How Azure Helped Xerox Deliver a Cloud Printing Service in Just Four Months

Xerox is an industry-leading Managed Print Services (MPS) company, serving customers in more than 160 countries, that wanted to expand its services to work with mobile devices. The desired service would allow workers to print to any printer in their company from any handheld device, such as smartphones. The company built its solution, Xerox Cloud Print, using the Windows Azure Platform and Top Azure Consultants. And by using  Azure as the operating environment, SQL Azure as the relational database and existing IT skills and assets, Xerox delivered the service in just four months. 

What Challenges Was Xerox Facing?

From its beginnings as a printer designer and manufacturer, Xerox has grown into a document processing company. The company’s core focus has been managing both its devices and their related processes. The service category, known as Managed Print Services (MPS), aimed to simplify these business processes for its customers. They wanted to help their customers to review their document life cycles and workflows to improve their processes. On examination of document processes, Xerox quickly highlighted the need for mobile printing.

Enabling its customers to use their smartphones to print from conference rooms, customer sites and their homes to their office would save them valuable time and money. The initial solution, Xerox Mobile Print, enabled workers to search for nearby printers and print from their smartphones within the office environment. However, the next step, and the challenge at hand, was to enable mobile workers to print when travelling outside of their primary business location. 

Xerox needed to transform its private-cloud infrastructure to a public cloud. To do this, it required a multi tenant database solution, one that would allow the same application to be shared by multiple customers. However, Xerox required cost-efficiency of multi tenancy alongside flexibility and scalability.

Xerox knew that there was a need for its service, but it didn’t know how fast customer adoption would be. As such, it needed a multitenant infrastructure that could grow, without the company having to invest in a huge physical infrastructure if the idea didn’t take off with customers.

Why Did Xerox Choose Microsoft Azure?

While the concept of internet-based computing wasn’t new to Xerox, it needed a trusted partner to support its move to a public cloud. Xerox partnered with Microsoft to determine how the Windows Azure platform might enable its service to offload computing tasks to Microsoft data centres and access them remotely. Xerox had confidence in Microsoft as it was already putting many of its own core business assets on the Azure platform. 

Xerox chose to use the Microsoft SQL Azure database for its relational capabilities,  scalability and familiarity. The company was already using Microsoft SQL server and wanted to rescue as many investments as it could. With a development team that was predominantly Microsoft-trained, the alternatives were too expensive. Azure made sound business sense. 

The Development of Xerox Cloud Print

The development plan was to take the core technology already used within Xerox Mobile Print and convert it to the public cloud. The company, with the support of Microsoft, managed to migrate from SQL Server to SQL Azure in just two weeks. The bonus was that the development team found no difference in using SQL azure, and it benefited from:

  • All relational data being stored in SQL Azure.
  • Multiple tenants being stored in a single SQL Azure database instance with logical customer partitions.
  • Actual encrypted print files, as raw collections of binary data, being stored in WIndows Azure Blob storage.
  • Application logs stored in Windows Azure Table Storage, providing a low-cost option for structured storage that needs to be queried.

Cloud printing requires a lot of data management, which means that Xerox’s solution needed a lot of different storage solutions. Azure gives them the range of options for storing non-relational data so that their database doesn’t become blocked. The result is that their database is leaner, faster and more economical. 

The first version of Xerox Cloud Print was finished in just four months. Mobile workers could print from their mobile devices by routing print jobs through the Azure platform to their printer of choice. 

The Benefits of Microsoft Azure

Xerox has built a successful global cloud-based printing service with the support of Microsoft Azure; the platform provides many benefits:

  • Lower barrier to innovation – with Azure, Xerox can try ideas, fail quickly, and be ready for success when it comes.
  • Faster time-to-market – if Xerox had used on-premises infrastructure, development would have taken much longer. With SQL Azure, they can summon the required storage resources at the click of a button.
  • Scalable resources – the ‘pay-as-you-’go model of SQL Azure allows for a lower capital investment; there is no need to buy servers to run testing and staging. You pay for what you need, when you need it, and can scale services rapidly. 
  • Reduce risk – Xerox needed a trustworthy partner and a trusted ally, to not only lower the business risk but to inspire customer confidence in cloud security.
  • Use existing IT assets – with SQL Azure Xerox developers were using the same familiar technology that they used on-premises. They could reuse a lot of code and get the solution to market much faster. 
  • Eliminate on-premises infrastructure costs – with Azure, Xerox is able to try out new projects with a small investment and scale if they are successful. 
  • Gain global presence overnight – it would have been impossible for Xerox to front their own public-cloud data centre with global locations without a significant investment. 

If, like Xerox, your business wants to innovate faster, reduce risk and create scalable solutions to customer problems, then Microsoft Azure can offer a huge amount of support. With the pressure taken away from managing on-premises infrastructure, your business can have the freedom to meet customer demands, create new innovative products and achieve it all at a global scale. 

To summarise, here are the challenges, the solution and the benefits that Xerox experienced:

  • Challenges – Xerox, the industry-leading Managed Print Services company, wanted to enable mobile workers to print when travelling outside of their offices. To do this, they needed to transform their private-cloud infrastructure to a public cloud. Xerox knew there was a demand, but didn’t know the scale and needed to create a multi tenant infrastructure that could grow without huge upfront investment. 
  • Solution – Xerox decided to build its solution, Xerox Cloud Print, with the help of Microsoft’s Azure platform. Developers at the company were already used to working with Microsoft products and the fact that Microsoft already had many of its own core business assets on the platform gave them further confidence. The Microsoft SQL Azure database was selected for its relational capabilities, scalability and familiarity. Ultimately, working with Microsoft made sound business sense. 
  • Benefits – Xerox built its solution in just four months. Development time was greatly reduced by using scalable SQL Azure resources, existing IT assets and familiar technology. The result is a service with an instant global presence that can be scaled at the touch of a button. And, now that Xerox has moved its on-premises infrastructure to the cloud, it has the opportunity to innovate faster, without the worries of business risk and cost standing in the way. 
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About the author

Michael Ridland is the Co-CEO and Founder of Xam Consulting.

Design-led problem solving delivering digital solutions.

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