Being right about seeing both sides of an issue has proved to be a winning formula for the founder and CEO of cloud application development firm RightBrain Networks. Most people in technology gravitate toward one specialty, such as system administration or application development. But Begin has long focused on both, and it was this dual perspective, along with his focus on Enable Azure as a way to tie them together, that led him to found RightBrain in 2009.
In 2012, he took his application development and platform focus to the cloud and has based his work exclusively there ever since.
It’s working. Revenues this year are projected to be $5 million, up 80 percent from $2.8 million last year. To support this growth, the payroll of 29 employees will expand beyond 40 by year’s end.
Two clouds are better than one
To help ensure that this growth continues, Begin is applying his “two is better than one” philosophy in a new way: to his support of the cloud. When RightBrain first made itself at home in the cloud, its address was exclusively at Amazon Web Services (AWS).
Now, he has added a strong emphasis on Microsoft Azure and expects demand for the cloud platform to facilitate strong growth for years to come.
“We see tremendous opportunity in Azure,” says Begin. “We are growing larger, faster, with Azure alongside AWS. We expect Microsoft to be a very important partner of ours moving forward.”
Lower risk, higher credibility
Azure is a necessary addition to Begin’s AWS offerings, not a replacement for them. For one thing, it lowers his business risk by being able to offer either, or both, of two cloud platforms rather than just one. For another, it gives him more credibility with his clients.
“How can I claim to my clients to be a cloud expert if I exclude Azure?” he asks rhetorically. “They know Azure is out there. If they choose AWS, they want it to be because it suits their particular needs, not because it’s the only platform their cloud development firm offers.”
Clients want Microsoft
And those clients increasingly want Azure to be a part of their cloud solution, according to Begin. They, like him, have bought into the Microsoft “mobile first/cloud first” philosophy and are impressed with the unambiguous investment that Microsoft has made to put its money where its institutional mouth is.
Second, many of his enterprise clients, especially those on the IT side of the business, have long and successful relationships with Microsoft, understand the Microsoft product roadmap, and are comfortable with it.
Hybrid with Azure
Third, many of his clients have multiple data centers and some workloads that cannot be moved to the cloud, or won’t be moved to the cloud any time soon. For them, the hybrid solution they get with Azure is a distinct advantage, one with which they can create the specific balance between cloud and on-prem that suits them, and then continue their migration to the cloud when and if they choose.
CSP: Sell Azure your way
For Begin, there was another attraction in Azure: the Cloud Solution Provider (CSP) program for Microsoft Azure. Like its counterpart for Microsoft Office 365, the CSP for Azure program enables technology providers to sell Azure directly to customers, packaged with a distinctive set of value-added services if they choose, and retain all aspects of the provider/customer relationship, such as direct billing and support.
“I was really excited when Microsoft announced Azure CSP last year,” he says. “I was one of the first to sign up.”
Two platforms, one business model
Now, RightBrain sells Azure and retains the client relationship exactly as it does with AWS. Having the same business model work across the two cloud platforms makes it easier for RightBrain to sell both to a single client, which it does when the client has distinctive needs that are best satisfied by both platforms.
With Azure CSP, RightBrain can put Azure in the center of its proprietary Cloud Development Life Cycle (CDLC®), which it uses to successfully move clients to the cloud.
The CDLC includes phases for discovery, innovation, migration/builds, and an ongoing cloud success plan that includes managed services and regular calls between RightBrain architects and clients for knowledge sharing and to identify new needs.
Abundant partner resources, support
Compared to RightBrain, Microsoft is a mammoth company. Begin admits to initial concerns about possibly getting overlooked by Microsoft. He needn’t have worried.
“Microsoft makes more resources available to me than I can consume,” he says. “There’s always someone available to answer my questions. Microsoft has a lot of motivated people on the cloud team. It’s a very positive experience with Microsoft.”
Begin was surprised not only by the extent of the resources available to him, but also by the direct attention he gets from Microsoft.
“I thought, ‘I’m a small guy here, maybe they’ll ping me twice a quarter,’” says Begin. “Instead, Microsoft is actively helping me to grow my Azure business. For example, we had a meeting with the Microsoft sales team to coordinate opportunities where they could use a partner. We’ve attended Executive Briefing Conferences in Redmond. Microsoft is investing the time and resources to make me successful.”
“Now is the time to get involved”
As for what’s ahead, Begin sees exciting times with Azure’s rapid growth and continued launch of new features. “Azure is already a large market player and over the next three or four years it will become huge,” he says. “If a technology provider is serious about the cloud, now is the time to get involved with Azure.”