Synchro Ltd. produces a 4d construction modeling tool that leverages the Microsoft Hololens to display designs using augmented reality. These models allow users to interact with large 4D models right from the convenience of their conference rooms! Being able to see how a door will appear in a hallway or how a bridge will abut an embankment in real life gives construction project managers an excellent insight into their projects. The Synchro product was originally built on a traditional client server model but has moved to the Azure cloud in order to offer a scalable Workgroup model to companies looking to host many projects all around the world.
The Business Case
Synchro knew early on that as they onboarded new clients they would need to be able to monitor, update, manage, and report on their client's infrastructure. The Synchro Workgroup Project (SWP) is built on Azure Virtual Machines and Azure Networking. Building out a new SWP instance requires manual installation of a new virtual machine, configuration of networking and ports, and local databases on the machine. We knew that in order to reduce the risk of error and shorten the duration, the process could be improved when clients signed onto use the product.
- How would we make sure every environment was the same?
- How do we reduce new instance troubleshooting?
- How do we reduce overall onboarding and management costs in order to focus on product innovation?
- How can Synchro easily deploy new instances in the matter of minutes and be able to calculate spend across potentially hundreds of clients?
The Synchro Portal is Born
The Cloud Construct team worked directly with the Synchro team to design and build the new portal. Onboarding Synchro to source control, project management tools, and document sharing mechanisms allowed us to jump right in and assign tasks and stories to employees on both sides. This ensured while building this new product, that all lines of business were in communication and working together. For example, new product offerings being built with GPU type machines were in line with the new SWP offering and could take advantage of the automation and alerting tools we were building.
Azure provides sophisticated tools for managing your cloud resources and reporting on their usage. Being able to see the cost of running a single Synchro project and the various storage and virtual machines accounts associated with it made sure we were optimizing our setups for cost savings. Secondly, organizing client resources by resource groups and tagging them appropriately when using the new ARM tooling allowed us to deploy resources in datacenters around the world that were closest to the clients using them. Lastly, we automated many of the commands around the SWP product to add/edit/delete projects on the fly so users could quickly add new projects and not need to manually install projects by hand.
Cloud Construct's User Experience team began work architecting a flexible model to manage and organize resources so Synchro Administrators could easily manage their clients and their infrastructure. Building out collapsible and intuitive navigational scheme will let administrators quickly triage a problem and get a customer's machine back up and running quickly. The Cloud design team also took inspiration from both the newly redesigned Synchro website as well as some key insights into how a mobile experience could help an administrator fix a problem on the go. Alerts and notifications as well as key information was bubbled up in the design. Finally, we took a lean approach to the dashboard and built it using Angular.JS with a .NET Web API backend. This gave a snappy fast feel to the dashboard and also allowed for a lot of status updates to be asynchronously reported to the user.
The Synchro Portal is now live and being used by the entire support and management team. It is a timesaver and in place to reduce errors in installation and configuration of Azure virtual machines. Being able to seamlessly upload a 3GB project file from the dashboard, spin up a new storage and virtual machine resources in any Azure datacenter, all while sending e- mail alerts on progress to Synchro Administrators has let the Synchro team focus on the customer and less about the overheard of management.
The Cloud team works closely onsite with the Synchro team on a weekly basis and mirrors the process we have used to make so many companies successfully when starting their approach to the cloud. Our transparent process and results driven approach gives companies the satisfaction that progress is being made and we're solving business problems for them everyday.