Microsoft Web Solution Platform Lets Hotbiz.com Carry On Unnoticed
Hotbiz.com needed a reliable and extensible platform to offer cost-effective solutions for its small- and medium-business customers. After evaluating Windows and Linux platforms, Hotbiz.com chose the Microsoft Web Solution platform to build and deliver the secure, transparent, ASP-based solutions its customers were demanding.
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Hotbiz.com, the first wireless applications service provider, works with ISPs around the world to provide co-branded communication, collaboration, and commerce tools for end-users in a variety of businesses.
Early on, Hotbiz.com knew it needed a secure and reliable platform on which to develop its Internet and intranet solutions. The platform it went with needed to be robust enough for advanced developers on the back end and easy enough for non-technical users to maintain their Web sites on the front end.
After evaluating Linux, BSDI and the Microsoft Web Solution platform, it became clear to Hotbiz.com that its need for security, reliability, extensibility and scalability would be better met using the Windows platform.
Software and Services
Microsoft BackOffice Microsoft COM
Microsoft Exchange Server
Microsoft SQL Server
Microsoft Visual Studio
Microsoft Windows 2000 Server with Internet Information Server
Unlike many businesses, Hotbiz.com is doing its job best when customers don't even know it's there. Hotbiz.com works with ISPs around the world to provide secure, extensible, and, above all, seamless ASP-based applications to small- and medium-sized businesses. Customers enjoy easy access to information, goods, and services without giving a second thought to the many components working together on the back end.
Hotbiz.com, an infrastructure applications service provider (iASP), offers its ISP customers three core application packages:
An e-commerce package for product-based companies (for example, auto parts providers that require secure product purchase across the Internet)
An e-commerce package for service-based industries (for example, health care providers that require secure transfer of confidential information across the Internet)
Small office intranet package (for small businesses that require secure communications within particular groups)
Each package includes multiple applications such as calendars and collaboration tools for meetings. Hotbiz.com sells these core packages to ISPs and works with them to create customized, co-branded solutions for ISP customers.
Meeting Needs on the Front and Back Ends
When Hotbiz.com began evaluating the types of platforms it could use, the company gave careful consideration to both the back-end requirements and the user experience each platform provided.
From the back end, the platform needed to meet the following criteria: extreme scalability, extreme extensibility, high fault tolerance, and high redundancy.
From the application side, the platform needed to be easy to use from the perspective of the end user. The typical user would not necessarily be technologically sophisticated, so whatever solution Hotbiz.com offered its ISP customers would need to meet the user at his or her level of expertise and not require excessive ramp-up time.
The platform would also need to present seamless integration across multiple applications. Hotbiz.com wanted the user to be able to log in just once and then have access to multiple applications which, to the user, appear as only one application. The goal was for the user to neither see nor think about the platform.
Although some of its users had more technical experience than others, Hotbiz.com realized that all of its users had grown to expect a rich feature set. Acknowledging this, the company knew it had to offer applications that would feel robust and complete to the user.
Hotbiz.com understood that security is of the utmost importance to its ISP customers and end users. The company decided to provide three levels of security. At the highest level, the user can designate personal information as private. At the next level, information can be made accessible within the company. At the most public level, access can be given to anyone on the Internet.
A Scalable and Reliable Solution
Hotbiz.com spent time evaluating several different options, including Linux and BSDI. In the early days of their business, Hotbiz.com used Linux as its operating system. But when the company began evaluating its need for extensibility and scalability, it realized that it needed a more robust, reliable, and secure platform.
Hotbiz.com realized that the Windows 2000 architecture had the feature set needed from an application perspective. Keeping the consumer's needs in mind, Hotbiz.com decided to go with the Microsoft Web Solution platform because of the seamless integration of functions it provides. When, for example, a customer pastes the domain name of a Web site into a browser, the task appears to be no more than simply pointing, clicking, copying, and pasting. On the back-end, however, three separate Microsoft Web Solution platform components’ IIS, DNS, and SQL Server must speak to one another in order to accomplish the task. The user doesn't need to think about the elaborate transfer of information occurring on the back end.
Hotbiz.com's choice of the Microsoft Web Solution platform also makes ongoing maintenance of the Web site easier with the tools Microsoft provides. The platform offers a rich programming environment based on a 3-tier architecture consisting of a core layer, application layer, and client layer. These layers provide developers with the necessary flexibility to respond quickly to changing market and client demands in the future. The Microsoft Web Solution platform components give experienced developers the tools they need to build upon and expand Hotbiz.com's existing core of three application packages over time.
Time to Market
The three-tiered architecture of the Microsoft Web Solution platform was one of the primary benefits for Hotbiz.com. According to Mahendra Chheda, CTO for Hotbiz.com, using the Microsoft platform has allowed the basic architecture to remain in place, which enables limitless scaling as customers' needs grow in complexity. Rather than having to re-design the basic architecture, developers can respond to market demands on the fly.
As technology progresses, Hotbiz.com has the flexibility to add a fourth core package and can do so without having to rethink the architecture it has already invested in. The company can focus on the needs of the moment rather than on the underlying infrastructure. Even more important, Hotbiz.com can continue to add new functionality without disrupting service to new and existing users.
In addition to its capacity for seamless expansion, the platform architecture provides another benefit: It vastly reduces the time it takes for Hotbiz.com to implement its solutions in the marketplace. As Chheda observed, "Doing business on the Internet, it's critical to have a short time to market. The Microsoft Web Solution platform gives Hotbiz.com and its customers the edge of getting to market quickly."
Chheda feels it is not difficult to take advantage of the rich tool set that the Microsoft platform offers. "The developers need to have a certain level of experience. But once they've gotten comfortable working with any of the BackOffice components in the Microsoft platform, the learning curve flattens out significantly. The standards are carried throughout the Microsoft Web solution DNA no longer exists and has been replaced with Microsoft Web solution platform. When you've learned one piece of it, you're well on your way to having mastery over the entire platform."
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