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We often hear about how businesses can use the cloud in order to work more efficiently. More unusual are examples of the cloud actually creating a new business opportunity. But that is what postage and delivery services company, Pitney Bowes, has planned.


Volly is new cloud-based, digital mailbox service that leverages Pitney Bowes’ communication management assets. It will be launched later this year. The service aims to help businesses deliver communications to multiple channels, and to help consumers aggregate electronic mailings such as bills, statements, coupons and catalogs.


Executives involved in the new venture described their efforts at the Cloud Expo in New York last week. Surya Sagi, Vice President of Product Development and Chief Systems Architect at Pitney Bowes, and Vineet Tyagi, Senior Director of Engineering at Volly’s outsourcing partner, Impetus, discussed some of the technical challenges they had to address over the past year before launching the new cloud service. These lessons should resonate with others building or deploying cloud apps.


Among the challenges: providing strong data security and privacy; ensuring scalability and high performance; integrating internal and external systems, and figuring out how best to store and manage what will be enormous volumes of data in the cloud.


In addressing these and other challenges, Sagi says, the partners learned some key lessons, such as the importance of applying customized, application-level security, including encryption. They also learned that building application-specific load balancing for distributed computing is important, as are pre-configured templates for faster and better virtual machine initializations. Finally, they found that leveraging the agility of the cloud to reduce provisioning and operational costs was a key payoff.


Now that Pitney Bowes has overcome the challenges and tested the performance and security of its cloud-based offering, Sagi says, it is more prepared to offer and support the service for customers.


The true test will come later in the year.


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