Accenture Assists in

By Brian Fonseca  |  Posted 2005-08-01 Print this article Print

Heavy Lifting"> XM also relies heavily on systems integrator Accenture Ltd. to assist with most of the heavily lifting and coding involved with project management, oversight and framework design.

XM minimizes its data center operational instability by performing a single large capability upgrade per year. To satisfy its massive retail needs, XM must have enough capacity online to weather the holiday season, which runs from Thanksgiving through the first week in January.

The company generally builds out for Christmas during the third quarter to ensure enough capacity exists to carry the retailer through its busiest time of the year.

That window allows for proper deployment, testing and tuning before processors are moved into production to handle any spikes in seasonal traffic.

Once the holiday season ends, XM turns its data center once again toward partitioning, development cycles and reallocating assets into testing using the Solaris domain.

To accommodate projected subscriber growth, XM is working with Sun to determine what equipment the organization needs to handle the bigger load. As part of that process, XM is moving data and applications hosted from production servers at its Washington-based data center to a new Ashburn, Va., co-location facility.

Completed in March, the Ashburn data center will house XMs complete IT infrastructure. The original Washington-based facility will be devoted solely to XMs broadcasting operation, including its music library, broadcasting equipment and digital rights automation—all according to XMs original plan five years ago.

"To save money and keep everything consolidated, we [originally] launched with both technologies co-located in the same data center, but the plan was to move IT out to [a second data center] so broadcasting could continue to grow and IT could grow and be most effective when we needed room," Patry said.

Buoyed by a 150-channel, commercial-free lineup, including news, sports, weather, traffic and talk, XM is burrowing deeper into the enterprise and vertical realm. XM employs Arbitron Inc.s radio ratings and media research information to track channel usage and popularity.

Last month, XM purchased privately held WCS Wireless LLC in a stock deal worth $198 million in an effort to augment its frequency range and move further into such multimedia areas as video and data.

Recently, the company joined government defense contractor Raytheon Co. to build a communications system designed to use XMs satellites to send soldiers and emergency workers information during a crisis.

XMs best channel remains the auto market, and the enterprise is planning to expand that further. XM has enabled its NavTraffic software, which provides virtual maps and real-time traffic conditions to 22 U.S. cities, to be used in 120 vehicle models for this year through partnerships with General Motors Corp., Honda Motor Co. Ltd., Toyota Motor Corp., Hyundai Corp., Nissan Motor Co. Ltd. and Volkswagen AG/Audi AG.

In addition, XM has taken to the skies. The companys audio equipment has been installed on seats aboard Airtran Airways Inc. flights and will soon be available on JetBlue Airways Corp. flights.

In the telematics realm, XM is working to resolve issues with cellular build-out and spotty coverage for companies to provide telematics services coast-to-coast without holes in their coverage pattern.

"[Companies] do this anyway. They just found us to be a better mousetrap and better way to distribute information with the platform theyve always been using," said Patry.

Along with its rival Sirius Satellite Radio Inc., XM has spoken to Apple Computer Inc. founder Steve Jobs about involvement with Apples iPod.

Sirius recently announced a partnership with cellular provider Sprint Corp. to offer select Sirius Satellite Radio programming. Patry said XM is "probably looking" at something similar.

Next Page: Joining forces with AOL.

Brian Fonseca is a senior writer at eWEEK who covers database, data management and storage management software, as well as storage hardware. He works out of eWEEK's Woburn, Mass., office. Prior to joining eWEEK, Brian spent four years at InfoWorld as the publication's security reporter. He also covered services, and systems management. Before becoming an IT journalist, Brian worked as a beat reporter for The Herald News in Fall River, Mass., and cut his teeth in the news business as a sports and news producer for Channel 12-WPRI/Fox 64-WNAC in Providence, RI. Brian holds a B.A. in Communications from the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

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