provider. I asked Nitin about the business benefits that an ISV would get when partnering with Microsoft. According to Nitin, “The advantage would come by the way Microsoft operates. With their experience of working with large enterprises, Microsoft demonstrates the maturity of working with enterprises and they value relationships with the partners and customers. The same maturity and support is extended to partners betting their business on Azure. Apart from real enterprise grade support, it provides another intangible edge to companies like us who are growing and require mentorship, support and visibility within and outside of the ecosystem.”
Amazon Web Services certainly has a wide range of services than any other cloud provider. Does that influence the decision makers to choose AWS over other cloud platforms? It is clear that the customers are looking for the key capabilities that are aligned with their technical and business requirements than choosing a cloud platform with the maximum number of services and features.According to Nitin, Azure’s PaaS capabilities combined with IaaS offer best of both worlds. He mentions that, “The rollout of services like Azure Cache and HDInsight on PaaS would enable us to further optimize as well as reduce operational overhead. DevOps would be freed from managing individual VMs and do not have to invest in building scale-out models for the fluctuating workloads like cache. We ship almost every week and the launch of the Visual Studio Online is really very exciting to us for this very reason! The whole continuous integration framework is readily available to us with the ability to port the complete development platform as-is from on-premise Microsoft Team Foundation Server to Azure.”Recently at the Build conference in San Francisco, Microsoft launched a set of new DevOps tools that make continuous integration friction-free and seamless. For an ISV like MartJack, who build and deploy code frequently on the cloud, this offers an efficient workflow.
Migrating MartJack from AWS to Azure is one of the biggest wins for Microsoft in India. Microsoft now has a compelling story that can be told to potential customers. This would help them convince the long tail of eCommerce companies and ISVs who look up to leaders like MartJack while making the technology choices.
A couple of years ago, I heard an industry analyst say that AWS is Coke while there is no Pepsi yet. But with Microsoft’s rapid innovation on Azure, increased focus on solving the pain points of developers, and with its strong enterprise footprint, is Azure on its way to become the Pepsi?