Dynamics CRM 2013 is about to be released and if you have already made a large investment into SharePoint as a development platform, you may be asking yourself why Dynamics CRM matters.  After all, you are already using a wildly successful platform that underpins collaboration tools, intranets, your ‘corporate’ social media and quite likely a base of custom applications and tools. Why would you need yet another platform if SharePoint is capable of handling everything you throw at it?

First off, let’s clear up a misconception that everyone generally has the first time they hear about Dynamics CRM: it’s not “Dynamics versus SharePoint,” it’s “Dynamics AND SharePoint.” Dynamics CRM offers some pretty significant benefits that are not available when using the SharePoint platform alone. Likewise, SharePoint has capabilities that Dynamics CRM simply wasn’t designed to even begin to replicate. The trick is knowing when and how to best leverage the benefits of each tool. Simply put, both tools need each other to offer a truly complete platform that offers you the best of everything: a collaboration tool, an intranet and content management tool, a repository for unstructured data, an application platform, and a quick and easy way to rapidly and efficiently build applications to manage structured data. Read More…

AIS’ own Larry Katzman is a featured interviewee today over at WashingtonExec, where he explains how our Federal team has managed to sustain terrific growth despite the economic downturn:

WashingtonExec: How does your company maintain growth in an economic downturn and federal cut backs?

Larry Katzman: AIS has enjoyed terrific growth during the past five years, despite the great recession and budget pressures on the federal government. I really believe this is because we focus on a less risky and a less costly approach to application development; which is exactly what is sought out when resources are being closely watched. Our approach is to use platforms, software, and technology our clients already own and build new solutions using the investments they’ve already made. For example, we have been leveraging the public cloud providers, such as Microsoft’s Azure services and Amazon Web Services, for our clients to nearly eliminate up front capital investments for new projects. We then use building block platforms and products that are often already owned and deployed as the foundation for our solutions. At AIS, we invest a lot of our time and profits to train our people on emerging technologies before they hit the market. This allows us to be one of the few qualified, experienced firms that can safely use new technology to improve IT services with less risk and cost. Perhaps more importantly, we share project risks with our clients. We’ve gained a reputation for not failing because we have a “never fail” approach to projects. Because we specialize in Microsoft Technology, our reach back within AIS and into Microsoft allows us to crowd around problems and solve them quickly. We’d rather lose money on a project than instead of leaving a client unhappy with our work.

Check out the full interview at WashingtonExec, and read more of Larry’s thoughts on optimizing government IT budgets right here on the AIS Blog.

I recently encountered a requirement to programmatically zip multiple files into an archive in a Windows 8 JavaScript/HTML app. The intent was to shrink the several large files as much as possible for eventual submission to a central server. This operation needed to occur without the user’s direct involvement as part of a larger data transmission process.

While the Windows.Storage.Compression namespace does provide an interface for compressing individual files, there is no native support for creating a multi-file archive. In order to implement this feature I chose to use the third-party JSZip library, which is a light wrapper around the zLib library. Read More…

Throughout my schooling (two degrees in IT) and career, I’ve been taught both formally and through on-the-job coaching to always let the business problem drive the solution. Let the business strategy drive the budget. Never allow technology factors and constraints to interfere with requirements gathering. While this somewhat myopic vision can be a valuable exercise, it’s my opinion that these practices have a negative effect on Federal agencies that need to make effective use of tighter budgets.

Technology products and services have come a long way in offering compelling utility without drastic customization. At AIS, nearly all the solutions we build for our clients are based on building blocks provided by product or service companies. This approach drastically reduces the costs, risks, and time often associated to custom application development. You can find countless examples on our website of how AIS uses products (such as SharePoint and Dynamics CRM) to create custom applications for our clients.  Our developers use the products’ robust web services and object models to reduce code complexity.  Rather than developing custom implementations of commonly required features, we simply utilize the products’ existing capabilities and program our solution to call a series of actions to complete a business process.

Put succinctly, if we allow requirements elicitation to occur in a technology vacuum that does not take into account what the building blocks offer, the result is often overcomplicated and overpriced implementations. Read More…

AIS developed a prototype that highlights the features and capabilities of open standards for geospatial processing and real-time data sharing through web applications. If you haven’t already, please click here to read part one

After getting the VIIRS data into our application using GeoServer, our next objective was to enhance the prototype to demonstrate some of the exciting things AIS is able to do through the use of various web technologies. Our goal was to provide a highly collaborative environment where clients on a variety of devices could all interact in real time with map data.

Figure 1: 3D Map Displaying WMS Layers

Read More…

The Windows Azure team reached out to AIS to build a Modern App proof of concept to be deployed across Microsoft Envisioning Centers worldwide. Modern App is a demo application showing Business-to-Consumer (B2C), Business-to-Business (B2B) and Enterprise Application Integration (EAI) capabilities for cloud and on-premises-hosted applications. It’s a hybrid application, consisting of the latest Microsoft enterprise technologies.

This demo app was built to show how the Microsoft stack can seamlessly integrate and help solve complex business problems. One of the main goals of this application is to show how disparate business data can easily flow from one system to another in the enterprise and/or between partner systems. Read More…

Amazon Web Services (AWS) CTO Werner Vogels offers this great piece of cloud advice: “Treat everything as a programmable resource, including data centers, networks, compute, storage and load balancers.”

In other words, automate every aspect of your (cloud-based) infrastructure.

Given AIS’ years of experience with SharePoint, we are always looking for ways to make the underlying infrastructure more cost effective, scalable and robust. Fortunately, the benefits of automation apply equally to a SharePoint 2013 farm hosted in the cloud — whether it’s the ability to dynamically provision a SharePoint 2013 farm on the fly, or the ability to scale up and down based on load, or the ability to make the SharePoint 2013 farm more fault-resilient.

We’ve written about two automated deployment approaches to SharePoint 2013; one for Amazon Web Services and one for Azure. In case you missed them…

Our AWS-based SharePoint 2013 script and source code can be found here.

Our Windows Azure-based SharePoint 2013 script and source code can be found here.

Law & Order’s Det. Lennie Briscoe & Det. Ed Green

I just finished working on a proof of concept using Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011. The application needed to support the activities of a crime investigation unit in the government.

As a devoted Lennie Briscoe fan, I felt I knew my way around a crime scene…but what I didn’t know was CRM. As it turned out, it didn’t matter! Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011 was fairly easy to get up and running. I put together a cloud-based implementation that included:

  • CRM Online w/Office 365
  • Azure VM for the installation of the e-mail router
    • SMTP Server: SendGrid
    • POP3 server: Gmail

All were “free” (free as in “trial”). All were in the cloud. All played nicely together.

That said, there were several confusing bits to sort out regarding the e-mail configuration. I’ll share what worked (and what didn’t work) for me. Maybe it can be a timesaver for you. Read More…