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GMX AG: Challenge

In addition to user-friendly e-mail functions, GMX wished to open an auction arena, with business-to-business auctions for commercial customers, and a "flea market" environment for users to buy and sell to each other.

Whereas GMX ran its own server farm and applications to provide e-mail services, the company decided to go to the marketplace to identify a partner who could provide both hardware, software and business continuity for the new services.

A measure of the successful partner would be that no changes, other than minor interface work, should be required of the existing successful GMX unified messaging environment.

No Visible Joins
The challenge was to find a partner who could seamlessly integrate the new applications into the GMX environment even though they were running on physically and geographically separate hardware and software platforms.

"For a fast growing online service like ours, the technical reliability of our partners was a decisive criterion. A further challenge was the compatibility with the systems developed by us," says Karsten Schramm, managing director of GMX AG.

Users were to be completely unaware of the separation, at a technical level, of the two sets of functionality. From day one, the new system would have to be able to cope with a very high flow of messages, as all of the messaging generated by the new marketplace would continue to use the GMX environment, flowing transparently between the two underlying sets of infrastructure.

GMX prepared a presentation of the functional scope of its existing unified messaging service, using a workshop approach with potential business partners. The result was a clear specification of the new marketplace environment.

Of all the partners identified, GMX decided that Itrade, with its own substantial Intel®-based server farm assets and software development teams, was best placed to execute on the prepared strategy.

Itrade had a demonstrable edge in time-to-market for such work, and was able to show a quick understanding of GMX�s existing infrastructure and explain how the seamless integration required by GMX could be accomplished.

The project went through several well-defined stages, each one completed on time and to the entire satisfaction of both partners. First, Itrade took the marketplace design specification from GMX and produced the applications code.

"The requirement for transparency between the messaging and marketplace systems was achieved exactly as forecast, to the great satisfaction of both technical teams."
Christoph Bernhardt, Chief Technical Officer, Itrade

In the process, Itrade ensured that the interface for integrating the GMX client inventorythe goods and services to be offered both by business-to-business and consumer-to-consumer participantsdid not require any data duplication. "The requirement for transparency between the mail and marketplace systems was achieved exactly as forecast, to the great satisfaction of both technical teams," says Christoph Bernhardt, chief technical officer at Itrade.

Scalable Imperatives
The system was migrated within the projected time frame to live ASP-based operation, and continuous ongoing development has already resulted in a second-phase implementation, with enhanced user-interface design and help pages. The project has provided GMX with exactly the platform it dreamed ofone that is capable of growing in a near-linear fashion with the demands of the business.

In fact, Itrade started with just three dual Intel® Pentium® processer-based systems, and this has scaled so far to seven dual processor systems, as users of the marketplace increased from 10,000 to close to a million users at this time.

"It was clear from the beginning that GMX was going to be a real challengethey would catapult to number one in our traffic ranking list", says Bernhardt. "We really did have to prove to Mr. Schramm and his technical team in advance that we could handle the traffic and that we were scalable, and it�s thanks to our choice of Intel® platforms that we could add performance by adding more Intel® servers."

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