4-page Case Study - Posted 5/13/2009
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Windows Interoperability Cuts TCO and Serves up Fresh Opportunities for Web Hosting Company
Founded in 1998, AussieHQ is a Web services provider, delivering domain registration, Web site hosting and Web site building services to businesses and government departments. As customers’ Web site needs became more sophisticated, AussieHQ struggled to deliver solutions on its open source platform. Customers wanted their sites to link with mail delivery systems, such as Microsoft® Exchange and Research in Motion’s Blackberry Enterprise Server 2008, and also with document management systems, such as Microsoft® SharePoint® Services. AussieHQ deployed a Windows® Server 2008 environment, using Internet Information Services version 7.0, Microsoft’s Web server services technology. As a result, AussieHQ can offer support for customer applications built using open source software, and for the .NET-based Web applications that many of its customers want to develop. In addition, customers can build online services that link mail, documents and databases.
Founded in 1998, AussieHQ is a Web services provider, offering domain registration, Web site hosting, and inhouse application development for more than 50,000 customers. The company has differentiated itself by providing very strong technical capabilities to its clients, offering round-the-clock technical support and the assurance of an industry-standard redundant data centre.
||Our larger customers may be moving towards ASP.NET technology, but they have a large amount of legacy code developed using PHP. To avoid expensive reprogramming, they needed a platform that concurrently supported both.
||Michael McGoogan, Managing Director, AussieHQ
To match the skills of its original staff base, AussieHQ had built its original service using an open source platform. It combined off-the-shelf applications with custom development and used the open source Apache web server and the PHP scripting language to build and host many customer Web sites, Web pages and Web-based applications.
However, as Web functionality quickly evolved, AussieHQ’s customers wanted more sophisticated Web services. Customers began asking AussieHQ to support a broad range of Web-based capabilities that the company struggled to develop in an open source environment.
“As the online economy has developed, businesses have come to realise the potential for online applications to bring new efficiencies to their businesses,” says Michael McGoogan, managing director of AussieHQ. “They’ve established a business email presence and grown that into a business Web presence, and now they’re starting to consider ‘software-as-a-service’ [SaaS] business solutions.”
A number of AussieHQ’s customers had matured from building simple inhouse applications to contracting expert developers to build more complex applications based on the Microsoft® ASP.NET framework. Without the ability to support Microsoft’s server family, however, AussieHQ had no way to host more sophisticated applications – and risked losing business as a consequence.
“There was a surge in demand from application and Web developers for an ASP.NET– and SQL Server enabled hosting environment,” says McGoogan. “The difficulty was that Australian IT managers were approaching us for a complete technology solution. They wanted everything to talk to everything else. Open source was great for delivering individual application services, but it fell down when our customers wanted integrated services.”
Although AussieHQ’s customers wanted to be able to develop and deliver more sophisticated Web services, many were eager to preserve their existing investment in applications built using PHP. Noting that full PHP support had been built into Windows Server® 2008, the company decided to investigate whether a Microsoft® platform could satisfy its needs.
“Our larger customers may be moving towards ASP.NET technology, but they have a large amount of legacy code developed using PHP,” says McGoogan. “To avoid expensive reprogramming, they needed a platform that concurrently supported both.”
Microsoft had recently released an upgrade to its Web server technology, called Internet Information Services (IIS) version 7.0. Because it had been designed to be adaptable, with 40 different feature modules and a set of application program interfaces (APIs), the server could support a high level of customisation as well as a wide range of customer applications.
At the same time, the server could support existing PHP-based customer applications. A Microsoft Internet server would also enable AussieHQ to provide customers with interconnected online business services. By integrating Microsoft® Office SharePoint® Server 2007, Microsoft Exchange® Server and Microsoft® SQL Server® 2008 Web, AussieHQ would be able to provide tightly integrated Web services for its customers, including document sharing, email and database management.
In February 2008, AussieHQ exhaustively tested existing customer Web applications on the Microsoft server. This confirmed that Windows Server 2008 could support PHP applications and Microsoft’s own ASP.Net application framework simultaneously.
Speed testing also showed that Windows Server 2008’s updated FastCGI (Common Gateway Interface) protocol – which interfaces interactive programs with the Web server – offered significant speed improvements in handling PHP-built pages compared with AussieHQ’s existing platform. Scalability testing confirmed that a Windows Server 2008 environment could easily be scaled to support 10,000 or more hosted application customers.
||The introduction of Windows Server 2008 and IIS 7.0 has been very well received by customers, because they enable customers to use the latest Web application technologies – including those from Microsoft.
||Michael McGoogan, Managing Director, AussieHQ
In July 2008, when the testing results were clear, AussieHQ decided to implement 10 Windows Server 2008 servers, running with the latest IIS 7.0 Web server technology and SQL Server 2008. The company secured pre-release training for its support staff, which meant that staff were proficient in the new environment as it went live, and AussieHQ’s customers incurred no drop in service levels.
Since adapting its Web hosting services to a Windows Server 2008 environment, AussieHQ’s ability to service the Web hosting market has dramatically expanded. The company can host more varied applications and help develop more sophisticated services. AussieHQ can also integrate separate functions within its customer Web services, such as email and document sharing. In addition, AussieHQ has devised a platform that it believes will meet the foreseeable technical needs of its customers as Web businesses and technology evolve.
Increased customer demand
AussieHQ now provides a much fuller customer service. Because Windows Server 2008 is the first operating system to natively support both PHP and ASP.Net, the company’s customers gain support for their existing applications, while at the same time pursuing long-term strategies to embrace the ASP.NET framework.
“The introduction of Windows Server 2008 and IIS 7.0 has been very well received by customers. Windows Server 2008 has been rock-solid since implementation and it enables customers to use the latest Web application technologies – including those from Microsoft,” says McGoogan.
“By adding Microsoft technologies to our mix, we can cater to the needs of everybody, from the smallest SME to the largest secure government department. Generally speaking we will run out of processing power or input/output capacity before we run out of storage space.”
Many companies have used the ASP.NET framework to roll out new or enhanced Web services. These build on Microsoft server applications to provide a fully featured business collaboration environment that integrates mail, data and document sharing.
Improved technical delivery
Customers also benefit from the processing advances offered in the IIS technology release that powers the Internet server. As a result, AussieHQ can process a higher number of page requests simultaneously and provide its customers with the same or faster service from a smaller number of servers.
“PHP performance with IIS and Fast CGI is phenomenal. I was a bit sceptical until I had seen it for myself,” says McGoogan. “PHP applications on an open source stack were faster than when they were hosted on Windows Server 2003, but Windows Server 2008 is faster than both of them.”
“In addition, our customers are attracted by the familiarity of the new platform. Microsoft provides the advantage of offering an industry-standard business technology platform,” he adds. “All Australian businesses are familiar with the brand, and familiar with the technology.”
The robustness and flexibility of the Windows Server 2008–based service have persuaded AussieHQ that its future lies on that platform. The company will be encouraging its customers to make the switch when their existing contracts come up for renewal and, in the longer
||Making PHP native to the Microsoft technology suite has enabled our customers to pursue an applications strategy that combines the best of both worlds.”
||Shaun Ewing, Chief Technology Officer, AussieHQ
term, McGoogan believes AussieHQ will eventually come to standardise on the Windows Server environment, without forcing customers’ hands.
“Making PHP native to the Microsoft technology suite has enabled our customers to pursue an applications strategy that combines the best of both worlds,” said Shaun Ewing, chief technology officer, AussieHQ. “There’s now not a single customer that’s hosted within our business that can’t be supported in the Windows environment.”
Moving all its customers onto the Microsoft platform will cut the company’s management costs significantly, because of the reduced complexity of a single-platform environment. It will also allow AussieHQ to make full use of the extensive diagnostic and management capabilities built into Windows Server 2008 and IIS, further simplifying administration of its Web hosting environment to ensure maximum uptime.
“As our customers develop their online environment they are spotting new opportunities,” says McGoogan. The ability to use .Net technologies to develop Web applications and Web sites will provide the foundation for our customers to develop the Web businesses of the future.”
Windows Server 2008
Windows Server 2008, with built-in Web and virtualization technologies, enables you to increase the reliability and flexibility of your server infrastructure. New virtualization tools, Web resources, and security enhancements help you save time, reduce costs, and provide a platform for a dynamic and optimized datacenter. Powerful new tools like IIS 7.0, Server Manager, and Windows® PowerShell, allow you to have more control over your servers and streamline Web, configuration, and management tasks. Advanced security and reliability enhancements like Network Access Protection and the Read-Only Domain Controller option for Active Directory Domain Services harden the operating system and help protect your server environment to ensure you have a solid foundation on which to build your business.
For more information, go to: www.microsoft.com/windowsserver2008
For More Information For more information about Microsoft products and services, call 132058 or visit our Website at: www.microsoft.com/australia/business/bi
For more information about AussieHQ products and services, call 1300 889 461 / 02 6163 9350 or visit the Web site at: www.aussiehq.com.au