Featured BizSpark Startup – iTrend

Today's Featured BizSpark Startup is iTrend from Stamford, Connecticut, USA.


Enter stage left: Microsoft Azure and open source software. Across the stage, the information highway lies unevenly, dangerously cluttered with news, statistics, opinions and data. At center stage stands Michael Alatortsev, CEO at iTrend, holding the key to meaningful, actionable data.

Alatortsev has had it with the social media data mess delivered daily around the world. The idea for his startup iTrend came partly out of his own experience and partly from watching other businesses try to make sense of social media. 

“We realized that businesses were getting tired of just reacting to social media,” he says. “So we decided to come up with a way for companies to track trends in blogs and social media to their advantage.”

That key Alatortsev holds is made of a Microsoft Azure platform, open source software and lively brains building a tool that automatically tracks, analyzes and summarizes potentially millions of conversations from multiple sources in the form of a customizable dashboard view of the data.

We start with Big Data and make it small and meaningful to meet your needs," says Alatortsev. "That makes it easy to see what's important to your business."

It sounds simple, but it's really a pretty big endeavor considering the millions that use Twitter and other social media options.

To accomplish its goals, iTrend needed a cloud platform that would be easy to use and very efficient from an operations standpoint. In terms of the product it wanted to produce, it needed something that would be modular and easily customized. Alatortsev says the decision to go with Microsoft Azure as a platform was a fairly obvious choice.

“The process is so easy with Microsoft Azure that we take advantage of it to build quickly and release early,” says Alatortsev. “Plus, the platform is very stable and it offers great performance.”

By joining the Microsoft BizSpark program, iTrend gained access to much of Microsoft's software products free of charge. That, says Alatortsev, gave his company a low-risk way to try new things - including Microsoft Azure.

And, to customize everything to perfection, iTrend uses a variety of open source software packages.

This graphic shows how iTrend can break down massive numbers (in this case, referencing Xbox) into clear and usable information.

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. Adding in open source software packages – such as a PHP framework - 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. 

By June 2013, iTrend launched, worked with any device a user brought to it and was already hard at work on its sophomore version.

This second graphic turns raw numbers into a heat map that’s very simple visual explanation of where the chatter is occurring.

Why Choose Azure?

“Without a doubt, the biggest benefit of Azure is just not having to worry about infrastructure,” explains Alatortsev. “I don’t have be concerned with monitoring servers or network capacity or anything like that. We can just focus on our product, and we’re very agile. Plus, it works really well with any OSS package we want to use.”

Alatortsev says iTrend needs to collect a lot of information: Virtual machines clean up the data, remove duplicates, consolidate information, error-check and summarize everything into a relational database. The on-premises solution includes an Apache Hadoop cluster running on the Hortonworks OSS data platform, and a NoSQL database (another OSS tool).

“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. The bottom line is that we have the tools available to offer features that no one else has.”

That’s the key to a successful startup. 

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