At a recent holiday dinner, a conversation with a friend eventually progressed to the topics of self-driving cars and facial-recognition software – and the overall roles and capabilities of artificial intelligence (AI). My friend’s assertion was that “AI is ultimately about pattern matching.” In essence, you equip the AI with a library of “patterns” and their corresponding associated actions. Based on the input it receives from the real world, the AI software program will then make an attempt to match the input to a stored pattern and execute the corresponding associated action.

Of course any program, regardless of whether it is designed to steer a car or detect a face in an image, relies on pattern-matching at the lowest level. That said, as we will see shortly, a deep learning-based approach is a fundamentally different way to solve the problem. And it’s an approach that is poised to reinvent computing. Read More…

With the explosion of new sensors and service offerings producing geospatial telemetry, there’s an ever-increasing need for tools to gain business insights from this data. One of the premier tools for this in the geospatial domain is GeoServer.

Fully open-source and free to use, GeoServer provides Open Geospatial Consortium (OGC) web service interfaces to rendering images or complete metadata in most common geospatial interchange formats. In a consulting capacity, Applied Information Sciences has leveraged Geoserver with great success, allowing us to deploy a complete software stack in minutes instead days or weeks. In this post I’ll give an overview of the DevOps practices we’ve applied to enable this capability, as well as a brief overview of the supporting technologies. Read More…

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.

Companies are adopting Docker containers at a remarkable pace and for a good reason – Docker containers are turning out to be key enablers for a micro-services based architecture.

As a quick recap, Docker containers are:

  • Encapsulated, deployable components that can run as isolated instances
  • Small in size with a fast boot-up time
  • Include tools that enable containerized application images to be easily moved across the public cloud and on-premises
  • Capable of applying limits on physical resources consumed by any given application

Given the popularity of Docker containers, it should come as no surprise that the Azure platform already provides first-class support for a container hosting solution, in the form of Azure Container Service (ACS). ACS makes it simple to create a cluster of Virtual Machines that can run containerized applications. ACS relies on popular open-source tools – with Docker as the container format, and a choice of Marathon, DC/OS, Docker Swarm and Kubernetes for orchestration and scheduling, etc. All this makes it possible to easily run containerized workloads on Azure in a portable manner.

But the Docker containerization story on Azure does not stop here.

It is also being weaved more and more into existing PaaS offerings, including Azure Batch, Azure App Service and Azure Service Fabric. Let’s briefly review the latest developments to see how Docker integrates with Azure PaaS: Read More…

22106868_sYou’re an enterprise. You’ve done your research. You’ve read the whitepapers. You’ve heard all the success stories (along with a few cautionary tales). Perhaps you’ve already taken your first steps into the cloud, but want to embark on a larger-scale public cloud adoption strategy.

But what does that look like for your enterprise? The journey is different for you – for everyone, really. And you certainly don’t want to make it up as you go along.

Here are five important things you need to map out before you start your public cloud journey. We’re confident in this roadmap because we’ve been along for the ride before. We’ve helped many large enterprises and agencies successfully adopt and implement their own unique cloud strategies. Read More…

wireframeWhat does a UX Process really look like? Honestly, depending on the project, it can look many different ways. I personally prefer to use a combination of in-depth process techniques, rather than just focusing on one specific area. It is critical to understand that UX is made up of several different components, each having its own importance.

There’s Research and Testing, Information Architecture, Content Strategy, Interaction Design, Visual Design and Front End Development. Today I want to focus on the first three areas.

Read More…

These disciplines can play a significant role in building stable release processes that help ensure project milestones are met.

Continuous Integration (CI) and Continuous Delivery (DC) are rapidly becoming an integral part of software development. These disciplines can play a significant role in building stable release processes that help ensure project milestones are met. And in addition to simply performing compilation tasks, CI systems can be extended to execute unit testing, functional testing, UI testing, and many other tasks. This walkthrough demonstrates the creation of a simple CI/CD deployment pipeline with an integrated unit test.

There are many ways of implementing CI/CD, but for this blog, I will use Jenkins and GiHub to deploy the simple CI/CD pipeline. A Docker container will be used to host the application.  The GitHub repository hosts the application including a Dockerfile for creating an application node. Jenkins is configured with GitHub and Docker Plugin. Read More…

msgovcloudThis is an overview of a solution built by AIS with Microsoft for a federal client in the DC area. The client’s goal was to be able to automate the setup and takedown of virtual machine sandboxes on the fly. These sandboxes are used by the client’s developers to do security testing of their applications.

Goals

The first step of this project was to help the federal client provision their own Azure Government subscription, with some assistance from Microsoft. We then wanted to document the client’s on-premises environment so that it could be accurately replicated within Azure. The next step was to actually build and deploy the Azure services and scripts in the cloud environment. Lastly, we wanted to be able to define and implement automation use cases, such as the provisioning of an entire sandbox, or just specific machines within that sandbox. Read More…

powerappsIt all started with an email from a customer: They wanted an event app for an upcoming regional sales summit. The requirements fit the mold of a typical event app (session schedule and downloadable documents, photo sharing, surveys, sync with Outlook, etc.), but there was one small problem. The app needed to be done in less than a week.

Fortunately, we knew exactly what tools to use and how to put them to work for our client.

Read the rest of the story, and find out exactly how we got the job done, over at the Microsoft PowerApps Blog.