Earlier this week, my colleagues and I attended the 2017 Microsoft Government Cloud Forum at the Ronald Reagan building in D.C. This invitation-only event discussed topics such as IT modernization, cybersecurity, mobility, shared services, citizen engagement, and workforce management, all of which are top-of-mind these days for government employees.

AIS spent the day with Microsoft, government leaders and other partners, as we collaborated on how to both innovate and deliver more efficiently and effectively.

Lots of exciting news came out of the event, and we wanted to take a quick second to go over some of the bigger announcements: Read More…

AIS’ principal solutions architect Brent Wodicka stopped by Federal News Radio for a discussion on DevOps with  Federal Tech Talk’s John Gilroy.

They were joined by Nathen Harvey, VP of Community Development at Chef Software, and David Bock, DevOps Services Lead at Excella Consulting. Each offered a unique and practical perspective on the concept of DevOps and how it’s working for federal government IT.

You can listen to the full show over at Federal News Radio!

AIS is proud to announce we’ve officially joined the Microsoft FastTrack for Azure program! Microsoft FastTrack for Azure provides direct assistance from Microsoft and a Microsoft partner to help customers build their desired cloud-based solutions with maximum speed and confidence. AIS will work side-by-side with Microsoft engineers to guide our mutual customers from setup, configuration, and development to production, focusing on the following Azure solutions:

  • Development and test
  • Backup and archive
  • Disaster recovery
  • Line of business applications (database migration, app modernization, app “lift and shift”)

The FastTrack program will guide you through the three key phases of a successful cloud journey: Envisioning, onboarding, and deployment to quickly realize the business benefits of moving to Azure. It’s a process we here at AIS know very well, so we’re looking forward to helping even more customers take their first steps into the cloud.

Ready to get started?

FastTrack for Azure is available to select Azure customers in the United States, Canada and Australia. You can find out more here or contact us for more information.

 

 

How do you get better uptime than the cloud? Two clouds!

AIS’ CTO Vishwas Lele stopped by the .NET Rocks podcast this week to talk about our experiences building ultra-reliable applications, both on-premises and in the cloud.

The discussion digs into the decisions around reliability – it’s easy to want it, but will you pay for it? It’s important to calculate the cost of downtime, as that helps set the budget for what it takes to stay up. And that leads to a conversation about how you build highly reliable software – it can’t just come from the infrastructure, there is code involved as well! And the next question is – how do you make your app work in two different clouds?

Listen to the full show at the .NET Rocks! website here.

Yesterday AIS’ VP of Business Development Larry Katzman sat down with Federal Tech Talk’s John Gilroy on Federal News Radio to discuss how federal IT professionals can innovate in a constantly changing environment..and with a shrinking budget.

The discussion starts off with a common theme — today’s younger generation is accustomed to programming from an early age.  When they show up for work at an agency, the expect to be able to “fire up” environments to test code.

Everyone wants to unlock this spirit of innovation – but there are certain restraints. For example, you may use a system that only needs a credit card to get started.  This can result in “drunken sailor syndrome.”  In other words, you may blow your annual budget in the first week if you are not careful.

From there, the conversation moves into the issue of “Rogue IT” or “Shadow IT,” where users sign up for cloud offerings on their own and completely bypass the CIO. AIS actually offers a solution to this one: CloudCap, a system where users are granted access to thousands of enterprise class applications that can be managed. Much like “managed services,” the CloudCap system allows both the user and supervisor to know how much is spent and when.

For more information about CloudCap, click here.

You can listen to the full interview over at Federal News Radio.

 

 

AIS recently completed work on a complete revamp of the Texas Workforce Commission’s “Texas Reality Check” website. Texas Reality Check is an Internet-available, fully accessible, responsive, mobile-first and browser-agnostic design. This website was tested for accessibility, performance, vulnerability scans, and usability.

Background

Texas Reality Check (TRC) is targeted at students on a statewide basis, ranging from middle school to high school (with some colleges and universities making use of the tool for “life skills” classes). The goal is to inspire students to think about occupations, and prepare for educational requirements so they can achieve the income level that meets their lifestyle expectations.

This tool walks students through different areas of life, on a step-by step-basis, identifying budgets associated with living essentials such as housing, transportation, food, clothing, etc. Students make selections and then calculate a corresponding monthly income that would afford the selections they make. From here, the students are directed to another page and connected to a database on careers and associated salaries.

However, the existing site was dated and in need of improvements in three core areas: UX, Accessibility, and overall performance. Here’s how AIS delivered:

Read More…

It’s 2017 and it’s official: Government agencies want to move to the cloud. But they are often unprepared for the transition, or stuck in the middle of a confusing process. So this week, AIS and Microsoft kicked off the new year with a terrific AzureGov Meetup full of valuable information, training resources and demos on exactly where and how to start a successful government cloud journey.

The full line-up of cloud experts includied David Simsik, Cloud Practice Manager at AcceleraDan Patrick, Chief Cloud Strategist at OpsgilityBrian Harrison, Cloud Solution Architect at Microsoft, and AIS’ own Vishwas Lele, who presented a demo of the AIS Service Catalog offering, which is specifically designed to ease cloud adoption for government agencies.

See below for some photos of this (packed!) event and a video of Vishwas’ Service Offering presentation. For future DC AzureGov Meetup dates and details, go here. We hope to see you next time!

(Check out our Cloud Adoption Framework for more on how AIS can take you step-by-step through the Cloud Journey here.)

AIS recently worked with the General Services Administration (GSA) Technology Transformation Services Division, better known as 18F.  The engagement involved working with 18F to digitize the Department of Labor’s Section 14(c) certification application process (part of the Fair Labor Standards Act). This is currently a paper-based process that 18F hoped to modernize as an intuitive, online application…and to do it using agile methodologies.

AIS was tasked with building the first version of the digital form within a 60-day period of performance – much shorter than typical federal contracts.  AIS pulled together a multi-disciplinary team comprised of user researchers, designers, and front- and back-end web developers to work closely with 18F and the Department of Labor (DOL) Product Owner. The team built the entire form with complex validation along with a registration and login and an administrative section to process the form applications. They performed multiple usability tests with actual end users, and followed 18F’s principles of working in the open using a public GitHub repository. All User Stories and discussion threads were thoroughly documented in that repository’s issues list.

AIS was able to work together with many divisions inside DOL to make this happen.  We addressed security concerns by the Chief Information Security Officer (CISO) and worked with the CIO office to coordinate delivery of the application and a testing and staging environment for deployment. We also set up a Continuous Integration/Continuous Deployment process so that multiple DOL stakeholders could stay abreast of what was happening and exercise the existing application state.  We were even able to address legal concerns with testing by external citizens by getting signed consent forms for testing and recording the sessions.

The collaboration was so successful that our client wrote their own blog post on the project, detailing exactly “how government and private industry can work together using agile methodologies to produce great results.” You can read it here. 

These types of successful, agile engagements break down the myths that software development for the government needs to take months (or even years). Government can and will move faster, and after every small win like this project, the traditional methods of building software and procuring software development are changing across the industry.  This bodes well not just for the citizens who need to interact with these digital services… but also for saving our tax dollars.


azure-api-managementAIS’ CTO and noted Azure expert Vishwas Lele has a brand new course available at Pluralsight: Microsoft Azure API Management Essentials.

Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) are increasingly considered “engines of growth” and are already fundamentally changing the way organizations do business. In this three-part course, you’ll learn about how the Azure API Management service can ensure that your current and future APIs reach their fullest potential.

First, you’ll learn why you should use API Management, and how to manage your API with the Azure service. Next, you’ll learn how to protect your API with rate limits, plus how to add caching to improve API performance. Then, you’ll learn about policies in API Management and C#-based Policy Expressions. Finally, you’ll learn about security in API Management.

By the end of this course, you’ll have a solid understanding of Azure API Management, its key capabilities, and how to host and secure your API (both internal and external). Get started right now!

DevOpsDevOps is the latest catchphrase that everyone claims to be doing.

Gartner recommends that “leaders wishing to create a significant, lasting impact on IT performance should look to move beyond the Bimodal paradigm in the space of months rather than years.” Leading and executing on this cultural change is very challenging in enterprise IT. The urgency is to ensure your line-of-business teams remain engaged with enterprise IT, rather than deepening the divide between infrastructure operations and application development teams. In today’s rich marketplace for cloud-based solutions including infrastructure, platform, and software as services, application teams and line-of-business customers have options beyond traditional enterprise IT operations for hosting their solutions. Read More…