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Austin Convention Center Embraces Cloud Application Storage

In this interview series with Austin Convention Center Database Administrator Jeff Moore, we are uncovering decision criteria for Apple iPad adoption and Mobile-first application development.
Austin Convention Center Logo
Part 4 of this interview covers Mr. Moore’s views on using other application storage besides FileMaker and iterating product development for cloud applications. 

Joshua:    Right now you have one or two projects that use iPads, what happens when the Center and the City are considering multiple projects, do you consider cloud application storage as a bigger planning measure?

Jeff:    Right. It makes complete sense. And I think like anything else, it just requires a certain amount of planning. No one wants to let the tail wag the dog. And so it gets to the point where you evaluate things with a certain amount of planning. And it might be that our current setup using FileMaker and FileMaker Go won’t work for everything. Then we evaluate what will work. And we won’t be afraid to go out and get new stuff and test it.

However, it can be a challenge.  There are people that just they like the way things work and they don’t really want to change it. They may view new ideas as a too risky. We must get around that and be open to evaluating these new products and architectures. And saying, hey you know what, not only are we gonna download the demo and look at it, but you know what, let’s spend a little bit of money and let’s buy some things and put ’em together and pilot this. Let it run for six months and see what happens.

So yeah, I think when we get to the point where the tail is wagging the dog, we’ll know it. And we won’t attempt to do something that it’s just not suited for. FileMaker in and of itself is a pretty powerful system. But it’s not Oracle. It’s not something that if I needed something to be up 24/7 and handle millions of transactions and terabytes of data, I’d be looking at another solution.

My 20 years of experience with FileMaker has shown me on the left organizations have Office and on the right they have multimillion dollar systems that can’t be customized. In the middle there’s this big swirling middle of work groups that have a need to do things that they can’t — that are beyond Word or Excel, and they can’t get the million dollar system to do. Developing middle work group based applications has been the sweet spot where I’ve enjoyed staying for the past 20 years.

Joshua:    That is an interesting take on the middle-ground; can you talk a little bit about your experience vetting product requirements for your mobile application?

Jeff:    Yes, It’s very helpful to have a scanned image of what the exhibitor sent to you. It’s fantastic. However, the next phase of this would be to have a form within the order, where they click here, there and submit.  The “here” and “there” is where they want their exhibit stuff. The workflow would build in dependencies depending on what they chose and where they wanted it. Today, handwritten forms, booth diagrams, etc., create opportunity for missed information. So we are looking at that for our next phase of developing the web form.

It’s not just in FileMaker, but using FileMaker’s instant web publishing tool, which to many people is an anemic sort of solution. I agree, it is limited, but we ask “What are our exhibitors doing?” It’s just a bloody form, it’s not like they’re trying to have this thing with a robust set of features. It’s just a form. So as with everything in life, the product has its place. And it’s surprising when you boil down — when you look at things, at business challenges and you ask, what is the problem we’re trying to solve? We can come up with all of these ideas for, oh well it would be great to do this and great to do that. But really, what are we trying to do first? What problem are we trying to solve?

ACC Solar AtriumWe just boil it down to that, and then a lot of the times that’s a great starting place. And if it grows beyond that and needs to be more scalable, then you change your technology later on. But in the meantime you have something that gets you up and running, and in many ways can be used to determine your scalability requirements for the much larger system. ‘Cause you know how it works, you have people that say, oh well I need this or I need that, and I’ll need it to do this and I’ll need it to do that. We build it in, and then you find that they use it for a week or two, and then six months goes by and they never use it again. So something that was so critical at some point in the process of gathering business requirements, turned out to be not so critical after usage.

So yeah, these sorts of work group applications are great for that in kind of helping to form the specification of business requirements for much larger enterprise systems should we need to purchase those down the road.

In this blog, Mr. Moore explained his views on using other application
storage besides FileMaker and iterating product development for cloud
applications.  In the final blog for this interview, Mr. Moore will
share his experience with cloud applications impact on desktop users,
tool belts with tablets and how the iPad helped the Austin Convention
Center with their Gold LEED certification.

Part 1 – Austin Convention Center chooses iPads over Android and Considers Cloud Storage for File Synch and Share

Part 2 – Austin Convention Center considers New iPad for Camera to Support Facility Incident Application

Part 3 – Austin Convention Center Ditches Laptops and FTP for iPads and Cloud Application Storage

Part 5 – Austin Convention Center Adds Tablets to Tool Belts on the Exhibit Floor


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