By Peter Galli  |  Posted 2007-06-21 Print this article Print

After considering its options, Overstock.com chose a solution from HighJump Software (a 3M company) running on Windows. Today, Overstock.com has more than 180 Windows server-based computers that host most of the companys core internal systems. Overstock.com also deployed other Windows Server-based solutions between 2002 and 2006, including a CRM (customer relationship management) and service application from RightNow Technologies; telephony and desktop voice mail delivery solutions from Nortel; and an employee intranet portal based on Microsoft Office SharePoint Portal Server 2003.
It also decided on a data warehouse solution from Teradata that gave it near-real-time business intelligence and decision support, rather than building one on Linux and Oracle. While that solution runs on proprietary Teradata hardware and software, most of the supporting systems run on Windows Server, said Paul Longhurst, Director of Overstock.coms data warehouse operations.
But the companys IT transitions have not all gone smoothly and were even blamed for its recent earnings plunge. <>The company is currently also evaluating the compatibility of Windows Vista with its desktop applications. Future plans also include an upgrade to SQL Server 2005 this year, as well as a move to Exchange Server 2007. Candy maker Jelly Belly, of Fairfield, Calif., had a challenge of a different kind: Its Linux-based VPN software, which it declined to name, was unreliable and difficult to administer, resulting in its IT staff spending a lot of time supporting it. Matters started coming to a head when the sole person trained to administer the Linux-based VPN software left the company. "At least three times a week, someone attempting to work remotely would not be able to get into the network. Problems were so common that we would plan on some issue arising—and set aside time to handle it—every time one of our executives traveled," said Nick Saechow, the IT manager at Jelly Belly. In the end, the company switched to a Network Engines VPN-and-firewall appliance running Windows Server 2003 and Microsoft Internet Security and Acceleration Server 2004 because they were most compatible with the companys existing IT infrastructure and skill set. "We chose a solution based on Microsoft software because it was a far better fit for us than Linux in all ways—from the skills required to administer it to the impact it has on end users," he said. On the Unix-to-Windows front, when London-based global consumer products group Unilever was preparing to replace the hardware supporting its Unix-based SAP R/3 supply chain infrastructure for North America, it decided to see if it could achieve a lower TCO (total cost of ownership) while retaining enterprise-grade performance by deploying mySAP 2004 on Microsoft SQL Server 2005, running on Windows Server 2003 and hosted on Intel-based servers. Click here to read more about why Larry Ellison says Oracle is set to outgrow SAP in the ERP market. The company required a successful proof-of-concept test prior to approving a new SAP platform, which was initially to be based on recreating the actual loads of Unilever Canadas SAP R/3 supply chain system at Microsofts SQL Server labs in Redmond, Wash. But Unilever then decided that it wanted the project to be performed against twice the SAP data loads of Unilever United States. "Our TCO methodology for this decision included all the usual things — hardware costs, maintenance costs, people costs and so on," said Chris Turner, Unilevers chief technology officer. "We gained a balanced view, and the numbers showed that we could achieve the performance we wanted for mySAP using SQL Server 2005 running on Windows Server at a lower TCO than our legacy environment," he said. The company expects TCO savings of at least 15 percent as it moves forward with the SQL Server 2005 implementation, which is in progress globally, said Dan Gizzo, the vice president of infrastructure services for Unilever North America. Check out eWEEK.coms for the latest news, views and analysis on servers, switches and networking protocols for the enterprise and small businesses.

Peter Galli has been a financial/technology reporter for 12 years at leading publications in South Africa, the UK and the US. He has been Investment Editor of South Africa's Business Day Newspaper, the sister publication of the Financial Times of London.

He was also Group Financial Communications Manager for First National Bank, the second largest banking group in South Africa before moving on to become Executive News Editor of Business Report, the largest daily financial newspaper in South Africa, owned by the global Independent Newspapers group.

He was responsible for a national reporting team of 20 based in four bureaus. He also edited and contributed to its weekly technology page, and launched a financial and technology radio service supplying daily news bulletins to the national broadcaster, the South African Broadcasting Corporation, which were then distributed to some 50 radio stations across the country.

He was then transferred to San Francisco as Business Report's U.S. Correspondent to cover Silicon Valley, trade and finance between the US, Europe and emerging markets like South Africa. After serving that role for more than two years, he joined eWeek as a Senior Editor, covering software platforms in August 2000.

He has comprehensively covered Microsoft and its Windows and .Net platforms, as well as the many legal challenges it has faced. He has also focused on Sun Microsystems and its Solaris operating environment, Java and Unix offerings. He covers developments in the open source community, particularly around the Linux kernel and the effects it will have on the enterprise.

He has written extensively about new products for the Linux and Unix platforms, the development of open standards and critically looked at the potential Linux has to offer an alternative operating system and platform to Windows, .Net and Unix-based solutions like Solaris.

His interviews with senior industry executives include Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, Linus Torvalds, the original developer of the Linux operating system, Sun CEO Scot McNealy, and Bill Zeitler, a senior vice president at IBM.

For numerous examples of his writing you can search under his name at the eWEEK Website at www.eweek.com.


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