This article is a part of CloudSparks Series sponsored by Microsoft Azure.
Azure is Microsoft’s cloud platform: a growing collection of integrated services—compute, storage, data, networking, and app—that help you move faster, do more, and save money. This powerful combination of managed and unmanaged services lets you build, deploy, and manage applications any way you like for unmatched productivity. Its enterprise-proven hybrid cloud solutions give you the best of both worlds and can quickly scale up or down to match demand. It’s also easier to build applications that span both on-premises and the cloud. With Azure, data storage, backup, and recovery become more efficient and economical.
The past 50 years of business computing architecture have been dominated by these four main folds: mainframe, minicomputer, client/server and the Internet. We now live in an age of the cloud where pretty much anything can be delivered through it. We have just scratched the surface of the cloud and there’s more to its scope and reach.
But how do you know which applications to host in the cloud, which cloud technologies are the best fit, and what is the best architecture? That is what Sysfore does for organizations.
Bengaluru-based Sysfore helps startups and big companies to accelerate their journey to the cloud, transform IT and reduce operational costs. In 2014, CIO Review recognized Sysfore Technologies: as one of the 20 Most Promising Cloud Computing Companies, for enabling a smooth transition to the Azure Platform.
The beginnings of Sysfore
Ajith and Bobby, Founders of Sysfore Technology, used to work at a technology company called NetGalactic (currently known as Skelta). In their previous jobs they were in a similar space. “Initially the trigger to starting up was that we could do it better,” says Ajith.
Co-founder Ajith Mathew George was a technologist in his previous avatar. Bobby Varghese VP & Co-founder was on the business development side. Their other co-founder was on the operation side. The other co-founder Dinesh R is a third generation entrepreneur with a passion for engineering, and he joined them three years after the venture was launched. When they started in 2004, they focused on offshore IT on web technology space with the main aim of enabling web technologies for business environment. Things haven’t changed over the years. They continue to focused on web technologies, but with cloud the complexity and scale has grown exponentially
YourStory caught up with Ajith and Bobby at their office. A decade ago when they started, they decided to set aside two-year operational cost. Their plan was that if after one year they didn’t make it,they would go back to their jobs. They were paying themselves meager salaries and it took them three years to stabilize.
They started with web technologies for offshore, and their core focus was international market. Locally, they used to try to pitch for enterprise IT business and bigger companies. They were not successful. But later they figured out that they worked well with those who understand the value of web technologies; those who are not old-school mainstream IT cos but new-age startups. In the last 10 years, three to four customers have been in the Red Herring Top 100 awards. Ajith says, “We have been with them from the beginning,building out the technology stack for them. That is where most of the really good work came from; it never came from people who are already established big companies who want to leverage IT.”
Bobby says, “From a business angle: we were trying to figure out where we stand among other businesses in the market. We wanted to see all our operating costs covered. That was a primary objective back then, to see if we actually generate revenue to meet all our expenses, rent, and employee salary.” The organization now has 100 employees in IT and ITES departments. The team says from a cloud perspective they are still small, and in terms of growth they anticipate a huge growth opportunity. They want to scale the business they are doing to three times.
Startup building stories
When they started they were competitive in terms of price. Like any business, they also made mistakes in cases where things didn’t go as planned. Sometimes they took a loss and delivered projects because theyhad to make a name for themselves in the market. Ajith says,“We had to build stories for ourselves. We focused on those areas that will give us better stories. What I mean by stories is, when we go and talk to a customer they try to understand what we have done in the past. When we started we managed to get customers who had also just started, fortunately they grew fast to become part of the top 100 Red Herring list. That actually helped us a lot. We got support because our customers grew as we started growing and that gave us another story and made our case-study portfolio much stronger. We are fortunate to have those kinds of customers. And we have longer and deeper engagement with our customers because of the comfort that they had with us.”
Transitioning to the cloud and mobile
Before cloud, the game was on one server one OS. Now with virtualizations, you have a stack of software separate from the actual hardware. You can have many OS’s and systems running on one physical server. You can use a lot more resources with very little hardware requirement and you can make it do a lot more work for you. Now with Software-as-a-Service you don’t really need to manage hardware and boxes.
Bobby says, “For us, getting into mobile is a natural extension. If you look at the mobile platform there are two types of applications that can be developed. One is native app and the other is web apps. We are already good in developing web applications. If you want to serve web app on mobile, it has to be responsive. We were already good at web so we started entering from that angle. Over a period of time, we got into native apps. If you look at the business case, most the requirements are fulfilled with HTML you don’t need the camera/microphone. You need only HTML 5. Native app is something that uses the power of the device; web app is something that uses the power of the cloud, as long as it is served very well, quickly and scaled. It was very easy to do lots of HTML 5 business apps.”
Now cloud is giving Sysfore an entry to what would have been a difficult market to get into. Traditionally, Fortune 500 companies don’t engage with 100 people IT outlet, but today they will engage simply because Sysfore has a crucial cloud experience. Organizations that have an application sitting on a client server want to make it a hybrid app. They need someone who understands application development and the cloud and web to re-engineer application plus deploying on the cloud and scale it.
How Sysfore benefits startups with cloud
Bobby says, “For startups, world cloud is the biggest enabler, it gives you an opportunity to build your product. You don’t need to invest in infrastructure. You don’t need to spend so much on buying servers and building it for a scale. Because as a startup, you don’t know your product/site is going to be alive for 100 users or 100,000 users. What we can do if you want us to develop your idea from scratch is we can build it as a cloud ready app, and the advantages are you don’t have to buy the hardware, everything is a subscription-based service.”
If your application has media assets that can be consumed by mobile devices, Azure has something called Azure Media Services, a cloud media solution for encoding, encrypting and streaming audio or video at scale, live or on demand (VOD). All services are subscriptions. You can have CDN as a service. In a non-cloud world, you’ll have to invest in hardware infrastructure. Now you only pay for what you consume. If the architecture is done well and automation is set, and if there is an alert it will automatically spin off multiple-clusters. You focus only on your product. Set it up and design it in such a manner that (IaaS, PaaS & SaaS) subscription are automated. You can focus on delivering experiences.
Scalability, availability, disaster recovery, everything is a service and subscription. You don’t need so many people. You just need one person who has an idea vision and focused on the core businesses. The magnitude of investment is drastically less. At the same time, it is a level playing field because I can build it and design the application in a way that can handle 100 users or 100,000 users. You will only incur the cost when you use it.
For example, Sysfore has built a Tallenge platform for a startup based in San Fransisco. They’ve developed the entire application from scratch and deployed it as a cloud application in a way that will auto-scale. Tallenge is media rich where people upload videos. They used CDN as a service because their customers are outside of India. They needed a cloud scale, high availability, speed of loading, and responsive design. Tallenge was built with lots of services from Azure platform, SQL as a service, it is are using clustered environment, this is all possible in subscription model only.
Bobby says, “Invariably lots of ideas we work on are startup ideas. There is another project that will launch soon. We are also launching a travel portal for a startup. Startups are the one who push the envelope, they have limited funds but they want more features. It is only possible to do it in an empowered landscape like Azure Platform.”
This gives a direction of what is happening, even though we design for the web.For the last one year, any project Sysfore takes up, they have made it mandatory to make it responsive for a simple fact that 30% of most traffic comes from mobile.
Bobby says, “Previously, we used to keep saying, web, web, web. Now we have web and mobile. But very soon technology is not going to say anything like web or mobile, it is going to be internet enabled technology.” Ajith adds, “We started from floppy disk and evolved to cloud. From cloud to where? Cloud will stay and scale to the larger adoption. Mobile is going to be the driving force along with mobility and devices. People used to build for web first and mobile second. Now it has become the other way round, people build mobile first and for browser next. And cloud will become the fulcrum.”
In his parting thoughts, Ajith quips “cloud will achieve maturity. The cloud we currently see as an infrastructure alternative will become a larger playground. People will start to see it as a platform for any kind of service. What will drive that? It will be mobile and devices.”