REDMOND, Wash., March 31, 2003 — The mantra to do more with less isn’t just a sensible bit of folk wisdom. For many businesses and public institutions in today’s uncertain economy, it’s a fact of life. And when it comes time to upgrade technology investments, these organizations frequently face a complex reality: IT budgets are being trimmed at the same time that technology needs are increasing.
That’s the situation that faced Chuck Austin, project manager for the Kentucky Department of Education’s Office of Education Technology (OET). The Kentucky Education Technology System (KETS) provides state-wide technology infrastructure that delivers systems and services to over 700,000 public school students, educators and administrators. The near-decade-old infrastructure based on a Microsoft Windows NT Server 4.0 distributed technology model pushed costs and complexity out to the edges of the system, where resources were frequently least available.
“The recurring costs of supporting the technology infrastructure has continued to escalate over the years,”
“You end up with a gap between the cost of doing business and the financial capacity.”
Deploying Windows Server 2003 allows us to create a centrally managed infrastructure for the entire KETS environment so we can deliver our services while optimizing our staff and financial resources.
With the release to manufacturing (RTM) of Microsoft Windows Server 2003 on March 28, Microsoft has completed development on the new family of Windows Servers. Microsoft calls Windows Server 2003 the best performing; highest-quality Windows server operating system ever released. By delivering significant improvements to core server
— including scalability, reliability, security and manageability as well as new technology innovations — Windows Server 2003 creates new opportunities for businesses of all sizes to drive down costs and increase productivity.
Getting the Most Value from IT Investment
Customers face an increasingly complex set of requirements as they begin to upgrade their information-technology infrastructures because the demands placed on this technology continue to grow even as resources dwindle.
“Whether our customers are small and medium businesses or large enterprise organizations, they face the challenge of getting better value out of their IT infrastructure,”
says Bob O’Brien, group product manager for the Windows Servers division at Microsoft.
“Windows Server 2003 provides businesses the power and flexibility needed to maximize productivity with fewer resources.”
Companies can gain this increased value in a number of ways, according to O’Brien.
“Our enterprise customers require 24/365 dependability,”
“Windows Server 2003 offers always-available, always-reliable service that customers can depend on for mission-critical, line-of-business applications.”
Deploying a highly dependable and secure IT infrastructure like Windows Server 2003 allows companies to handle a much larger workload with lower operating costs.
By improving operational efficiencies and automating system management, both staff and network effectiveness can be maximized. Windows Server 2003 features significant new administrative tools including numerous additions to the Active Directory directory service that enhance operational efficiency and enable proactive network management.
An IT infrastructure based in Windows Server 2003 allows businesses to build and deploy new, more-connected applications that make it possible to integrate business processes more closely with companies, partners and customers. The Windows Server 2003 platform has integrated development features such as the .NET Framework and UDDI services that enable the creation of new and more connected applications delivered as Web services.
Windows Server 2003 is simply a better value, says O’Brien.
“Because of its enhanced reliability and performance, Windows Server 2003 is able to replace older and less-efficient server platforms, cutting down on management costs. Enhanced automation means system management is more efficient, and the Web services-ready platform allows closer, more effective process integration with customers and partners,”
A number of Microsoft customers in various industries have already begun deployment of Windows Server 2003. Their success with the new server infrastructure demonstrates that Windows Server 2003 allows companies and institutions to do more with less turning their IT networks into a truly strategic asset.
Kentucky Schools Benefit from Improved IT Management Model
When the Kentucky Department of Education faced the need to upgrade its state-wide server infrastructure, it saw the chance to improve how it provided technical services to its customer base of 700,000 students, teachers and administrators across the Commonwealth of Kentucky. The existing technology environment was enormously complex with a distributed support infrastructure spanning 3,500 Windows NT Server 4.0 servers to provide services to 1,400 schools in 176 districts.
“From a management point of view, the aging infrastructure was increasingly unmanageable. Moving from the Windows NT 4.0 infrastructure to Windows Server 2003 gives us the opportunity to change how we do business,”
says the Department of Education’s Austin.
As the infrastructure was implemented over the last decade, one of the program’s goals was support self-sufficiency and decentralized administration. However, as the computing infrastructure in each of the 176 districts grew more complex, managing the stand-alone systems increasingly became a burden to the districts.
“The distributed system and support model simply wasn’t efficient any longer,”
“The responsibility for maintaining our mission-critical services fell on the shoulders of our customers at the district level.”
The technical demands placed on the districts were increasing a significant level of expertise was required to manage each of the distributed systems — while resources were dwindling.
The aging computing infrastructure also presented a problematic security model. Because there wasn’t a centralized patch-management system in place, dealing effectively with computer viruses became a major issue.
“In a twisted kind of way, the Code Red and Nimda virus situations had a very positive and eye-opening impact on our strategic philosophies,”
“It created the opportunity for us to back up and acknowledge that our present patch system relying on word of mouth and other forms of indirect communication to alert members throughout the system to take the appropriate action — wasn’t working.”
The Kentucky Department of Education determined they needed to implement a new technical infrastructure that would centralize system management and free the local districts from the need to find and employ high-level technical expertise, while preserving the autonomy required for local oversight and administration.
To address these issues, the department is upgrading the KETS infrastructure to Windows Server 2003 and the Active Directory directory service. Deploying this technology as a centrally managed infrastructure allows KETS to improve dependability and security while lowering complexity and operating costs. The new architecture, in which each of the state’s 176 school districts is a domain within a central infrastructure, will provide a level of local autonomy for district administration while centralizing critical management functions.
Network Administration vs. Rocket Science
“What we are putting in place is a system where each of the districts will need a network administrator, not a rocket scientist,”
says Austin. Management of the technical infrastructure itself is maintained as a centralized responsibility, which lowers over-all costs and complexity for users at the district level.
“The new system will ease the pressure on these folks, and allow us to refocus our state level staff on proactive management, not reactive firefighting. It means that we can have a very small staff handling the technical needs of a state-wide system.”
“Windows Server 2003 helps us to fulfill Kentucky’s goal of equity in education. With a centralized infrastructure, we know that every school and school district has the same level of service delivered to them. You can walk into any school district in Kentucky and you will see the same standardized methodology in how we are delivering the infrastructure and services, regardless of how big or small, how wealthy or poor.”
Digex: Management Efficiencies, Greater Security
Digex Inc. is a Laurel, Maryland-based managed Web- and application-hosting company with over 600 customers, ranging from Fortune 500 enterprises to mid-size companies. As a provider of managed services since 1996, Digex has seen dramatic changes in what customers demand from a hosting service.
“In the mid-1990s, many of our clients asked us to host static Web sites,”
says Dan Kahler, senior engineer of Windows Operations.
“Later, companies added e-commerce applications to the Web site. Now, we’re getting more into enterprise hosting, meaning we host corporate e-mail systems, portals, company intranets and extranets, and back-office systems.”
Because companies increasingly rely on Digex to host mission-critical operations, the company’s success depends on providing its customers with reliable, high-availability performance with high security safeguards. Customers come to Digex with increasingly complex and interlinked applications.
“Because of advancement in development technology, customers are able to develop much more complex applications. They need the proven hosting capabilities of Digex to help them deploy these applications and maintain the computing infrastructure,”
To address these issues, Digex is deploying Windows Server 2003 to an increasing number of managed servers. The deployment is providing Digex’ customers with enhanced performance and operational efficiencies as well as the increased levels of security necessary to host line-of-business applications.
“We have always provided our customers with high levels of availability,”
“but with Windows Server 2003 our uptime is really improved from a manageability standpoint.”
Digex is able to maintain high performance even during Web-traffic spikes. By configuring application pools and recycling underused IT resources using Internet Information Services (IIS) 6.0 in Windows Server 2003, Digex is able to automatically optimize available processing power to increase availability.
Another management challenge faced by Digex is that customers frequently deploy Web applications that contain faulty code to their Digex-managed servers. Over time, these applications begin to fail, leaving the Digex administrators as the first line of defense. By leveraging IIS 6.0, the Digex servers can automatically recreate new processes for the existing processes that are failing.
“Even before faulty code results in a process failure, IIS 6 can generate a healthy replacement process. To the end-user, it’s completely transparent that the Web application is buggy,”
“We are able to maximize uptime even when dealing with known faulty code, and can put our administrators on more challenging tasks.”
Native integration of the Microsoft .NET Framework into Windows Server 2003 also eases application deployment and updates, and reduces downtime associated with rebooting servers. Using the .NET Framework in Windows Server 2003 to create XML Web services, customers can focus on writing code for their business logic and not have to worry the underlying infrastructure. Plus, customers can easily migrate content and application components to new servers without having to restart IIS 6. This enables Digex and its customers to easily add new services without disrupting the system.
Kahler expects Digex’ early adoption of Windows Server 2003 to give it a competitive advantage in the marketplace as the deployment continues to translate into lower operational costs and increased customer satisfaction. “Whether you’re configuring a new server or debugging while the system is running, it’s just more efficient,” says Kahler. He projects that these tools will reduce management time by about 15 percent.
UNX: All-Microsoft Platform Maintains Competitive Edge in Brokerage Industry
UNX, Inc., (Universal Network Exchange) is a Burbank, California-based institutional brokerage firm focused on serving large institutional clients, such investment banks, mutual funds, and asset managers. UNX provides these clients electronic trading solutions and services to make institutional trading faster, easier and less costly. In such a highly competitive and volatile industry, maintaining a low cost of operations while providing secure and instantaneous access to market data and tools for trading U.S. equities becomes a competitive edge.
UNX’s signature product is MetaECN. The company’s tactics engine processes billions of dollars of securities transactions. Clients can access this platform core through multiple connectivity options, including FIX (Financial Information eXchange), a Web browser, and Web services. The result is a highly flexible and secure real-time trading environment. The UNX solution allows institutional brokers to connect easily to comprehensive market data and to the trading system as they seek best execution and lower transaction costs.
Because UNX is a 100-percent Microsoft environment, the company was able to bring its innovative Web services-based application to market quickly and to offer clients customized services, according to the company’s vice president of advanced technology for UNX, Carlos Abou-rizk (the name includes a hyphen).
“We developed the application on an all-Microsoft platform using Web services, which streamlined our development process greatly. We were able to build the application interface for our institutional trading platform in less than nine months. Without the .NET Framework or Web services, the application would have been much more difficult and have taken significantly more time to develop.”
Building the application using Web services allows UNX to offer customers a variety of customized services, such as specialized reporting.
“No only are we able offer customers a highly efficient trading platform, we can quickly build services around it,”
says Abou-rizk. “Clients can call us and ask for many types of reports, including a custom average price report, and we can build it and deploy it within two or three days. Using the Microsoft platform and Web services, we are able to respond quickly to customers’ needs, which differentiates us from our competitors.”
To maintain its competitive edge, UNX is upgrading its infrastructure to Windows Server 2003. According to Rob Sullivan, vice president of technical operations for UNX, the new operating system brings together a number of benefits that will deliver cost savings and increase the company’s ability to serve customers.
“First of all, the overall security of the Windows Server 2003 framework is much tighter, and security is critical not only for our infrastructure but also for our customers’ transactions. Additionally, features that enable geographically separated server clusters and load balancing among multiple networks on the same server base will allow us to better manage our IT resources and lower the total cost of equipment. Previously, we had to pay multiple vendors or buy specialized hardware and software to obtain these services. But with Windows Server 2003, this functionality is simply part of the operating system. Not only is the infrastructure easier to manage with Windows Server 2003, it substantially lowers our operations costs.”
Sullivan says future applications and services offered by UNX will be .NET Web- services based, and that having the .NET Framework integrated into the Windows Server 2003 platform is a major advantage.
“Many products we produce going forward will be .NET based, so having the .NET Framework pre-integrated will provide security and efficiency improvements that will translate down to the client as greater speed, more performance and enhanced reliability.”
“One of the things that differentiates UNX is our flexibility and rapid time to market,”
“Utilizing the .NET Framework and Web services on a Microsoft platform like Windows Server 2003 gives us a huge advantage, enabling us to quickly deliver and customize applications at a lower cost.”