About Slalom Consulting
Slalom Consulting provides program management, business process improvement, software development, and specialized solutions including enterprise messaging and collaboration, business mobility, custom relationship management (CRM), and enterprise resource planning (ERP). The consulting firm works with companies from the Fortune 500 to emerging businesses. Headquartered in Seattle, Washington, Slalom Consulting has more than 2,500 consultants and has a network of local offices in 16 cities across North America.
As consultants, Slalom’s staff spends the majority of their time on client sites. The company uses Microsoft SharePoint as a way to share documents and enable collaboration. NewsGator, a social platform, integrates with SharePoint and acts as a knowledge source for the consultants. “There’s not a lot physical time at the water cooler,” says Director of Strategic Alliances, Garret Carlson. “This solution helps us share knowledge and build culture.”
Slalom originally built its SharePoint farm using SharePoint 2010. The original design used one main server with a single database and second backup server. Over three years, the application’s user base grew from 300 to 1,600 unique visitors per day, and the amount of content more than doubled to 700 GB of data. When SharePoint 2013 became available, Slalom decided to upgrade to build a new environment that could support its users and to take advantage of new features, including interactive visualizations, querying and other business intelligence (BI) tools, introduced in SharePoint 2013.
Why Amazon Web Services
Slalom was already using a cloud provider for its SharePoint 2010 farm but wanted to diversify its environment. After considering other cloud providers, the company chose Amazon Web Services (AWS). “The decision was based on functionality and flexibility — and we landed on AWS,” says Development Manager, Michael “Ski” Cierkowski. “We have assets on our other cloud site and on premises. AWS was the only cloud provider to enable multiple persistent site-to-site connections so we can maintain those connections.”
Using the SharePoint Reference Architecture Whitepaper as a basis for the deployment, Cierkowski migrated about 1,300 SharePoint sites over the course of six months while he worked on other projects. He provisioned Amazon Virtual Private Cloud (Amazon VPC) in the US West (Oregon) Region to take advantage of VPN technology. “We needed to be able to have two site-to-site VPN connections in order to connect to our existing cloud environment and our on-premises network,” Cierkowski explains. “Amazon VPC made it possible.”
The SharePoint farm runs on about five Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2) instances and includes two web front servers, an application server, an Office Web Applications server and SQL Server. The servers are isolated into four different subnets to have full control of security and the traffic that flows between each subnet. Slalom used the SharePoint 2010 architecture diagram published by AWS as the basis for the design.
Slalom’s core collaboration solution, known as Slalom One, consists of three tightly integrated applications including a space for all team sites, Slalom’s Intranet, Human Resources, IT and other supporting sites; a space for personal sites; and a business space that the company’s leadership uses to access reports and dashboards. Figure 1 demonstrates the SharePoint 2013 solution on the AWS Cloud.
Figure 1. Slalom SharePoint 2013 Server Farm on AWS
Slalom went live on AWS December 2013. Cierkowski comments, “Most of the consultants were unaware of the change in platform. They were just able to take advantage of new features and sync content much easier.” Slalom is taking advantage of Microsoft OneDrive to share documents without using e-mail. By using SharePoint 2013, Slalom’s senior leadership can use PowerPivot to view workbooks and dashboards in the browser, enabling them to work quickly without having to download files.
Slalom was able to grow its SharePoint farm from two to five instances and nearly doubled the RAM and processing power. “Had we built our SharePoint 2013 farm in our other data center, we would have increased costs by almost 50 percent,” says Cierkowski. “When you compare our SharePoint 2012 farm to our SharePoint 2013 farm, AWS allowed us to increase our computing power while also reducing costs by 14 percent.”