Featured BizSpark Startup on Azure – CaterXpress (FoodStorm)

The Featured BizSpark Startup on Azure is CaterXpress. Below you will find an interview with Anthony Super, Director and Co-Founder of CaterXpress.

Web site: www.foodstorm.com.

Tell us who you are and your role in the company:

I’m a Director and Co-Founder of CaterXpress. I grew up in country Victoria and studied at Swinburne University in Hawthorn.

What is your company’s mission?

We want to provide businesses in the Foodservice industry of all sizes with really simple software that just makes life easier.

Tell us about your Azure based solution.

Our software, FoodStorm, is a web app that helps people in catering; food manufacturing and distribution manage their food orders from placement to delivery. FoodStorm tracks customer orders, creates production and delivery reports, sends invoices, manages stock and much more.

How is Azure implemented in your solution?

FoodStorm was built from the ground up to make the most of the Azure platform. 100% of the web application is hosted using Azure Compute Web Roles, and we also use multiple Worker Roles for processing regular tasks. On the storage front, we use Azure Table Storage for all our data, Blob storage for all files and Queues for our inter-role communication.

How did you get excited about Azure?

We’re a small business, and the thing that got me most excited about Azure was removing the burden of managing our own servers and infrastructure. Prior to running on the Azure platform, we had our own servers running in a local datacenter. Whenever something went wrong with the hardware, we’d have to drop everything and run around like crazy people until the issue was resolved. Our skills are in software, and managing our servers was really stressful.

We also had issues with scalability, and the prospect of scaling our servers up or down in minutes was also very exciting. During the Christmas season our server load increases dramatically due to an influx in food orders; and before Azure we couldn’t justify spending thousands on more servers for such a small amount of time – they’d just be gathering dust for the rest of the year.

What were the Azure features that prompted you to decide to build on Azure?

Well features aside, the fact that Azure is a fully managed platform was undoubtedly the number one reason we made the switch. But more specifically, the ability to run multiple web servers for high availability was a big draw card – and also the great data redundancy offered by Azure Storage: having our data geo-replicated in real time is something we could have only dreamed of if we were still running our own servers!

What specific value are you getting from BizSpark beyond the technology?

The biggest value is that BizSpark entitles us to an MSDN premium subscription to Azure, which provides us with huge cost savings. Also, some of the third party offers have been great and have been a huge help with things like SEO.

What has been your biggest “aha” moment since founding your company?

The most profound thing I’ve learnt running a small company is to always consider your own quality of life in every decision you make. You need to rule your business, don’t let it rule you. If you have a business that makes you happy, ultimately you will build great things and delight your customers while you’re at it.

What advice do you have for companies that are thinking about building in the cloud?

Don’t neglect your disaster recovery just because someone else is looking after your infrastructure. You’ll find that you’ll end up using multiple cloud providers to piece together your solution, e.g. hosting, DNS, email, domain registration, SSL, the list goes on… Be prepared for each and every one of these technologies failing! You can’t expect 100% uptime from anyone, things go wrong and it’s just a fact of life.  However what you’ll find is that when you’re running in the cloud, the very nature of how you deal with disasters will change. If you get it right, no longer will you be the person running around like a crazy person – leave that up to your cloud provider. Instead, your role becomes one of communication. You’ll be getting updates from your cloud provider, so it’s up to you to keep your customers in the loop regularly while things are resolved.

What is the one thing that you would like readers to take away about your Azure app?

Buy now! Just kidding. In order to get the very most out of Azure, we had to put a fair bit of work in to migrate our technologies across. There are of course much simpler ways of moving to the cloud, but you get out what you put in. For us the hard work has definitely paid off: our uptime is better than ever, system performance is amazing and most of all we can focus on what we do best, which is writing great software.

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