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Salsa 2: Why You Should Be As Excited As I Am

by Chris Lundberg, Co-Founder and CEO

It is with great excitement and a certain amount of exhaustion that we present Salsa 2.

Since April and I started DemocracyInAction and subsequently Salsa Labs, we've been aggressively pushing forward organizing technologies with the intent of making our world a better place. Through these years, we've put together an amazing staff and set of organizations that can truly make effective change, together.

We've gone through a handful of major releases, and hundreds of minor ones but for me, this one - that we are calling Salsa 2 - is the most exciting.

The Headquarters Stack
Salsa 2 blends the traditional and the new. We've got our million dollar hardware stack - dozens of MySQL instances, extremely fast IODrive disks, and SCSI out the wazoo - driving your database and running reports, custom SQL, real-time statistics and queries. We've got our email stack sending hundreds of millions of emails a month and tracking the billions of opens and clicks coming through our system. We've been steadily increasing our infrastructure to keep up with all the nifty new things you think of.

But, with Salsa 2, we've added something new: a completely new architecture.

As we've brought on more and more fantastic organizations, the potential for radical changes in traffic over the course of a few minutes has increased dramatically. Some of our advocacy actions will go from ten actions to a hundred thousand actions in the span of an hour. To grow with you, we've had to change how we think about building an infrastructure. We had to throw out all the ideas about buying progressively bigger and more expensive hardware. The scale of traffic that we see now - the billions of hits that we track, the tens of millions of users we see - is on a slope that would rapidly exceed our capacity, no matter how much money we'd throw at it.

So, we had to start along a new path.

Public pages on the new Salsa 2 run MongoDB, a blazing fast, highly scalable database that shards and clusters data across dozens or hundreds of machines. It runs on the Amazon's AWS cloud, a dynamically scalable, highly redundant infrastructure that allows us to add resources as we need them. It provides protections against denial-of-service attacks (which some of our edgier organizations run into), a native content delivery network for speedy, fail-safe delivery of images and other files. It also allows us to locate servers across multiple regions and continents so we can provide better service to our European and Australian organizations.

And the best thing? Because of how we architected Salsa at the beginning, we've only had to make some simple and elegant changes to empower this new infrastructure. This means that we don't have to risk changing your customized pages, or our Q/A infrastructure or anything else. It just works.

We'll be progressively rolling our groups onto the Salsa 2 infrastructure over the coming weeks, but you'll likely not have to do a thing.

Salsa Fresca
"Is it all about public pages, then? Because, frankly, we really don't care that much about that."

Okay, that's fair. You don't care that much, you just want it to work. Well, this one's for you: Salsa 2 Headquarters runs a new user interface that we have been affectionately calling Fresca. Just like we're rethinking the infrastructure, we're rethinking how you interact with your data, with your supporters, and with your whole organization. Four years ago, it was all about process, we were all figuring out what the right steps were to send out a highly targeted organizing email, composing an advocacy action, that type of thing. But we've matured over the years and so with our new interface we focused on three things - speed, simplicity, and community.

Fresca is a completely AJAX (I was a developer, I can use that phrase) driven interface, to reduce page load times by up to 90%, and just make them better. We upgraded all of our past Headquarters pages with updated libraries and our new Mongo infrastructure with the goal of making it fast. We want Salsa to help you do more, faster. The quicker you can get your job done, the more you can do for your organization and cause.

Salsa has a lot of features. Last year, we released more than 750 features and enhancements, in addition to our standard patches and fixes. With so many organizations with so much breadth of interest and need, it's unlikely that number will go down. We had to look at how to fit it all in while keeping room open for more. The new layout creates a framework for that growth, gathering like information and features together in a new sidebar to help you get quick access to what you need based on what you're doing. Over time we'll be extending Fresca to include changes designed to make your workspace more streamlined and faster as well.

Community and Network
Salsa is all about community and our network of organizations. With Fresca we're begging to weave our community and network more intimately into your daily work. The sidebar features a tab for Commons which gives you quick access to community forums and help. In the coming weeks and months we'll be adding more network features to help you take advantage of the benefits of your network of supporters and our network of organizations.

That's all I've got for now. I want to tell you so much more about what we're doing, but we'll leave that for future posts.

Check out the Salsa 2 blog from Dave Leichtman, our VP of Services and Support, and Charles Parsons our product manager to see screen shots of the new UI and learn more about the benefits of Salsa 2 to you and your organization. Hopefully between what I have said here and their blog, you will be as excited as I am about the new Salsa 2.

Topics: Salsa