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Case Study | Synteractive


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Case Study | Synteractive

  1. 1. Solution Provider Uses Cloud Technology to Create Novel Social Networking SoftwareOverview "Windows Azure and Microsoft TownHall give us aCountry or Region:United States platform that lets our customers launch a multitude ofIndustry:Professional services – IT forums and complex web applications and handleservices spikes in demand of up to millions of users.‖Customer Profile EvanBurfield, Chief Executive Officer, SynteractiveSynteractive is a Washington, D.C.–based IT solutions provider that focuses Synteractive is a Washington, D.C.–based strategy and businesson customers in the public sector. solution provider with expertise in public sector projects,Business Situation including the Obama administration‘s webSynteractive needed a technologyplatform on which to implement its new initiative. Synteractive saw a market opportunity for socialidea: a social networking application for networking software that could be used to interact with verylarge public organizations and politicalcampaigns that can quickly scale to large audiences. It designed such an application, which it calledmillions of users. SocialRally, by using the Windows Azure platform and MicrosoftSolution TownHall social networking technology. The solution, whichThe company used the Windows Azure offers a standards-friendly website, also works with Windowscloud computing platform and MicrosoftTownHall technology to create its Phone 7 and other mobile devices. SocialRally is a highlySocialRally social networking software. scalable, cost-effective application that provides organizationsBenefits with rich channels for interacting with and receiving real-time Delivers social networking for large feedback from very large user audiences and that has broad audiences Provides enterprise-scale platform and private- and public-sector appeal. tools Supports innovation for competitive advantage
  2. 2. Situation Burfield, Chief Executive Officer of―The key problems that Synteractive is a strategy and solutions Synteractive.our customers face are firm that helps organizations tackle issues related to how people From a technology perspective,those of being limited communicate with each other and how Synteractive would have to address a they find, access, and use information. number of other challenges. Any solutionto one social network, One of the major markets for would have to be highly scalable toor having to deal with Synteractive, which is headquartered in accommodate large numbers of Washington, D.C., is the public sector. concurrent users and big spikes in social media The company has had significant wins in It also would have to be built on a cost- this market, including projects with the effective platform to make the solutionchannel after another, White House and, a web attractive to potential clients. And, itas separate entities, initiative designed to provide the public would need to provide a rich with information related to the American development environment so thatinstead of being able to Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. Synteractive could continue to innovate in response to market with them all from During the course of these projects,a centralized location.‖ Synteractive identified a need in the Solution market for social interaction solutions To aid enterprises in the management of Erren Lester, Director of Product that could help private and public sector social networking activities, Synteractive Management, Synteractive organizations alike to better developed a new Software-as-a-Service communicate with their audiences and application called SocialRally. Built on the track existing social networking outlets. Windows Azure platform, an Internet- scale cloud computing services platform ―The key problems that our customers hosted in Microsoft data centers, and face are those of being limited to one Microsoft TownHall, a freely social network, or having to deal with downloadable and open code base that one social media channel after another, works with Windows Azure, SocialRally as separate entities, instead of being able provides the ability for organizations to to deal with them all from a centralized enable public conversations and debates location,‖ says Erren Lester, Director of and provide a common user experience Product Management for Synteractive. and across a broad range of mobile devices, including the Windows Phone 7, Since many organizations have strict data iPhone, Android, and BlackBerry retention and privacy mandates, smartphones. however, any solution that would centralize communication would have to Shawn Hinsey, Chief Software Architect support records management, audit for Synteractive, says the Windows Azure trails, and other types of requirements platform and TownHall provided the typically found in large enterprises. important technology components needed to bring SocialRally to fruition. ―We looked at the market and realized The Windows Azure platform includes a that, while there were lots of little cool cloud services operating system and a solutions, like TweetDeck and stuff for set of developer services. Windows bloggers and startup companies, there Azure, Microsoft SQL Azure, and weren‘t any good social interaction Microsoft .NET Services are the key solutions for large enterprises,‖ says Evan
  3. 3. components of the Windows Azure Because SocialRally is based on the―For our business, the platform. Windows Azure cloud-computingcloud provides platform, it is extremely scalable and can ―We built SocialRally to take advantage handle huge spikes in user traffic.incredible marginal of key features of the Windows Azure Synteractive is taking advantage of the platform such as the compute clusters pay-as-you-go business model ofcost. We didn‘t have to and Microsoft SQL Azure, which, Windows Azure to price its solution, sogo out and retain data respectively, provide enormous organizations pay only for the storage scalability and database capabilities, and and computing power that they need tocenters, implement TownHall, which provided the free and run SocialRally efficiently. Says Burfield, open code for executing our ideas,‖ says ―For our business, the cloud providescomplex architectures, Hinsey. incredible marginal cost. We didn‘t haveand hire systems to go out and retain data centers, SocialRally helps institutions connect and implement complex architectures, andadministrators. We just stay in closer touch with their customers hire systems administrators. We just pull or constituents by providing interactive, resources as we need using the scalable,pull resources as we community-driven sites around specific pay-as-you-go model.‖need using the scalable, topics; public, online forums; and the ability track, monitor, and engage in Benefitspay-as-you-go model.‖ group conversations from a single user Building its SocialRally application on the Evan Burfield, Chief Executive Officer, interface. SocialRally has appeal to Windows Azure platform helped Synteractive industries across the spectrum, from Synteractive create a compelling product political candidates and government that organizations can use to easily entities, to retail and financial services in create social networking sites with the private sector. The solution includes forums, feedback tools, and other all-important security features, such as features that bolster communications. protection for personally identifiable Behind the scenes, Windows Azure and information, and uses a self-policing Microsoft TownHall provide a rich, feature that allows the user community adaptable cloud computing platform to quickly identify and isolate offensive that cost-effectively scales to meet the or otherwise inappropriate behaviors and needs of very large networking language. initiatives. Not least of all, the solution is designed Synteractive is taking advantage of the so that organizations can set it up in Microsoft cloud platform to demonstrate minutes without the need for in-house innovative work in a highly competitive development expertise. SocialRally marketplace. Furthermore, Synteractive includes features such as dashboards customers can be confident that the and analytical tools, and can be solution is founded on a solid integrated with an organization‘s infrastructure with ISO accreditation and Microsoft SharePoint Server 2010 SAS attestations. Says Lester, ―Microsoft intranet software. It also integrates with has a lot of experience in terms of the Facebook social networking website building extremely large, highly scalable as well as LinkedIn, Digg, Twitter, platforms that scale to handle up to Delicious, MySpace, and more. hundreds of millions of users.‖
  4. 4. Delivers Social Networking for Large Even in its infancy, the solution has been―We were really Audiences extremely well received. Says Lester,impressed with the By using the Windows Azure platform, ―Community members have told us that Synteractive was able to develop a they really enjoy using the TownHallexperience of solution that met the challenges set out interface because of the rich user by important Synteractive customers. experience that it provides instead ofdeveloping with SQL static, text-based links. Rich visuals andAzure, because we ―The world is changing. The way that an graphics can be integrated into the organization goes out and engages with forum, making it really engaging and funcould take our existing an ecosystem—from 50 people to 50 to use, which allows individuals to have a million people—is fundamentally real voice in the community.‖development different than in the past,‖ says Burfield.infrastructure and ―You don‘t go out and buy big buildings Provides Enterprise-Scale Platform and create command-and-control and Toolssimply layer it on top of hierarchies and managers upon Windows Azure and Microsoft TownHall managers. You start a conversation. You provided an enterprise-scale platformthat.‖ let that conversation grow organically while delivering the cost effectiveness ofShawn Hinsey, Chief Software Architect, and virally, and you have a personalized cloud-based computing for both the Synteractive connection with almost everyone. development and ongoing SocialRally and what we‘re doing with implementation of SocialRally. the Microsoft TownHall technology are designed to bring innovation—in terms ―For us, there wasn‘t really a decision of crowd sourcing and having a whether or not to move to the cloud. It conversation—to large organizations, in was obvious,‖ says Burfield. ―Our a way that fits with their requirements.‖ business model is a ‗freemium‘ one: We offer SocialRally as a free service for a He notes that the Microsoft technology small business or an individual, or also made it easy to add features sought perhaps for a large enterprise that wants by Synteractive customers, such as a to dip its toe into social networks. But we polling feature and ways to push also have the ability to scale SocialRally multimedia content to specific users. all the way up to the largest enterprises. Additional functionality that appealed to Windows Azure and Microsoft TownHall Synteractive is the reputation-based give us a platform that lets our system in TownHall, which encourages customers launch a multitude of forums members to participate in the and complex web applications and community forum by voting on handle spikes in demand of up to questions and posting responses, and millions of users.‖ which rewards forum members with ―reputation points.‖ Hinsey says the pay-as-you-go model, the immense scalability, and the rich ―Plus, users can access SocialRally development environment of the regardless of their browser, and can use Windows Azure platform were all critical it from mobile devices such as the to the development of SocialRally. Windows Phone 7,‖ Burfield says. ―The ―We were really impressed with the Microsoft technology has been a huge experience of developing with SQL accelerator for us.‖ Azure, because we could take our existing development infrastructure and
  5. 5. simply layer it on top of that,‖ Hinsey ―What Windows Azure provides is―One of the most says. ―We could take an application essentially a fully marginalized cost. Wepowerful aspects of the previously developed on [Microsoft] SQL have no fixed costs, and we have no Server 2008 R2, and then deploy it into capital costs related to SocialRally,‖ heWindows Azure the cloud on SQL Azure without any says. ―We‘re only paying for exactly what problems at all. It was a completely we‘re using. So we can contain our costsplatform is its ability to seamless transition.‖ for a free service, and we can scale thereduce our time-to- cost up as we need to in order to provide Integration with other software, including a premium enterprise service to our largemarket." SharePoint Server 2010 and the Windows customers.‖ Phone OS 7, was also key to the designShawn Hinsey, Chief Software Architect, Synteractive of SocialRally. ―SharePoint 2010 is He adds that the company has worked providing really exciting new capabilities with a number of cloud computing for social engagement inside the providers, including Amazon. ―They all enterprise and as a web content have their strengths,‖ Burfield says. ―But management platform for engaging an where Windows Azure really stands even broader audience outside the above is when you want to create that enterprise,‖ says Burfield. ―And, by rapid, highly scalable, flexible web leveraging the Microsoft TownHall code application. Windows Azure deals with all base within SocialRally, we‘re able to the complexity, allowing you to focus on extend into mobile devices like the creativity and the business processes that Windows Phone 7 and can integrate with provide a competitive advantage in the Facebook.‖ marketplace.‖ Supports Innovation for Competitive Related Resources and Information Advantage To learn more about the Windows Azure Synteractive used Microsoft technologies platform, visit the website at: to create a versatile, cloud-based application for a large market that is still Learn:Channel9 Windows Azure Training in the nascent stages of using social Course networking software. Read:Security Best Practices for Developing on the Windows Azure Platform ―One of the most powerful aspects of the Download:Windows Azure Training Kit Windows Azure platform is its ability to Download:Windows Azure SDK reduce our time-to-market,‖ says Hinsey. ―This means that when we come up with To learn more about Microsoft’s an innovative new idea in which time TownHall social networking technology, might be critical, such as SocialRally, we visit have the ability and tools to take care of that idea, release it into the public Follow: @mstownhall on Twitter to be kept quickly, and immediately get feedback up to date on the latest TownHall news on it.‖ Watch: Demonstration videos at Burfield adds that the Windows Azure Download:Microsoft‘s TownHall Core API platform has given Synteractive a highly source code and the web client flexible and cost-effective means to address emerging market needs.
  6. 6. More about Synteractive‘sSocialRally, developers with on-demand compute andFor More Information software-as-a-service application, can be storage to host, scale, and manage webFor more information about Microsoft found applications on the Internet throughproducts and services, call the here: Microsoft data centers.Microsoft Sales Information Center at socialrally/ Microsoft SQL Azure. Microsoft SQL Azure(800) 426-9400. In Canada, call the offers the first cloud-based relational andMicrosoft Canada Information Centre Microsoft Cloud Services self-managed database service built onat (877) 568-2495. Customers in the Microsoft offers a complete set of cloud- Microsoft SQL Server 2008 technologies.United States and Canada who are based solutions to meet business needs, Windows Azure AppFabric. Withdeaf or hard-of-hearing can reach including solutions for advertising, Windows Azure AppFabric, developers canMicrosoft text telephone (TTY/TDD) communications (email, meetings), build and manage applications more easilyservices at (800) 892-5234. Outside the collaboration (document storage, sharing, both on-premises and in the cloud.50 United States and Canada, please workflow), business applications (customer −AppFabric Service Bus connects servicescontact your local Microsoft subsidiary. resource management, business and applications across networkTo access information using the web, productivity), data storage and boundaries to help developers buildgo management, and infrastructure services. In distributed applications. addition, customers can take advantage of −AppFabric Access Control providesFor more information about an entire ecosystem of solution providers federated, claims-based access control forSynteractive, call (202) 904-2165 or and Microsoft partners. REST web services.visit the web site at: Windows Azure For more information about Microsoft DataMarket. Developers and information Cloud Services, go to: workers can use the new serviceTo view the video documentation of DataMarket to easily discover, purchase,Synteractive and other success stories and manage premium data subscriptions invisit the Microsoft Success Web site the Windows Azure Windows Azure Platforms/ The Windows Azure platform provides an excellent foundation for expanding onlineSee how other companies successfully product and service offerings. The mainimplemented money and time saving components include:solutions in their business using theWindows Azure platform. View an Windows Azure. Windows Azure is theadditional case study here. development, service hosting, and service Software and Services Windows Azure Platform Microsoft Server Product Portfolio − Windows Azure − Microsoft SharePoint Server 2010 − Microsoft SQL Azure Windows Phone 7 − Microsoft TownHall Technologies Microsoft Visual Studio − Microsoft .NET Framework 3.5 Microsoft Visual Studio 2008 Professional Edition management environment for the Windows Azure platform. Windows Azure provides