MoonShadowMobile: Data Mapping for a New World

January 10, 2013 - by rachelbalik

If you watched the 2012 Presidential debates, you might have thought the entire election was centered on Big Bird and binders full of women. In reality, the election was about big data - the kind of data that could never be contained in a binder, no matter how many you had or how big they were.

So in an election where the difference between winning and losing came down to how effectively you could engage the electorate in the most competitive districts in just a few swing states, how were the campaigns able to manage the mass quantity of voter information so effectively? Many of them used a state-of-the-art, innovative data mapping and geospatial visualization technology created by our newest customer, Moonshadow Mobile.

Moonshadow Mobile helps companies across a range of industries process big data by rendering it visually on maps. For example, they’ve created CensusViewer maps for all 50 states for viewing and working with U.S. population data in a geospatial environment. Click on any of the map links here: to see an example of the technology in action.

The technology is ideal for anyone working with a database that’s 500,000 elements or larger. Dealing with this kind of data could potentially require quite a bit of memory, but Moonshadow Mobile has developed a proprietary software that ensures a small memory footprint and therefore smaller and fewer servers.

Some of the important customers using this technology are politicians. That means that during peak times in elections, everything needs to be stored in memory and accessible at all times. Currently, 25 members of Congress are using this technology to retrieve information about constituents and see it clearly on maps in a way that’s much more accessible than it would be in tabular form. During election season, these politicians need access to all possible data at all times.

At the times when all memory needs to be available, it takes 64 gigs of RAM to serve the political customer base. Of course, outside of business hours, it drops to 16 gigs. Previously, to ensure that data was available for their customers, they had to prepare for spikes by keeping costly servers running. “Years ago, it took four weeks to set up a server,” explained Eimar Boesjes, COO and CTO of Moonshadow Mobile. “With the introduction of virtualizaton, you could have one in an hour. But we can’t really wait 60 or even 30 minutes.”

Ultimately, Moonshadow Mobile was looking for a way to avoid paying for RAM that wasn’t being used. And that’s why they chose Joyent. Now, the system is dynamic. With Joyent, Moonshadow Mobile is confident that they can spin up a new server in 3-4 minutes, a critical advantage for the company, which has the fastest geospatial technology available. They can help customers visualize 100 million records per second per CPU. That kind of speed allows their customers to be more efficient. CEO Bob Lee said that one political campaign had allotted five weeks to canvas a political district but with Moonshadow Mobile’s data mapping, they were able to finish in three weeks.

Servers and memory ebb and flow based on customer needs. Moonshadow Mobile has the flexibility to serve all customers at all times, but doesn’t deal with superfluous servers running when they’re not needed.

At Joyent, we’re incredibly excited about the many cool projects Moonshadow Mobile has in the works, and are even more excited to know that we’ll be behind the scenes helping this technology to run more effectively and efficiently.