.NET Enterprise Servers Help Companies Respond With Greater Agility to Rapid Changes in the Marketplace

SAN FRANCISCO, Sept. 26, 2000 — When people think of RadioShack, they usually picture the ubiquitous stores and dealers that dot U.S. shopping malls and make RadioShack one of the best-known brand names in the country. But that is only part of the story. The United States’ No. 1 seller of telecommunications products and electronic parts and accessories to consumers, RadioShack is also a leading provider of technology products to companies, educational organizations and government groups. And as one of the country’s most innovative users of new technologies, RadioShack has made a far-ranging strategic commitment to developing the tools and skills needed to take advantage of new business opportunities afforded by leading-edge technologies.

The most visible component of that commitment is RadioShack.com. Because it must meet the needs of both business-to-consumer (B2C) and business-to-business (B2B) markets, building the site posed a number of extremely complex challenges. Last year, when RadioShack business leaders sat down to assess the strengths and weaknesses of the existing site and map out a plan for the future, it quickly became clear that Microsoft’s .NET Enterprise Servers offered the best opportunity to create a second-generation version of RadioShack.com that could take full advantage of the opportunities afforded by the Internet.

The new version of the site, which makes extensive use of Microsoft .NET Enterprise Servers, has propelled RadioShack to the cutting-edge of the e-Business revolution. For the first time, RadioShack.com can deliver highly personalized, carefully targeted content to both consumers and business customers. The .NET Enterprise Servers include powerful business analysis tools that enable RadioShack.com to track habits and trends of site users and implement changes to the site on the fly. And because the .NET Enterprise Servers were designed specifically to leverage existing investments, RadioShack was able to integrate all of the components of the new site with the company’s legacy systems.

“Electronically, we can do things we simply can’t do in print,”
says RadioShack.com president Henry Chiarelli.

With Commerce Server 2000, we can communicate , show things based on the user’s needs. . . . XML is really our savior. It’s taken us out of the dark ages and brought us forward into the era of e-commerce.”

RadioShack is one of a rapidly growing number of companies that are discovering that Microsoft’s Enterprise Servers provide all the tools and technologies needed to take full advantage of the digital revolution. An early adopter of the Microsoft .NET Platform, RadioShack was one of the companies featured at the Enterprise 2000 Launch, a major event held today in San Francisco. The event, which was attended by more than 800 key Microsoft partners and customers, featured launch announcements for the .NET Enterprise Server family and Windows 2000 Datacenter Server, and a number of major partner initiatives around the .NET Platform with technology leaders including Andersen Consulting, Commerce One, Compaq, Dell, Intel and SAP.

A comprehensive family of server applications, Microsoft .NET Enterprise Servers include Application Center 2000, BizTalk Server 2000, Commerce Server 2000, Exchange 2000 Server, Host Integration Server 2000, Internet Security & Acceleration Server 2000, Mobile Information 2001 Server, and SQL Server 2000. Designed with mission-critical performance in mind, .NET Enterprise Servers are built from the ground up for interoperability using public Internet standards such as XML. Together with Windows 2000, the .NET Enterprise Servers supply the foundation for the next generation of Internet applications and services. Currently, half of the servers are in final public release. With the rest out in beta versions, Microsoft plans to have the entire family of servers fully available by the end of the year.

According to Marie Huwe, Microsoft’s director of Enterprise Servers and Tools, the availability of the complete line of .NET Enterprise Servers will give businesses a critical set of tools for achieving new levels of business agility, a quality that she believes is a prerequisite for success in the new digital economy.

“Whether you win or lose depends on business agilities like time to market and business process orchestration,”
she explains.
“Microsoft .NET Enterprise Servers are simply the fastest way to build and manage the Web-enabled operation that makes these agilities possible.”

The Launch of a Lifetime

The Enterprise 2000 Launch is a signal event, both for Microsoft and for the future of enterprise computing, according to Paul Flessner, senior vice president of Microsoft’s .NET Server Group. It is the biggest product launch in Microsoft’s history, he says.

“Never before has Microsoft released this many products aimed at a single objective,”
Flessner explains.
“Our goal is to provide enterprises with the tools they need to compete in the new digital economy. Microsoft is already winning the majority of the business in this area because .NET Enterprise Servers offer unmatched performance and tangible business benefits, ranging from increased scalability to enhanced flexibility and greater manageability. At the end of the day, it allows our customers to pursue new Internet business models and to do so while keeping total cost of ownership low. That’s an unbeatable combination.”

Scalability is one of the most important areas where .NET Enterprise Servers are helping companies solve the challenges of the Internet era. An extremely difficult conundrum that companies must grapple with is the fact that success on the Web often leads to greater usage, which can overwhelm an existing system. Today’s solutions must scale to accommodate both short-term and long-term growth. And they must do so without increasing the cost of individual transactions.

The .NET Enterprise Server family provides a new approach to solving the scalability puzzle, something Marie Huwe calls
“scale up and scale out.”
The traditional approach has been to
“scale up”
by adding new hardware as capacity demands increase.
“Scale out”
lets software do some of the work.

“This enables the enterprise for the first time to take advantage of PC economics for even the most demanding applications,”
Huwe says.
“In the past, if you wanted to maintain high levels of reliability as demand increased, you had to make huge hardware investments. But there are times when you can’t simply buy more boxes when you start to approach hardware limits. With ‘scale out,’ you can add servers incrementally as your business grows.”

You’re Not in the Game Without Reliability

Scalability is just one aspect of a larger set of availability and reliability issues that companies are struggling with. With businesses managing more and more of their mission-critical tasks online, new systems must achieve once-unimaginable levels of uptime and performance. According to Paul Flessner, the .NET Enterprise Server family was engineered with reliability and availability as a central design focus.

“You’re not in the game without reliability,”
he says.
“That’s just flat out quality and predictability: if I do A and expect it to do B, it had better do B. All of these products have been built to do that, and I have pushed extremely hard to make sure that’s the case.”

With so much riding on availability and reliability, Microsoft used the Enterprise 2000 Launch to announce a new partner program that will guarantee remarkable levels of uptime and performance for customers. According to Huwe, a number of Microsoft’s biggest hardware partners are participating in the Windows Datacenter Program — including Compaq, Unisys, HP, Dell, IBM, Stratus, Amdahl, ICL, Fujitsu Limited, Fujitsu Siemens, Bull and Hitachi — and a number of customers are finding that it helps them meet even the most stringent loads and demands.

“One company taking advantage of the Datacenter Program is FreeMarkets,”
Huwe says.
“By working with Microsoft and Compaq, FreeMarkets was able to achieve 99.999 percent availability in their B2B e-marketplace. Companies want a level of faith that their system can handle the load and that we’ll stand behind our products and make sure that they get the performance they need–the Datacenter Program provides that.”

For network administrators, simplifying management of increasingly complex systems is almost as important as achieving high levels of availability and reliability. .NET Enterprise Servers were designed to meet their needs as well. Microsoft Application Center 2000, for example, allows administrators to manage an entire server farm as if it was a single machine. The power of Application Center 2000 is just one of the reasons that Lycos recently adopted the .NET Platform for its high-volume Web sites.

“Application Center 2000 is a solution that should automate a large portion of our repetitive, daily maintenance tasks, says Tim Wright, CIO at Lycos, Inc.. It should enable us to focus more of our efforts on bringing new Lycos properties online faster and optimizing the performance of our current sites to an even greater level.”

Playing Offense and Defense Gracefully

As enterprises make the transition from old ways of conducting business that center on proprietary networks and applications — or simply paper and pencil — to new paradigms that take advantage of public Internet standards, flexible and cost-effective communications, and truly global networks of employees, partners, and customers, the ability to integrate new technologies with existing systems will be crucial. The .NET Enterprise Server family was created to enable companies to embrace Web technologies while preserving systems and technologies already in place. .NET Enterprise Servers, such as BizTalk Server 2000 and Host Integration Server 2000, were built specifically to ensure that developers could take full advantage of work they have already done and integrate applications both within and across organizational boundaries.

The ability to integrate old and new systems into a seamless whole was a critical consideration for RadioShack, according to RadioShack.com president Henry Chiarelli. The biggest problem the company faced in moving to a second-generation Web site was finding a way to pull order numbers from the existing order management system (OMS). A solution that utilized BizTalk Server 2000 and Commerce Server 2000 provided the answer.

“Getting the site to talk to the OMS was the number one issue,”
he says.
“The OMS is a 10-year-old essential legacy system, but we had to find a way to integrate with it.”

For companies like RadioShack, second generation Web sites are a starting point, not an end in themselves. With .NET Enterprise Servers paving the way, RadioShack is looking at a broad range of new features and capabilities, including interfaces that will allow stores and customer-service representatives to search, browse, and view product detail over the RadioShack intranet, and opportunities to allow third-party suppliers to query the RadioShack catalog for product pricing and availability.

“It’s all about business agility, about playing offense and defense gracefully,”
Flessner says.
“Offense is all about enabling new business processes. Defense is all about managing costs. With .NET Enterprise Servers, companies can move quickly, they can adapt to changes in the marketplace, they can change their business model, they can implement new business processes on the fly. And they can do all this in a cost-effective and affordable manner. I think that puts companies in a great position. And by offering all of the tools and services necessary to do that, puts Microsoft and our partners in a great position as well.”

Related Posts