“Relying on Microsoft Services lets us focus on strategic issues and projects that support company growth goals … [and] keep IT—and the business—running smoothly.”
Mr. Michael Georgopoulos, IT Projects Manager, Village Roadshow Greece
Business and technology goals
Village Cinemas, part of the Village Roadshow group of media and entertainment companies, is rapidly expanding beyond its current 70 screens located in largely urban areas of Greece. Village Cinemas constantly strives to provide the best all-around entertainment experience for patrons, starting with the way they buy movie tickets. Patrons had three convenient ways to purchase tickets: at the box office, by calling a Village Cinemas telephone operator, or on the Web.
These ticketing systems share and store information in a database running Microsoft® SQL Server™ 2000 Standard Edition, part of Microsoft’s line of server software. Each of nine distributed sites with two servers each (primary and backup) replicates to each of the other sites—18 replication points total. Village uses transactional replication, a type of replication provided by SQL Server 2000 that allows data modifications to be propagated incrementally between servers in a distributed environment.
“The number of live systems for which data is replicated, combined with the number of sites and servers, means that the Village Cinemas data replication environment is very complex,” remarks Mr. Vaggelis Skyvalakis, Technical Account Manager at Microsoft.
Replication problems with the live ticketing systems had the potential to slow considerably Village Cinemas’s ticketing nationwide, a situation that could have caused significant financial loss.
Village Roadshow Greece IT Projects Manager Mr. Michael Georgopoulos wanted to solve the replication issues—quickly—to avoid potential customer impact and lost revenue, but he did not have the resources on staff with the necessary technical knowledge. Village Cinemas also had a goal to make ticketing even more convenient for patrons and more cost-effective for the company.
Mr. Georgopoulos had heard of Microsoft Services and contacted Microsoft to obtain the specialized transactional replication expertise that Village Cinemas needed.
Highly skilled Microsoft Services engineers are ready to travel to a customer site and resolve issues. Mr. Holger Linke, SQL Server Replication Engineer at Microsoft, found the cause—inherent triggers in the replication system—and resolved the problem.
“Mr. Linke understood—very quickly—our very complicated environment and applied his knowledge of SQL Server replication to solve the problem in a very short time, to my great relief,” remarks Mr. Georgopoulos.
Based on that experience, Village Cinemas engaged in a contract with Microsoft for Microsoft Services Premier Support. Microsoft Services has since helped Village Cinemas migrate to and configure Microsoft Exchange Server 2003 communication and collaboration server, as well as to connect remote sites by using Active Directory® directory service.
Most recently, Village Cinemas selected Microsoft Services and a voice systems partner to create a voice ticketing service. The new voice ticketing feature lets patrons purchase tickets any time, day or night. The system uses natural language capabilities and makes use of the existing SQL Server 2000 database and the replication environment.
By enlisting the expertise of Microsoft Services, Village Cinemas solved its immediate data replication issues and gained an important new voice ticketing feature that extends the tickets-by-phone service to 24 hours a day at a significantly lower cost than live operators.
Transfer of Critical Knowledge
"The voice ticketing application combines several SQL Server replication sub-technologies and requires specific configuration details, a fact that makes it one of the most complicated replication systems in Europe,” remarks Mr. Linke. “If something goes wrong, the Village Cinemas IT staff needs to have a good understanding of all the parts and technologies in order to quickly isolate and resolve the issue."
“The Microsoft Services Premier Support team imparted the critical knowledge we needed and as a result we reduced—by about 90 percent—the overall time we spend managing the business-critical replication environment,” says Mr. Georgopoulos.
“Solving the replication issues quickly was critical, and Microsoft came through with a solution quickly, as no one else could have,” remarks Mr. Georgopoulos.
Since the Microsoft Services engagement and because of the knowledge transfer that occurred, Village Cinemas has only experienced two issues with SQL Server replication (a major decrease, according to Mr. Georgopoulos)—issues that Village Cinemas IT staff were able to manage themselves.
Expertise for a Competitive Edge
“We have an incredibly talented team, but no IT department has every skill needed, especially at the pace that technology changes today,” remarks Mr. Georgopoulos. Competition in Greece’s cinema industry is increasing, and having expert IT help at-the-ready puts Village Cinemas one step ahead.
“Microsoft Services extends the skills and capabilities of our IT department,” continues Mr. Georgopoulos. “Relying on Microsoft Services lets us focus on strategic issues and projects that support company growth goals. We expect to turn to Microsoft Services for ongoing technical advice, future development projects, and configuration and monitoring of systems to keep IT—and the business—running smoothly.”
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