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The truth about ASPs, Part III

Fatter Pipes, Please
Written by Steven J.Vaughan Nichols, Contributor

During our project, Mi8's two T1 lines simply were not up to the task of handling the company's client base of 1,700 users. But the ASP is making a wise investment and moving into a new data centre. In Mi8's new location, the company will be co-located with AT&T and Global Frontier and will have access to an OC-3 (155Mbps) backbone maintained by AT&T and UUNet. With throughput like that, ASP local bandwidth will not be a restraint.

Mi8 uses load balancing to prevent customer slowdowns and is in the process of deploying Windows NT-based clustering solutions to deliver additional reliability in the event of system failures.

The Internet itself, however, remains a problem. Without co-locating around the country, any ASP working at the national level will be subject to Internet traffic jams. Internally, Mi8 uses 100MBps Fast Ethernet pipes, but the firm is considering switching to Gigabit Ethernet.

On the backside, Mi8 relies on Compaq Proliant 1850Rs for basic infrastructure. The hosted apps live on Compaq 8500s. These four- and eight-processor symmetric-multiprocessing machines run Windows NT 4.0 Service Pack 6a. Besides Domino and the iNotes servers, Mi8 offers hosted services for Microsoft Exchange Server, GoldMine Software's GoldMine contact-management software and Citrix Systems MetaFrame 1.8 for application management.

In the future, Mi8 will migrate its Compaq servers from NT to Windows 2000. Two factors are driving that move: Mi8 has a close relationship with Microsoft, and the company needs greater operating system reliability. (We recommend high-end ASPs stick with Solaris on Sparc hardware.) Mi8 currently re boots its NT servers on a regular basis to avoid server crashes. The company also is considering using an IBM AS/400 for its greater speed and far higher reliability to run Lotus Domino for Notes customers. Mi8, a major Exchange 2000 beta tester, also is likely to be the first ASP to offer Exchange 2000 services.

Finally, Mi8 currently uses high-end American Power Conversion Corp.'s UPSes to keep the juice going to their servers. The company plans to supplement that protection with generators this year. For security, Mi8 uses SSL servers. In the near future, it will add Axent's WebDefender for secure single sign-on access control to the applications.

All in all, Mi8 offers a solid combination of hardware and software. The pity is that Notes' Java user interface and Internet traffic beyond Mi8's control makes the system too slow to be practical. ASPs will serve themselves well by hitching a ride on the broadband highway as fast as they can.

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