Microsoft wanted to provide mission-critical support for its original equipment manufacturer (OEM) customers starting with the launch of Windows 8 and potentially expanding to include other products. To provide high levels of availability worldwide,
it implemented a supply-chain solution based on Microsoft SQL Server 2008 R2 that includes active/active peer-to-peer transactional replication between remote data centers. As a result, Microsoft has experienced zero downtime, enhanced customer service, and
enabled mission-critical support for its OEM supply chain.
Microsoft Corporation is the world’s largest software manufacturer, with revenue of US$73.72 billion in 2012. In addition to direct sales of its products and services, the company works with leading OEMs that sell preinstalled versions of its software in
a broad range of devices, including industrial equipment, phones, tablets, and PCs.
Microsoft wanted to create a supply-chain solution that OEMs could use to procure product activation keys, including the Windows 8 operating system. However, the company’s global operations presented challenges. As Microsoft developer David Lin says, “We
have to provide availability 24 hours a day, seven days a week, whether the customer is in Europe, Asia, or the United States.”
In addition to hindering manufacturing operations, any downtime or lag in performance could be costly for Microsoft. Shishir Abhyanker, Database Lead at Microsoft, says, “If the system goes down and OEMs can’t place an order, it would have a direct impact
Deciding that a distributed environment was its best option, the company planned to install servers at a data center in the United States and at one in Ireland. A third site in a remote location would be used for disaster recovery. The solution would provide
what the Microsoft development team called geo-redundancy, with customers routed to whichever data center was closest.
Besides ensuring redundancy, the team wanted to offer the same performance and read-write capabilities at both sites in the United States and Ireland. These requirements ruled out a conventional configuration with a primary, active database server at one
site and a passive server at another. But with two active database servers, the team needed to reduce the risk of conflicting changes or overwritten data. “It is very important that the two servers stay in sync, so that the customer experience is identical
at each site,” says Lisa Specchio, Senior Database Administrator at Microsoft. “Regardless of which data center they’re routed to, customers need to see the same information.”
||With our implementation of SQL Server 2008 R2 peer-to-peer replication, Microsoft OEM partners experience zero disruption to their supply-chain processes.
| Todd Nicholson
Senior Principal Solution Manager
The development team evaluated Microsoft SQL Server 2008 R2 Enterprise software with several options for synchronizing data, including peer-to-peer replication, the Microsoft Sync Framework, merge replication, and asynchronous messaging. David Simler, Systems
Architect at Microsoft, says, “Our analysis found that peer-to-peer offered the best fit for our synchronization model and database structure with minimal complexity.”
The solution would copy incremental changes between databases in near-real time, providing the required levels of redundancy and availability. And if one of the nodes failed or required maintenance, the application layer could redirect users to the active
node. Because rows would be modified at both nodes, Microsoft also needed to minimize the chance of conflict. In 2011, the development team embarked on a rigorous trial period that included a proof of concept and extensive stress tests. Ultimately, the team
emerged with an architecture that met all the requirements for the Windows 8 launch, as well as a set of best practices that could benefit future implementations. For example, to reduce conflicts, the team used a primary key that includes a node identifier
as well as a unique identifier for each table row.
Running on the Windows Server 2008 R2 Enterprise operating system, the solution went into production in May 2012. The team plans to upgrade to SQL Server 2012 to take advantage of new deployment capabilities. In addition, it looks forward to using the SQL
Server 2012 AlwaysOn feature to offload noncritical workloads to a secondary server.
By designing a supply-chain solution based on SQL Server 2008 R2 and peer-to-peer transactional replication, Microsoft has provided continuous uptime, better customer service, and optimal support for the global Windows 8 launch.
Provides Zero Downtime and Better Supply-Chain Management
By taking advantage of its own database technologies, Microsoft is ensuring that its global OEM customers have continuous access to mission-critical data. “With our implementation of SQL Server 2008 R2 peer-to-peer replication, Microsoft OEM partners experience
zero disruption to their supply-chain processes, because the solution enables higher availability across geographic locations,” says Todd Nicholson, Senior Principal Solution Manager at Microsoft. “Peer-to-peer replication also provides a disaster-recovery
solution. As a result, OEM partners worldwide can continue to conduct business with Microsoft and move forward continuously with their own manufacturing processes.”
Improves Customer Service Worldwide
Microsoft wanted to not only ensure availability but also make it possible for customers everywhere to complete transactions quickly. “When we started this project, we wanted to have two geographically dispersed sites,” says Specchio. “With SQL Server 2008
R2 and peer-to-peer replication, we can give OEMs in any location a better performance environment.”
Offers Mission-Critical Launch Support
Although the Microsoft development team’s primary goal was to support the Windows 8 launch and OEM customers, it also wants to encourage more organizations to take advantage of peer-to-peer transactional replication. Specchio says, “Peer-to-peer replication
with SQL Server 2008 R2 is a really elegant solution for both high availability and disaster recovery,” says Specchio. “We’ve proven that this is the right solution for this application and our business needs.”
The team emphasizes that a best-practices approach is key to successful implementation. “By following industry-standard best practices as well as design and no-downtime deployment practices created by the team during the development process, we were able
to deliver the technology and support needed for the Windows 8 product launch,” says Abhyanker. “We’re running smoothly in production with SQL Server 2008 R2 and we expect that to continue regardless of workload.”
This case study is for informational purposes only. MICROSOFT MAKES NO WARRANTIES, EXPRESS OR IMPLIED, IN THIS SUMMARY.