BlueMetal is thrilled to announce that we have formed a strategic relationship with RAMP to deliver video content management solutions to enterprises with large volumes of video content. RAMP’s award-winning MediaCloud®solution enables companies to incorporate video into their SharePoint installations, delivering improved search and engagement for employees and other internal consumers of content. BlueMetal’s services will accelerate the delivery of RAMP’s solution, helping organizations make their video content more discoverable and engaging.
We’re excited to announce the release of our very own BlueMetal Windows 8 app to the Windows Store – http://apps.microsoft.com/windows/en-us/app/bluemetal-architects/0330818b-ea4b-4a4e-8426-333e28b208dc
Learn about our people, practices, and locations, and read our job postings, blogs, tweets, and events.
For the fans of native Win8 functionality, we’ve incorporated the app bar, semantic zoom, the search charm, and the share charm at appropriate places within the app. (See if you can find them!)
We thank the development team: Dmitri Artamonov, Elizabeth Connolly, Dave Davis, Oren Novotny, Kate O’Brien, John Pelak, John Soares, Roman Yugov, and Carmine Zinni.
BlueMetal is a Platinum sponsor of the upcoming SharePoint Saturday NYC on 7/27/13, and will have five speakers participating in four sessions at the event. Our sessions will span the range from end-user to developer:
Fullfilling the promise of Responsive Design with Sharepoint 2013 - Justin Sypek
Automating Site Provisioning for SharePoint 2010 and 2013 - Bob German & Beatrice Baciu
Apps 101 – Moving to the SharePoint 2013 App Model - Bob German & Derek Cash-Peterson
Governance Experts Panel – Sadie Van Buren & Ruven Gotz, Sue Hanley, Michelle Caldwell
Registration for the event is not yet open (as of 6/13/13) and we will update this post when it is available.
We hope to see you there!
Start date: 07/27/13
End date: 07/27/13
Last night Joe Grenier and I attended the AWS Meetup in Cambridge, MA. The guest speaker was Jeff Barr, Chief AWS Evangelist. Jeff covered AWS at a pretty high level but it was an eye opener for me having recently left Microsoft and been immersed in Azure for so long.
First, Jeff countered the myth that AWS was a way for Amazon to sell excess capacity. Jeff explained that AWS arose from both a desire to meet more sophisticated requests from its partners and its own internal software teams needing a better system for releasing new code and new services. Initially Amazon was just a commerce provider, but as they started allowing partners access to the catalog service, developers working for these partners began requesting more integration and more sophisticated services.
Today, Amazon – the commerce site, is a customer of AWS just as much as their partners are.
Without getting too long winded, here are the main points I found interesting:
- AWS is offered in a very broad spectrum of power and storage capacity.
- You can order the amount of memory, compute units, disk space.
- You can specify the speed of the disks.
- In short you can tailor your computing environment to your needs and you can mix and match different levels of service. This would allow you to partition your services across various levels of hardware to tune the cost of running your entire service.
- AWS offers some interesting services that I did not expect:
- Transcoding service that allows you to convert from one media content to another and they manage all the licenses. You just pay for the conversion on per minute charge rate(minutes of media that is, not computation). IMO the interesting point here is the mere fact that they have such large demand for this type of service.
- Glacier, a slow archival service that is super cheap but you have to be willing to wait between 3-5 hours to get your data. I thought back to my experience on Microsoft’s bCentral team. Our service, FastCounter-Pro collected massive amounts of data for our clients to track the performance of their online marketing campaigns to promote their web sites. FC-Pro had a rolling window where raw data older than 6 months was reduced to monthly summary statistics and that raw data taken offline. Some customers would have been willing to pay for an archival service that would allow them to go back in time to review their raw data to measure the success of marketing and ad campaigns with finer granularity than what the monthly rollup stats afforded. A service like Glacier would have allowed us to provide that service in an economically feasible way that worked for both supplier and consumer.
- Amazon hosts a market place that allows companies to sell their excess capacity. They also offer a spot market for these services that needed an offline explanation to fully understand its benefits. I saw this today in the meetup notes courtesy of Keith Baker:
- “One legitimate reason to bid spot prices more than the ondemand rate is if continuity of instances has some value to you. Lets say you have a job which ends up processing blocks which take 10 hours be block and checkpointing anything smaller is difficult. If you bid above the ondemand rate its very likely that most of the hours will be below the ondemand rate. If you get one hour a twice the ondemand rate but the rest far below you can still come out ahead. On the other hand if you only bet the on-demand rate your instances would be terminated and you have to start over again. I haven’t come across a job that fits this exact profile.”
It was pretty obvious to me that AWS is a much more mature environment than Azure in terms of the levels of customization, the number of services offered, and the various price points that are available. I am absolutely positive this is due to the relationship they have with their customers who are looking to Amazon to provide deeper and richer levels of cloud service. Contrast this to Azure where Microsoft initially had to entice some of their customer base to move to Azure. It’s a completely different dynamic and results in very different feature prioritization. Of course Microsoft is also hosting LOB services (such as Exchange) for large traditional (brick and mortar) companies, so there’s a lot riding on it from their perspective and caution is warranted in those scenarios.
Also, I suspect that based on the questions from the audience it’s possible the Azure platform might have advantages in its API and its integration with the entire Microsoft .Net stack. We didn’t get too technical, but the questions from the audience suggested that folks needed to write some awkward code to manage their services where in Azure it all just seems to work like any other windows service process.
We also got to meet our AWS partner Brian Bohan and the food was awesome.
Last week, Tech Data announced the release of their access TD app to the Windows 8 Store. The app provides product and order information to their solution providers via a cleanly designed user interface, with the goal of helping them close deals faster. Tech Data teamed with BlueMetal to design and develop the app.
For more information, see the TechData press release.
This past weekend was a big one for BlueMetal Boston - we had three people participating in New England GiveCamp, and six at SharePoint Saturday Boston. All the participants donated their time on a beautiful Spring weekend to help make these events a success.
Design and Development at GiveCamp
GiveCamp, held at the Microsoft NERD center at One Memorial Drive in Cambridge, describes itself as “a weekend-long event where technology professionals – including designers, developers and database administrators as well as marketers and web strategists – donate their time and unique talents to provide software solutions for local charities and other non-profit organizations.” Projects are scoped to fit within the weekend so that they can be completed, or be as nearly complete as possible, when the weekend is done.
What the website doesn’t convey is the relaxed-yet-focused, hardworking-yet-communal atmosphere of the Camp. Entire families were present, tents and sleeping bags were pitched throughout the facility, and the organizers kept the volunteers happy and motivated with food breaks and hourly giveaways. A table was set up with art supplies for attendees to create cards for the first responders at the Boston Marathon incident. The whole atmosphere was one of fun and progress – everyone working in a dedicated way to get the chosen organizations what they needed.
Each of the three BlueMetal participants at the event was assigned to a different project; all three projects involved public-facing websites. Common themes among the three projects: Increase usability of the site, make the site easier to update/administer, make it device-friendly and responsive. Here’s an example of what one of the teams was able to accomplish this weekend:
Earthen Vessels – Before:
Earthen Vessels – After:
Check out the site on your mobile device – http://www.evkids.org/
BlueMetal was also a sponsor of this event. There’s a great condensed video here - 45 hours summarized in 3 minutes.
Speaking and Connecting at SharePoint Saturday Boston
A few blocks away at the Microsoft offices at One Cambridge Center, SharePoint Saturday was in full swing, with hundreds of attendees coming out to learn and network. BlueMetal had two speakers at the event (see our presentations here) and hosted open office hours with SharePoint experts to answer attendees’ questions about the platform. This was the event’s first time at the new Microsoft location, and the team of orange-shirted volunteers made the entire day run smoothly.
Thank you to everyone who turned out to support and participate in these community events!
[Cross-posted from blog.davemdavis.net]
It is time for the fourth annual New England Give Camp . Give Camp is a weekend long event where technology professional donate their time to help non-profit organizations fill a technology need. This can range from sprucing up a web site, to building out a content management system, to building a donor database. Most non-profit organization concentrate their resources on their expertise and have little or no IT budget. This is a chance for IT professional to use their skill to help out these organizations in need.
For the past three years I have had the opportunity to participate and have enjoyed every minute of it. Some things to expect in the days ahead:
- Lack of sleep
- Tight deadlines
- Building great relationships
- Doing something that makes you feel good
These project can mean the world to these organizations and help drive traffic and more importantly donors to their site.
Here’s the Math
~120 volunteers x ~25 hours of work x ~$50 per hour = ~$150,000!
These are conservative estimates. A lot of people will put in more than 25 hours of work and $50 per hour in probably below market average for most consultants. There will be people who will work 20 hours a day to help meet the goal of their non-profit. Some will even continue the relationship past the weekend. So one cannot truly put a price on this weekend.
This endeavor would not be possible help of the sponsors who help fuel the volunteers. This year there is even an energy drink sponsor to help keep us going. Did I mention that BlueMetal is a sponsor?
Without the sponsors this event would not be possible. Thank you!
This year I will be working with Charles River Conservancy to update their existing web site. They are a citizens advocacy group dedicated to the renewal and stewardship of the Charles River Parklands from Boston Harbor to the Watertown Dam. They are looking for a site that is easy to maintain/update, that makes it easy to find relevant information, and that is “pretty”. We are building a site that implements a responsive design, so it will work great on any form factor.
My Advice to Fellow Campers
Be flexible… Work Hard…. Have FUN!
As a SharePoint Architect who specializes in Web Content Managed (WCM) sites, I wanted to share some of the trends that I am seeing in the market. Choosing a platform for your public facing web site can be a daunting task; I hope that I can answer some of the common questions and concerns that you may have as you start your WCM journey.
First, a brief look back. I built my first website in 1997. It was a GeoCities site filled with progressively loading JPGs and animated GIFS. It was awesome and I loved it. I remember going to it every day and watching the hit counter go up and up and up. I loved it because the platform made it easy for me to do what I wanted to do, as long as I knew enough HTML to get those table-based layouts just right. That really was the start of web content management for me: those template-based sites that would let moderately technical users create a web site and manage their content.
A lot has changed since the days of GeoCities. Today we have truly enterprise-level web content management tools like SiteCore, SharePoint, Ektron, and a whole host of others. Not only have the needs around content creation grown; the business requirements have grown as well. Today’s tools need to be able to:
- target content to multiple audience segments
- track where users are coming from and what they are viewing and doing
- push data about users to a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system to feed the sales pipeline
- provide event registration and file downloads
- stream audio and video
- let users engage with the business
- integrate with social media
The web site is truly part of the corporate communications ecosystem.
Technologically speaking I have come a long way from GeoCities. Today I work with SharePoint and SiteCore. I have had the privilege to work on projects for large colleges and universities, high tech companies, and financial services companies, building web presences and extranets for them on these tools. As part of my day I work with clients to figure out what their web content management needs are, how these needs integrate with other business systems, what are the metrics that they need to report on, and how they engage with their users to get their messaging across effectively. All of these questions affect the decision on the right content management solution for their business.
I have been working with Microsoft web content management technologies since 2002 with MCMS and SharePoint. Web Content Management is part of the functionality that comes with SharePoint and with the release of SharePoint 2013 this gets a lot more robust. SharePoint 2013 makes it easy for non-technical users to create and manage content for a web site, similar to what GeoCities did for me back in 1997. It does this through a web based interface similar to Microsoft Word that lets the authors create content directly in the page. Authors only need to know how to use Office and navigate the site to be able to edit content. SharePoint 2013 makes it easier for visual designers and front end developers to create pixel perfect designs through new features such as the Design Manager (which integrates with standard web development environments) and implement them in SharePoint rather than having to modify their designs to fit the content management system.
In today’s web environment no self-respecting site should launch without a robust search engine. The search functionality in SharePoint 2013 is much more robust than it was in the past. Content in SharePoint is now search-driven rather than collection-driven as it was in SharePoint 2010. We all remember the content query web part that let you create a query to search against all the content in a site collection through the API. Now, we can use the Content Search web part that lets us surface content across site collections and web applications because it reads from the search index. This is faster and has less of an impact on the rendering time of the page. Consider being able to pull a listing of news items from your public facing web site and easily surface it on your intranet or extranet site.
As part of the growing Web Content Management capabilities at BlueMetal we are happy to announce our partnership with SiteCore. I have been familiar with SiteCore for a number of years now. Previously I worked for an agency that had all the technical staff trained in SiteCore. I was impressed with the product and how easy it was to develop in compared to SharePoint 2007. While SiteCore and SharePoint both offer the ability to manage web content and publish content to users, SiteCore shines from a truly digital marketing aspect. The platform makes it simple to track users on their journey through the web site and serve content to them that is relevant not only to attributes in their profile but to the pages that they have clicked on during their visit. It also comes with a robust marketing campaign tool that lets the marketing team create vanity URLs specific to campaigns and change the content on a page based on the referral URL. From a development perspective there are differences as well. SiteCore takes a much more standard .NET developer-based approach so the skill set necessary to develop a site is more generic, rather than requiring explicit knowledge of the SharePoint API and App Model.
SharePoint and SiteCore are only two tools in an already bursting toolbox. There are tools like Ektron, Kentico, Drupal, and Joomla, all that have their own pros and cons. When you are selecting a content management system it is important to look at what your core needs are and find the tool that will best fit those needs. You don’t want to think that all you need is a brochureware type site and then get part way through your implementation only to realize you must now spend significant money to develop a custom solution to integrate with your CRM tool that a more high-powered platform could have done out of the box.
From the starting days of GeoCities and AOL to enterprise level CMS platforms like SharePoint and SiteCore we have come a long way. Managing web sites has gotten easier and more complex all at the same time. The advances in platform and functionality make it an exciting time for me as an architect to help my clients make the right decision for their business regardless of technology. And if you have read this far then you are as passionate about creating usable systems to manage public facing web site as I am. Let us know how we can help navigate you through these difficult decisions.
Join BlueMetal Architects’ Justin Sypek for a free in-person event in New York City on building Modern Applications on SharePoint 2013. Take a deep dive in the features and delivery options of SharePoint Apps and learn how to leverage SharePoint 2013′s Enterprise Search and Enterprise Social capabilities to help deliver modern applications. Justin will walk through a case study developed by BlueMetal for Microsoft’s Midwest District which leverages these advanced capabilities.
Who should attend: SharePoint Project Managers, Developers, Infrastructure Administrators, Business Analysts, and Power Users
What you will learn: Features and delivery options that are NEW to SharePoint 2013, such as the Content by Search Web Part – How to define your social solution architecture based on your requirements – Best Practices for social capabilities via SharePoint and Yammer
About the Speaker
Justin Sypek is a SharePoint Architect based out of BlueMetal New York. He has over 10 years of experience architecting, designing, and developing applications using the Microsoft Technology Stack. For the last 6 years his focus has been architecting and delivering enterprise scale business solutions built on top of SharePoint.