Synectics designed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) tracking system, which is a multi-user Microsoft Access™ based system. Jim Tyson of Synectics says, “It was designed to support the small to moderate (up to 20) number of users that are typically involved in FOIA administration at federal agencies. It is hosted on a Windows Server 2008 instance, and is integrated with Windows Server e-mail, access controls, and various command scripts.”
The FOIA tracking system deployment is being used by Synectics as a proof-of-concept of the feasibility of using AWS to host a federal administrative system securely, reliably, with excellent performance, and at a lower cost than self-hosting. Tyson explains: “This pilot was implemented for the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), an operating division of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). At present, SAMHSA is evaluating this implementation for use by their FOIA office. In addition, the HHS Office of the Secretary, as well as the HHS Administration for Children and Families are evaluating the system for their use. Our deployment of the FOIA system as a self-contained Amazon Machine Image (AMI) greatly facilitates hands-on reviews by these various agencies.”
Tyson and his team decided to use AWS services because their federal customers require solutions that perform well, and are secure (Federal Information Security Management Act compliant), reliable, and cost-effective. He says, “AWS provides us with all of the services and support we need to implement this solution, at a much better cost than the alternatives. Further, use of AWS does not involve any vendor ‘lock-in’ as the solution is deployed using only standard operating systems, tools, and languages.”
The most significant lesson the Synectics team has learned throughout this process has been that deploying simple applications to AWS is a very quick, low-cost process. Tyson notes, “We budgeted several person-weeks to complete the AWS deployment of the FOIA tracking system; yet almost all of the work was completed in less than two days, by technical staff with no prior training or experience in AWS.”
Tyson adds, “Our technical staff are thrilled to have had the opportunity to work with AWS and are eager to do more. They are doing grass-roots level evangelizing with our customers, and with our other technical staff.”
The Synectics team is in the process of developing a detailed cost/benefit model that captures the cost savings of the AWS deployment, both in support of agency evaluations, and in full production operations.
To learn more, visit http://www.smdi.com/ .