One of things I love about working for Microsoft is that we use our own stuff, we really trust, we really deploy it, we really use it. Not all our competitors do, you can tell because they don’t talk about it, they don’t run their own massive data centres for example. We do and it gives us experience. MSIT – our IT department, yes we do have an IT department too, has built and deployed SXP or Social eXperience Platform) on the Windows Azure platform – and more stuff is going that way too.
So what is SXP and what makes it special? Well SXP runs on this site our video showcase and it is essentially a platform that allows us to manage and understand the social aspects of our content. That content can be web pages, videos (as in the video show case site), blog posts, new stories, press releases…anything. Essentially you could say it adds social context to anything and allows us to understand that context. It’s a back end tool, it’s not doing the content hosting.
The platform is built on Azure (one web server role running on 3 medium instances) and storage is taken care of by SQL Azure with each subside of Microsoft.com having it’s own database allowing customisation and isolation of problems, should there be one. The user interfaces are delivered with Silverlight.
There are some cool management things too, SCOM integration being handled by some custom code right now but the RC of the Azure Management pack is being run in parallel and that’s going to be something every IT Pro who’s managing Azure will love. There’s also an interesting tool called “Keynote” running that checks that the web service is available from different points all over the globe and the tool the user facing tool for managing the workflow has been created in Silverlight and uses AD FS (Active Directory Federation Services) for authentication – meaning that once you’re signed into your desktop you’re signed into the app.
This is obviously not new functionality to us, commenting and rating of videos has been with us for some time but the 3rd party solutions we had in place don’t seem to have been the most manageable. On that point we get quite a lot of comment spam that has to be filtered away. The service has been live for about 120 days now and MSIT tell us that they’ve saved about $14k PER MONTH! in management costs, upped availability by 8 fold and made provisioning a staggering 240 times faster! That’s Azure for you.
The team learnt some excellent lessons, which they’ve published here along with more detail on the above, but the lessons are really important and I want to call them out:
I have a bet with myself about what the first comment will be on this post…
Your AD FS (Active Directory Federation Services) link goes to a page not found.
Sorry if you lost the bet :)
Here is our updated video on this same topic: