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Hybrid Cloud Applications with Microsoft Azure

Frank Hellwig
For more information about
our cloud-based solutions,
please contact Frank Hellwig.

Over the past two years, Buchanan & Edwards (BE) has been under contract with the U.S. Department of State Office of Policy, Planning, and Resources for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs (R/PPR) to develop and deploy an Internet-accessible application for managing all Public Diplomacy Implementation Plans (PDIP). This is a high-visibility application that allows all 207 U.S. Missions to author and publish their plans for their host countries.

BE decided from the beginning that an Azure-based approach would not only be beneficial for development and testing, but also be the end-state for the production deployment. The U.S. Department of State agreed and BE completed and deployed the application in a substantially reduced time-frame, thanks largely to the ease and agility afforded by Azure and the Azure Platform-as-a-Service cloud.

In addition to the requisite Azure Web App instances and Azure SQL database, PDIP leveraged the latest Azure Active Directory (AAD) services for single sign-on to all R/PPR applications. The newly-offered implicit grant flow as implemented by the Microsoft Azure Active Directory Authentication Library (ADAL) allowed BE to integrate AAD authentication and role-based authorization in a very short amount of time.

The overall PDIP application and the services it provides have been well-received by the global mission of the U.S. Department of State. BE’s expertise with Azure and the ease with which Azure services can be integrated was a key component, if not the primary component, of this project’s success.

BE is driving Azure consumption across the Department of State by building solutions that use Azure features such as Azure Web Apps, Azure Active Directory, Azure SQL, Azure VMs, Visual Studio Online and Azure’s rich support for Open Source technologies. BE spearheaded the approval for the use of Azure in many State Dept. organizations by demonstrating how to deliver solutions and business value quickly and how to integrate with existing IT investments to lower costs and flexibly meet mission requirements. BE’s solutions have paved the way for broader adoption and have presented the State Department with a viable path from on-premise solutions to the cloud.

Within the R Bureau at the Department of State, the Public Diplomacy Implementation Plan (PDIP) application enables all US Missions throughout the world to input information about their goals, objectives, initiatives, and collaborators into a single view and automates the process review, comment, approval, and publication. PDIP integrates with centralized data sources that provide region, mission, post, and user data; the Department of State bureau Knowledge Management Tool; and Azure Active Directory, giving users a single sign-on experience across not only the R/PPR suite of tools but potentially others that leverage Azure Active Directory.

BE helped State to begin architecting and designing services and applications for the future, leveraging cloud services like Azure SQL and technologies like CRM that provide State a path from on-premise to the cloud. Using Microsoft technologies, BE delivered solutions that could be deployed in hybrid environments, either in the cloud, on premise or a combination. This flexibility was a key differentiator for BE from our competition.

BE worked closely with Microsoft Account team for the State Department and the Microsoft Technology Center to develop a vision for how the State Department can use Microsoft technologies to meet changing program demands and how to integrate new technologies such as Azure with existing IT investments to lower costs and increase flexibility.