The ZEISS Group is a leading technology manufacturing company which delivers global solutions in the areas of optics and photonics. Its advanced solutions help to shape technological progress within the field of optics. While, being a technology company, the majority of its solutions were already software-enabled, it needed to digitise its solutions and connect them to back-end systems. The company worked with Microsoft Azure to build a microservices-based platform that would deliver a flexible, secure identity system and give ZEISS designers the predictive insights they need to drive their solutions forward.
What Challenges Was ZEISS Facing?
The majority of ZEISS products have been software-driven for many years now. However, the company wanted to take its solutions to the next level. By creating smart devices, the applications would be able to schedule their own service calls and give ZEISS developers predictive insights into customer needs.
To achieve its plan to build smart devices, the missing part of the puzzle was a way to connect them to their back-end systems. The company uses the likes of SAP and Salesforce to record customer data, device details and service history. To give their field devices intelligence capabilities, the information needed to be able to be shared between the systems.
A secondary challenge that the company was facing was the customer login process. With so many solutions and online resources, such as product portals, workshops and upgrade centres, customers needed multiple logins. Remembering numerous sign-on credentials was burdensome and didn’t deliver the smooth customer experience that ZEISS or its customers wanted.
ZEISS wanted to be able to invest in their services and not in their servers. Azure was the obvious choice as it gave them an efficient way to use rich platform services and get the infrastructure they needed on board in just a few hours rather than many months.
To connect its field devices to its back-end business systems, ZEISS chose to partner with Microsoft Azure. Azure fueled the creation of the Enterprise Service Bus (ESB), the company’s digital integration architecture. The ESB uses various Azure services such as:
- Azure Functions – stateless scenarios
- Azure Service Fabric – stateful representations of business objects
- Azure API Management – measure API calls to ESB
- Azure Cosmos DB – buffer documents passing through ESB
- Azure Active Directory – to create ZEISS ID
The Interoperability platform allows field devices to connect to back-end systems both securely and efficiently, using a standard REST API. Meanwhile, ZEISS ID makes it easier for customers to do business with them. Ultimately, Azure helped them accelerate their digital journey. User accounts were migrated to Azure in just a few weeks, and ZEISS was able to launch its first applications shortly after.
The Benefits of Partnering with Microsoft
By using Azure, ZEISS has created ESB and ZEISS ID. The solutions have enabled them to fuel innovation and have created the basis for the digitisation of smart products. Immediate benefits that the solutions delivered included:
- Faster innovation – the development team can implement new ideas straight away without waiting for back-end teams to build the interface they need.
- Continual development – as all teams can work at the same time, there is no overlap of development streams and delay in delivery.
- Improved customer service – product users can instantly log problems and technicians have all the data they need to troubleshoot and immediately download software fixes.
- Instant upgrades – customers can keep their businesses running with fewer interruptions with software upgrades that take just minutes
- Elastic scale – ZEISS can send out millions of records, and the platform adjusts automatically.
- Secure sign-in – there is a universal customer sign-in for all ZEISS products, which not only improves the customer experience but means that development teams don’t need to worry about authentication when building applications.
With the help of Azure it’s now easier for developers to create new applications, build solutions and transform products. Meanwhile, customer service and customer experience has been vastly improved. Customers have access to over 150 web applications and can authenticate themselves easily using social IDs.
While they’ve already made a considerable impact, ZEISS views ESB and ZEISS ID as foundational products. They are preparing the company for the future of smart products. All systems have a secure way to talk to each other and the rest of the world. The next step is integrating more service innovations such as voice interfaces and service bots. With the foundation in place to support this, the future looks limitless for ZEISS.
If like ZEISS, your company needs to connect applications or field-devices to back-end systems without investing in the infrastructure required to support it, Azure could help. With Microsoft, ZEISS created a microservices-based platform that is highly flexible and has a secure identity system enabling data to be shared both internally and with customers. Azure helps to shorten development cycles, speed-up innovation and ensure that the customer experience is improved at every step of the way.
To summarise, here are the challenges, the solution and the benefits that ZEISS experienced:
- Challenges – ZEISS needed to take its products to the next level by making them schedule their own service calls and deliver predictive insights. However, to achieve their goal, they needed the devices to be able to connect to their back-end system. As well as connecting other devices they needed to resolve the customer login process. With most customers using multiple solutions, the sign-in process was becoming cumbersome.
- Solution – ZEISS used Microsoft Azure to build its Enterprise Service Bus (ESB), a digital integration architecture that would connect its field devices to its back-end business systems. They managed to get the infrastructure on board in a few short hours and with the addition of ZEISS ID, user accounts were securely migrated to Azure, and the first applications were launched within weeks.
- Benefits – The solutions that ZEISS has built with the help of Azure have enabled them to fuel innovation. Development lead cycles are shorter and solutions can be easily scaled. ESB is the basis for the digitisation of smart products, where all systems and applications can communicate instantaneously and securely. Meanwhile, customers benefit from instant upgrades, faster troubleshooting and a simplified login process.