Coherent Delves Into Windows Azure With LiquidSpace
Of all the things the internet has wrought – from at-home shopping at 2 AM, to being able to turn every acquaintance into a “friend” – the sharing economy has got to be one of the coolest. Consider the environmental and economic advantages of car sharing via Zipcar.com, and the huge success of AirBnB where individuals can list a couch, a room, a house — even a tree house — for rent, B&B-like, to visitors.
Now Coherent Solutions client LiquidSpace has entered this category with a service aimed at the growing business of leasing temporary meeting and work space. Co-founders Mark Gilbreath and Doug Marinaro saw opportunity in the changing world of corporate real estate after the crash of 2008.
"What we saw during the economic meltdown was a lot of underutilized space," Gilbreath told Entrepreneur.com. "Meanwhile, work is becoming more mobile and collaborative. If companies with too much space are having to make difficult decisions [about what to do with it], LiquidSpace lets them take the fixed expense of real estate and turn it into a variable expense."
LiquidSpace's VP of Technical Operations, Craig Knighton, noted that on any given day most office buildings are only 30-40% utilized. Conference rooms sit empty except for peak periods when there is competition for these spaces. And more and more people are telecommuting to work, changing the paradigm from work-as-a-place to work-where-you-choose. LiquidSpace’s website is aimed at matching the space owners with the space users — temporarily.
It works like this: owners list their meeting and work spaces, including amenities and photos as well as the price per hour, on LiquidSpace's website and LiquidSpace creates a calendar for each space. These can range from free public locations like coffee shops and libraries, to priced spaces like hotel or office conference rooms, to private office space that is only available to pre-approved users. Users peruse the website to find a work environment that suits their equipment, location and timing needs, then book it for an hour or a day and pay for it online. This can all be done on the run as well, via the company's native mobile apps for iPhones and Androids.
How They Manage It
Behind the bright idea, neat phone apps and pretty pictures on LiquidSpace.com is an infrastructure that manages and merges the constantly changing calendars to show each user only what's available when and where they want it minute-by-minute. From the start, Marinaro and Knighton planned to partner with Coherent Solutions on developing, updating and maintaining their 24/7 web business. Both had worked with Coherent in the past, and both knew that Coherent's team would be up to the job.
"We chose to use Microsoft's new, open cloud platform — Azure," explained Knighton. "No one had much experience with it, but we knew Coherent's team would learn it quickly, ask good questions and provide useful suggestions."
Azure offers maximum flexibility for LiquidSpace's applications that need to work on multiple devices. "You can build applications in any language, with any tool, and without a lot of infrastructure in Azure, which made it easier to create apps for the iPhone and Android too," explained Coherent's Team Leader for LiquidSpace, Slava Kupreev. "Azure also integrates public cloud apps with the internal IT environment, and it scales easily. And we can do upgrades without down time."
Like other Coherent clients working on quickly evolving technology, Knighton's in-house team works in an Agile environment with Coherent's Minsk development center. They have daily Skype meetings and weekly demos.
"Our working relationship is very easy," said Marina Lepeshko who heads up the QA team. "We have weekly iterations which provide frequent opportunities for us to present our accomplishments to the entire global team."
As LiquidSpace grows, Knighton sees Coherent remaining an integral part of the development team. "Coherent's turnover in Minsk is very low and the quality of workers is high," he said. "Cost always matters, but we went to Coherent for their flexibility and results, which we get for a very good price."
Click here to watch an interview with Mark Gilbreath and Doug Marinaro at the 2011 SXSW show where they introduced LiquidSpace from a mobile office.