Data Integration is a modern necessity

Companies exchange data between their internal departments, third-party vendors, web services, customers, and even robots! Data Integration is the name of the game. The key objective in successful data integration is securely transmitting information between systems, transforming incompatible data formats, and efficiently processing the data.

Secure Data Transmission

A savvy internet user is mindful of the websites they visit and pay attention to the green SSL security icon in their browser especially when visiting pages where they may enter sensitive personal information. Websites secured by the SSL protocol are usually distinguished by a URL that starts with “https://” in the browser window. For example, all Facebook pages sit behind SSL encryption.

The green security indicator varies slightly between different web browsers. This example is from Chrome.

The SSL encryption protocol ensures that communication between a visitors web browser and the web server serving the web pages is encrypted and secure.

With that said, almost everyone surfing the internet today is aware of the need for security, but when it comes to data integration for companies, one protocol and method of protection may not cut it.

The amount of digital information increases tenfold every five years. Moore’s law, which the computer industry now takes for granted, says that the processing power and storage capacity of computer chips double or their prices halve roughly every 18 months.

Source: The Economist

Companies deal with extremely large data sets. Transferring vast amounts of information over the SSL secured HTTPS protocol is usually not the most efficient way of doing things, so different solutions are needed.

For example, SSH (SFTP) technology can be used to leverage the SSL protocol (already trusted for web browsing and online payments) for large data transfers. Sometimes companies need to integrate with third-parties that do not have automated software systems that deliver or consume data, which is why SFTP technology is wonderful in that a human can send data to an automated software system and vice versa.

Moving around large data sets is one problem, the subsequent challenge is validating that data is authentic and who sent it. This is where things get quite a bit more technical because the solutions entail encryption and decryption algorithms, certificates, tokens, and shared secrets. Contact Strategy Star to discuss solutions applicable to your business needs.

Data Format Transformation

It is established that companies must integrate with partners, vendors, and internal departments. Each party has their own systems and data formats that they are able to support. It is not unusual for two or more parties to find themselves in a situation where none of them are able to inherently support the data formats that their counter parts require. This is where data transformation comes in.

Some organizations deal exclusively in data formats produced by humans such as CSV, DOC, PDF, and XLS. Most software driven systems produce outputs and consume inputs exclusively in JSON or XML. Data transformation technology can be applied to convert these data formats in both inbound and outbound systems.

Strategy Star is experienced in developing data transformation solutions that enable integration between otherwise incompatible systems. Contact us to discuss data transformation solutions applicable to your systems and requirements.

Efficient Data Processing

Doing a lot of business means generating, consuming, and processing a lot of data. Data needs to flow in to your business, out of it, and within it. A single batch of data moving between organizations can easily exceed the Gigabyte (GB) threshold. When it comes to storing and archiving the data, things move in to the Terabyte (TB) range, and beyond! Processing data in these massive quantities can mean that manual workflows or poorly optimized software systems will become bottlenecks for your business and ultimately become a detriment to your bottom line.

Strategy Star can help your company redefine workflows and develop efficient software for processing the data that drives your business. You may already have existing software systems and if you are reading this, they are probably not good enough. We can review the systems you already have in place and design new, efficient software architecture that suits your business model and data needs.

“The rate at which we’re generating data is rapidly outpacing our ability to analyze it,” Professor Patrick Wolfe, Executive Director of the University College of London’s Big Data Institute, tells Business Insider. “The trick here is to turn these massive data streams from a liability into a strength.”

Source: Business Insider

Together we can get your data flowing again at top speed. Especially if you have been in business for a long time, you are probably running software that is old and was built for a world that does not exist anymore. Let’s turn your data from a liability into a strength. Contact us by email or phone.

You can read about our data triumphs with real-time network threat mitigation, e-sports data archiving, and competition data processing and analysis for tens of thousands of players and matches.

An online portal for Scholarship Schools

On March 13th we launched the new website for Scholarship Schools, a charter school with a university-inspired college scholarship concept which was founded by former California Senator Gloria Romero and a long time educator and veteran charter school operator Jason Watts. Check the official History page to learn more about the California school.

We built an all-in-one portal solution that powers both the organization’s primary website as well as sub-domains where the school specific portals live. Teachers and administrators got an admin panel where they can login to manage content for their pages in real-time. Parents and students got a mobile-ready interface for receiving the latest updates, contacting teachers, and submitting enrollment applications.

We built the system with the latest and greatest open-source technologies utilizing the LAMP stack.

  • PHP
  • MySQL
  • Apache
  • Composer
  • Symfony Framework
  • Bootstrap
  • jQuery

The web server sits behind DNS protection and content delivery powered by CloudFlare. The web server is hosted by our trusted, long time server partner LADedicated.

Finding youth sports players, teams, and leagues is easy

In 2010, Strategy Star helped SelectAndUnite bring their player, team, and league networking website to market. In 2016, we upgraded the technology driving the web application.

We upgraded the Kohana Framework (PHP) to the latest version and refactored code to leverage ORM database modeling to a greater extent.

We updated the web application’s payment mechanism to use the latest version of the Authorize.Net PHP library and expanded checkout options to also include PayPal which is driven through the company’s Authorize.Net account so all billing transactions receive unified reporting.

The gist of the SelectAndUnite service is simple. Players, teams, and leagues create profiles and the web application uses an algorithm to rank everyone based on their preferences. This is similar to what dating websites do for consenting adults looking to meet new people, but SelectAndUnite does it for youth sports, which parents know to be a highly competitive and time consuming arena.

In addition to upgrading the back-end architecture of the website, Strategy Star also implemented mobile-ready responsive elements to the website using the Bootstrap HTML/CSS/JavaScript framework.

Software Development Life Cycle (SDLC)

An effective Software Development Life Cycle (SDLC) means different things to different organizations. Some companies make products, others publish content, while others provide services. Requirements and timelines for their software development needs vary greatly.

SDLC

  • Is your software being documented?
  • How do you manage additions and change requests?
  • Do your software developers receive technical specifications?
  • Are the developers being held accountable?
  • Is anybody testing your code before it is released?
  • Does somebody have to stay up at night to release code?
  • Do your employees have access to mentors?

Contact Strategy Star for expert help in implementing and improving SDLC structure, process, and intelligence.

Competitive online gaming for over 45,000 players

Strategy Star developed a robust community website and an integrated server software suite for Leetway Inc.

From 2013 to 2014, Leetway hosted a Beta service for Counter-Strike: Global Offensive. During the Beta, the software we developed was used to operate over 70,000 online CS:GO matches for over 45,000 users.

The website we built was integrated with the Steam Community API and OpenID

The community website was integrated with the Steam Community API and OpenID service, so the CS:GO gamers could seamlessly log-in to Leetway with their existing Steam accounts.

The website boasted features including Forums, account management, profiles, teams, matches, statistics, ladders, videos, screenshots, as well as robust administration tools that Leetway administrators and moderators used to manage operations.

We used the LAMP stack to build the website using the following technologies:

  • PHP
  • MySQL
  • Apache
  • Composer
  • Kohana Framework
  • Bootstrap
  • jQuery

To operate a world-wide network of game servers, we built a server software that provisioned game servers in real-time as CS:GO matches were initialized on the community website. Players would create and join match lobbies on the website and then be prompted to connect to the provisioned game server when enough players had committed to play.

In addition to being able to play through the website, we built a custom desktop application which was integrated with the Easy Anti Cheat (EAC) tool used to prevent and catch cheaters.

To make a full-cycle integration between the website, desktop client, and the game servers, we also developed a plugin for the CS:GO game server itself. We used SourcePawn and SourceMod to build a system that managed the CS:GO matches in-game and essentially acted as the referee. The plugin would ensure that the correct players joined the server, that they played on the correct teams, kept score, changed maps, switched teams at half time, operated overtime scenarios, recorded GOTV demos, sent real-time notifications to a REST API, and finally submitted match-end statistics and data to the community website for processing and publication.

All the different components that we developed came together to form an epic competitive gaming hub that facilitated well over 35,000 hours of gaming fun during the 2013-2014 beta.

Real-time DDoS mitigation for LADedicated

LADedicated operates a high demand server network. With many customers using servers for many different purposes with visitors and users from all over the world, the server and network infrastructure is put through all sorts of trials on a daily basis. When you operate servers for long enough, you eventually run in to occurrences of abuse, threats, and attacks. A common threat to server operators is a Distributed Denial of Service attack (DDoS) in which a malevolent party floods a server or network with bogus traffic in an effort to cripple its performance or sometimes to even cause it to crash all together.

To combat and mitigate the threat of DDoS attacks, LADedicated deployed the Corero Smartwall Threat Defense System, which a piece of network hardware that sits between the internet and the server infrastructure at a data center. The defense system detects malevolent network traffic and triggers alerts to the server operator so they can take action to mitigate the problem.

Strategy Star helped LADedicated to respond to the Corero Smartwall alerts in real-time by developing a custom software application (DDOS-AMS) that receives the real-time threat notifications, analyzes them, and immediately takes action on the network by shutting down connections from malevolent sources directly on the Cisco routers used at the data center.

The software we developed is saving LADedicated money by reducing the amount of man-hours that would otherwise be required to manually react to threat notifications. The software is also ensuring excellent up-time and service to LADedicated’s customers by mitigating threats in real-time and ensuring that the network stays available. The business depends on it!

Video publishing platform for a Counter-Strike community

Strategy Star worked with NetcodeGuides founder, Casey Foster, to build a custom video and content publishing platform. NetcodeGuide’s team of professional Counter-Strike gamers uses the platform to publish proprietary video content that is only accessible to their community members.

Netcode originally started as a Forum community which eventually grew to have a private forum section for their proprietary video in-game guides. The organization wanted to better capitalize on their authentic content production and make it the center piece of their operation. Strategy Star helped the organization bring their vision to life with a custom web portal that included the following features:

  • A simplified one-page registration and login mechanism
  • User account system integrated with their existing vBulletin forum software
  • Video gallery, searching, and browsing functionality
  • Video and written content publishing platform for staff members
  • Billing and subscription management system

We used the LAMP stack with the following technologies to develop the custom video publishing portal:

  • Linux
  • Apache
  • MySQL
  • PHP
  • Kohana Framework
  • HTML
  • CSS
  • Bootstrap
  • JavaScript
  • jQuery

Contact Strategy Star for expert help in implementing gaming related websites and portals. We have years of experience with the industry.

Enabling a charter school with technology

Oxford Preparatory Academy (OPA) wanted a custom web solution to deliver the vision for their charter school campuses.

Strategy Star worked with OPA’s in-house technology manager to implement a custom website solution that served several functions, including the following:

  • Landing page for the charter school organization
  • Customizable web portals for each school campus
  • Secure back-end portal for staff and teachers to manage web content in real-time
  • Secure online enrollment application form for parents
  • Accounts for parents to log-in with to view and receive important information
A landing page for the charter school organization

We developed the website solution on the LAMP stack using the following technologies:

  • Linux
  • Apache
  • MySQL
  • PHP
  • Kohana Framework
  • HTML
  • CSS
  • Bootstrap
  • JavaScript
  • jQuery
A homepage for the Chino campus

The campus portals were integrated with a few different third-party tools that the organization used to communicate with students and parents, including:

  • Google Calendar
  • Twitter
  • SendGrid

It was a wonderful experience to implement a time-saving web portal system for a unique education organization.

Unique insight into the evolution of competitive online gaming

In 2006, Strategy Star built the first incarnation of Legit-Proof.com which is an archive of teams, players, and matches from several popular online gaming leagues. The data has been maintained for over a decade and it provides a unique snapshot to the early days of competitive online gaming.

The first league which was integrated with the Legit-Proof archive was Cyberathlete Ameteur League (CAL). CAL was generous enough to provide daily XML snapshots of its data. The data processing software that Strategy Star developed for Legit-Proof consumed well over a million records in to the archive. CAL ceased operations in 2009; however, Legit-Proof still provides a nostalgic memory of the golden days of childhood for tens of thousands of gamers around the world that played in the CAL online league.

On February 22, 2009, CAL ceased online operations. At its peak CAL was one of the largest online gaming leagues in North America with 20,000 teams and over 600,000 registered players.

Source: Wikipedia

Data archiving for Legit-Proof did not end with CAL. The data processing software was expanded from consuming XML data to also consume CSV and WebCrawler data feeds from the Cyberevolution (CEVO), Xtreme Professional League (XPL), and E-Sports Entertainment (ESEA). CEVO and ESEA continue their online gaming operations to present day.

The Legit-Proof database contains data for many different games, but the Counter-Strike community has always been the most avid group using the website. Players and teams use the archived data as a sort of online gaming resume service, to validate the experience of potential new team mates as well as opponents.

Legit-Proof.com has been servicing the gaming community for such a long time that someone eventually gave it a mention in Valve’s official SteamID wiki page.

Mumble VoIP hosting with instant deployment cloud infrastructure

It was a pleasure working with the myMumble management team to bring their vision to life with a Mumble hosting platform with instant server deployments and automatic cloud scaling using the world wide server network from VPS.NET

We built a custom PHP and MySQL powered website and integrated it with WHMCS, a state of the art e-commerce system. We deployed a cloud server infrastructure with automatic scaling features along with custom software that deploys Mumble instances in real-time virtually anywhere in the world.

Shortly after launch, the system was put to the ultimate test with an explosive marketing campaign. Within a few weeks, the system handled and deployed over 30,000 Mumble instances. Everything held up!

The software we developed was able to initialize new servers in the cloud in real-time and deploy all the necessary software for Mumble hosting all by itself. We probably achieved the fastest Mumble provisioning on the market.