As part of the Real World Windows Azure series, we talked to James Osteen, Assistant Director of Information Technology for the City of Miami, about using the Windows Azure platform to deliver the city's 311 citizen response application and the benefits that Windows Azure provides. Here's what he had to say:

MSDN: Tell us about the City of Miami and the role that IT plays in its management.

Osteen: The City of Miami is in southeastern Florida and serves more than 425,000 citizens. With a team of 80 employees, the IT department plays a critical role because we continuously strive to improve existing services and offer new services to the residents of Miami.

MSDN: What was the biggest challenge the City of Miami faced prior to implementing Windows Azure?

Osteen: The 311 application that we wanted to develop, which would give residents the ability to submit and track nonemergency incidents used mapping technology that required significant computing resources. Unfortunately, we have limited budget and resources, including a five-year procurement cycle for server hardware. We needed a cost-effective, scalable solution that would maximize what resources we do have.

MSDN: Can you describe the solution you built with Windows Azure to help maximize your limited resources?

Osteen: This month we're launching our 311 application. We're using MapDotNet UX, an off-the-shelf product built for Windows Azure that integrates with Windows Azure storage services and Bing maps for enterprise, and also has an interface based on Microsoft Silverlight 3.0 browser plug-in. It gives us the powerful mapping technology that we need to enable residents to track nonemergency service requests and view other open requests in a particular area. We're using Blob Storage to store spatial data, which we previously had in shapefile and KML formats.

 

Figure 1: Miami 311 Application-Built on Windows Azure, the Miami 311 application enables citizens to report and track nonemergency incidents.

MSDN: What makes your solution unique?

Osteen: Windows Azure is going to radically reshape how we develop new services for our citizens. For instance, the development fabric enables our developers to run and test an application on their local computer before deploying it, so we do not have to use multiple testing, debugging, and production environments before deploying new applications or updates. This means that we're going to significantly increase how fast we can go to market with new features or applications. Windows Azure is the future for the City of Miami.

MSDN: What are some of the key benefits the City of Miami has seen since implementing Windows Azure?

Osteen:  In addition to the fast development, we're able to reduce costs. With Windows Azure, we can scale horizontally and vertically very quickly as demand requires, without worrying about trying to predict our server needs five years in advance. Also, by relying on Microsoft-hosted data centers, we've improved our disaster-recovery strategy, which is important in our hurricane-prone region.

Read the full story at:  http://www.microsoft.com/casestudies/Case_Study_Detail.aspx?CaseStudyID=4000006568

Read more Windows Azure customer success stories, visit: www.windowsazure.com/evidence