A provider of data discovery services, iTrend wanted better tools for tracking and analyzing the exploding volume of unstructured data produced each day by social media. The company decided to base its new data discovery platform on a hybrid
cloud implementation that includes the Windows Azure platform. As a result, the company can bring its innovative services to market more quickly, build a competitive advantage, and help its customers gain valuable insights from millions of online conversations.
iTrend offers data discovery and social media analytics services to multiple industries. Based in Stamford, Connecticut, iTrend wanted to help customers gain actionable insights from online resources such as blogs, Facebook, and Twitter.
Traditionally, companies have evaluated performance by tracking product sales, surveys, and other marketing data. Although these methods provided valuable information about past performance, they offered little visibility into real-time activity. And while
businesses increasingly looked to social media to identify emerging trends, gaining useful insights from those sources could be challenging. The problem wasn’t the availability of data, but rather its overwhelming volume. Michael Alatortsev, Chief Executive
Officer at iTrend, points out, “For example, one search term for a relatively obscure topic such as a rare medical condition might return 100,000 results, while a search for a popular celebrity might generate 100 million.”
The unstructured format of the data presented another major challenge, because it was difficult to analyze with conventional data models. To process the information, iTrend needed to look beyond a relational database. “To work with high volumes of unstructured
data, which is basically just text, we needed to be able to process it in parallel,” says Alatortsev. “Trying to do that with a relational database and all of the necessary infrastructure would be too costly.”
So instead, iTrend looked for a hybrid model that would include an Apache Hadoop cluster for processing the raw data as well as a relational database that it could use to work with the extracted information.
||With a data discovery platform based on Windows Azure, our customers can take advantage of data that might otherwise go unnoticed. We see things that no one else can because we are able to track them differently.
| Michael Alatortsev
Chief Executive Officer
In April 2013, iTrend decided to become an early adopter of a hybrid cloud solution with a distributed application that runs in the cloud on the Windows Azure platform. The company created stored procedures that run continuously in the cloud on Microsoft
SQL Azure, and a customer-facing interface hosted on Windows Azure Web Sites.
The on-premises solution includes an Apache Hadoop cluster running on the Hortonworks data platform, and a NoSQL database. In the future, iTrend plans to migrate the Hadoop cluster to Windows Azure HDInsight Service. The company uses the on-premises infrastructure
to pre-process and index raw data, which is consumed by the distributed application running in the cloud.
The software-as-a-service offering provides dynamic reporting tools accessed through a customer portal that businesses can use to track virtually any topic, including campaigns, brands, and individual products. After a business specifies which factors it
wants to monitor, the solution begins automatically tracking, analyzing, and summarizing millions of conversations from multiple sources. iTrend customers can gain a quick, dashboard view of the summarized data or drill down for a more detailed look. The solution
provides surprising, real-time insights. For example, the company ran a report on a major hospital in New York and discovered that someone was currently complaining online about a lengthy wait in an ER room. The information gave the hospital an opportunity
to take action before the message spread any further.
iTrend launched the service in June 2013 and is already working on the next version. The enhanced data discovery platform will include new features such as more detailed demographics information and predictive modeling capabilities.
With a data discovery platform based on Windows Azure, iTrend can bring innovative products to market faster, improve its competitive advantage, and help customers gain new insights from social media.
Supports Innovative Development
With a Microsoft hybrid cloud solution, iTrend can bring innovative products to market faster. “From the technology side, we can deploy faster on Windows Azure and add new modules quickly,” says Alatortsev. “And from a business perspective, we’re seeing
tremendous opportunities even with the first release of our service. We have the tools available to offer features that no one else has.”
Improves the Company’s Competitive Advantage
As a new company contending with larger rivals, iTrend has found that the hybrid cloud solution helps build a competitive edge. In addition to benefiting from faster time-to-market and affordable, subscription-based services, iTrend can easily adapt its
data discovery platform to multiple industries and, as a result, acquire a broader customer base. “A Microsoft hybrid cloud solution with Windows Azure enabled us to make more flexible design decisions,” says Alatortsev. “We can adapt our solution to address
different market verticals and situations, and creating a new type of report is very easy.”
Helps Customers Gain Actionable Insights from Online Conversations
iTrend customers can use the data discovery platform to make proactive decisions that can avert problems or take advantage of hidden opportunities. For example, iTrend recently tracked a major advertising campaign and discovered that the wrong hashtag had
been assigned to more than 3,000 contest entries. As a result, the entries were ignored by the advertiser’s analytics tools. “With a data discovery platform based on Windows Azure, our customers can take advantage of data that might otherwise go unnoticed,”
says Alatortsev. “We see things that no one else can because we are able to track them differently.”
This case study is for informational purposes only.