Wrapping up 2010

Wrapping up 2010

I just realized that my last post to the Ship Software OnTime blog was back in February of 2010. This year has zipped by. It’s been an absolutely amazing year for us at Axosoft and I wanted to end it with a quick summary of some of Axosoft’s 2010 highlights:

New Offices

In April of this year, we took advantage of the low real-estate prices and bought (not rented) a brand new office space that was built to our specifications. The space has been amazingly energizing and we’re very proud of it because we believe it provides a balance between worker privacy, high level of collaboration and an inviting atmosphere.

Axosoft Office Pictures

At the heart of our new office design is the 6-person team work room. Every employee at Axosoft (minus the receptionist and accounting) works inside of one of these team rooms. These team work rooms are our own design and they feature:

  • An open atmosphere to facilitate team collaboration
  • A closed atmosphere so that the chatter of one team does not affect the productivity of another
  • Screen privacy. While every work room has one opening at the center, the wall with the entrance is a glass-wall that contains a privacy film preventing a walker in the hall from seeing screens of individuals.
  • Lots of whiteboards. Whiteboards are important to productivity, so every work room is covered from wall to wall with a 4′ high “Wall Talker.”

We did a ton of research on the design of our new offices and experimented with numerous configurations before we settled on the 6-person work rooms. Coming into this space, we were all a bit nervous because none of us had ever worked in such an environment. We were going from Cubes to these 6-person offices. The transition turned out to be unbelievably smooth. Within the first 3 days, everyone felt at home and I would hear chatter about how much superior this configuration was to the cubicles we had left behind. I personally went from an isolated one-person office to one of these team rooms and I absolutely love it!

Some of the other features of our new offices include:

  • Flex Offices – There are times when users need that extra bit of privacy for a private phone call or they need to be on a long conference call, need some concentration time or need to make a recording (we do a lot of videos here at Axosoft), so we built flex offices that anybody can use.
  • Gym – We decided to create a gym complete with rowing machine, stationary bike, treadmill, free weights and kettle bells. The “box” is ideal for the new hard-core crossfit addicts.
  • Showers – Having a gym would be useless without showers, so our new offices feature two showers so that employees can sweat it out and still smell great at the office.
  • Lounge – Our little lounge area has a big-screen, an XBox 360, Nintendo Wii and some foam guns. Be careful.

Along with the new offices, one of the best investments we made in 2010 was in buying everyone new chairs. In deciding on the chair, we did our own research. We obtained sample chairs from Herman Miller (the Aeron , Mirra and Cella), Steelcase (the Leap), HumanScale (Liberty) and 9 to 5 (Strata). Then we decided that every employee would work on every chair for at least 1 hour, then pass it on. After experimenting with all the chairs, each employee would make their top 2 picks. We also decided to hide the cost of each chair so that nobody would be influenced by the price of the chairs.

Almost immediately, the 9 to 5 chair was out of contention. After a few rounds, the Human Scale Liberty was also out. The Herman Miller Cella got the reaction “what were they thinking?”. So it was a showdown between the Herman Miller Mirra, the Herman Miller Aeron and the Steelcase Leap chairs. The Mirra beat out the Aeron in comfort from numerous people’s experience. However the overall winner and top preferred pick was the Steelcase Leap chair. It also turned out to be the most expensive of all the chairs we tested at nearly $800 each.

We’ve been extremely fortunate in that we are overtaking an empty office shell next door to us and more than doubling our office space once again to over 12,000 square feet of space! Until March of 2010, we were crammed into a 3,000 square feet space. The new space will be a natural extension of our existing space with similar design and should be completed in April of 2011.

You can see more pictures of our offices on our Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=249910&id=13303313674

New Products

Besides OnTime 2010 (V10.0), this year, we also launched a couple of new Subversion-related products:

Subversion (SVN) integration for Visual StudioRocketSVN for Visual Studio – This Ankh-based Subversion client takes the popoular open-source Ankh Subversion tool which integrates SVN features inside the Visual Studio environment and adds easy-to-use keyboard shortcuts, integration with the OnTime Project Management Software and some other enhancements that we thought users will find useful.

For OnTime users who use the RocketSVN for Visual Studio client, they will find that all changes and commits can be easily associated with defects, features and tasks that are tracked in the OnTime system. Users can easily move OnTime items to the appropriate workflow step directly from RocketSVN for VS. The integration between OnTime and RocketSVN for Visual Studio makes this the ideal SVN client for Visual Studio & OnTime users.

Currently, RocketSVN for Visual Studio is Free! As we continue to enhance the product, we expect to eventually start charging $49 per user to provide the funds needed to continue its development.

Learn More or Download RocketSVN for VS.

Suversion (SVN) Server for Windows and IISRocketSVN Server for Windows – Subversion users on Windows have always been longing for something easier and more integrated with the way Windows users work. RocketSVN Server for Windows is designed for Microsoft-centered teams that want to use Windows-integrated authentication and/or they want Subversion to run on IIS.

Additionally, the RocketSVN Web interface makes the administration of users, repositories and groups a lot easier. Surely beats the old edit a text file to add a new user method.

Currently, the RocketSVN Server is Free during the beta period. After the release, we expect the pricing will be 100% Free for the first 2 users and $79 per user for the 3rd user and on. Additionally, RocketSVN Server licenses will include the ability for RocketSVN for Visual Studio clients to access the RocketSVN Server without needing any additional licenses. So a 2-person team will be able to use both RocketSVN Server and RocketSVN for Visual Studio 100% free! It’s the ideal Subversion Server for Window & IIS.

Learn more or download RocketSVN Server.

Shift to SaaS

SaaS Project Management SolutionAxosoft has been offering its flagship OnTime solution as a hosted service (SaaS) since 2003. However, for the most part, our sales had been dominated with licensed (installed) purchases instead of the SaaS solution.

In 2009 we decided to do an in-depth study as to why that was the case. What we found was quite surprising. Our SaaS offering had a huge performance variation depending on the geographical location of the end-user. What we found is that users in Arizona, California and some surrounding US states might get a page load time of say 1 second while users on the East Coast of the US might experience that same page in 2-3 seconds. In Europe, it was even worse, 4-5 seconds. In Australia it could reach 6 seconds.

That was completely unacceptable. We were absolutely floored. At first, we thought maybe it’s our data center, however we had chosen one of the leading data center providers (Limelight) and after further testing, we eliminated that as the culprit. We then tested other applications provided by other big-name SaaS providers and we found that performance does indeed vary depending on your distance, number of hops and other factors to the data center that hosts the SaaS product. In short, what we found is that the closer you are physically to a data center, the faster the performance you receive.

After we realized how severe the problem is for ALL SaaS-based products, we assembled a team of software engineers to tackle this problem and spent the next several months creating OnTime Now. We had a head start because we had already been automating our systems and SaaS offerings for nearly 6 years. Our biggest challenge was bringing on new data centers online in a fashion that was easy to manage and still made the signup process extremely easy.

The results have been tremendous. OnTime Now provides the OnTime solution in 8 different data centers around the globe:

Data Centers Offering OnTime Project Management System

As a result of our efforts, in 2010 we’ve seen a major shift from Installed-based purchases of OnTime to SaaS-based purchase of OnTime Now. Whether users are in the US East or West coast, somewhere in the middle, in Canada, Australia or Europe, they now have a data center near them where OnTime Now is being served. In our follow-up tests, nearly all users experience sub-second page load times. It’s been a huge success.

The best part of the new service is the way in which signup works. During the signup process, OnTime Now will automatically select the closest data center location to the user, but it also allows users to do a speed-test to make sure that particular data center is fast. If not, they have an opportunity to change the data center:

SaaS Scrum Software Signup Form

Just a couple of weeks ago, we decided to do another game-changing event. We’re now offering the OnTime Now “Express” Edition for up to 10 users for just $10 per month!

ReLaunch of TransferBigFiles.com

Send or Receive Large Files FreeRemember that little weekend project that we worked on back in 2005? Well, it turned out by early 2010 the site was getting over a half-million visitors per month, so we decided to create a dedicated team of engineers to make TransferBigFiles.com the fastest file-transfer service in the world. In May of this year, we re-launched the new TransferBigFiles.com. Having learned from our experience with OnTime Now, we built TransferBigFiles to be multi-homed in 7 different data centers around the world, making the performance unprecedented. We also offered some premium paid-plans, such as up to 100GB of online storage shared among a team of corporate users, the ability to receive download notifications, a drop box feature to receive files and much more. For iPhone users, we also created a TransferBigFiles iPhone app so they can send their uncompressed HD videos to anyone wirelessly.

The new site has been a big success and TransferBigFiles.com has become the first company spun off from Axosoft.

More Shift to Apple Products

Axosoft is primarily a Microsoft dev shop, but over the past 3 years, we’ve seen ourselves unimpressed by the PC World and we’ve completely shifted our hardware purchases to Macs for several reasons. That shift has continued and even accelerated as Apple’s products continue to dominate the industry and the gap between Apple and Dell/HP/[Insert PC Vendor Here] continues to widen.

Developing on Macs also provides the most flexibility. We can run any operating system and develop for any platform. While the majority of our development is done in Windows and .NET, the ability to create iPhone and iPad apps is very appealing. Additionally, most of our non-development staff runs Mac OS X because of the ease of use, stability and performance of the operating system. It’s been an all-around win.

Mac boxes
A recent purchase of MacBook Pros, iMac and the 27″ LED Displays

Looking Forward to 2011

We’ve had a great 2010, but even with all the exciting events of 2010, I’m especially looking forward to 2011. We have so many great things in development that I can’t wait to share.

I’ll try to keep you more updated on this blog. One of my New Year’s Resolutions is to blog more, so if you enjoy my gibberish, stay tuned…

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