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Boston uses Intel® Architecture-based servers to deliver city services and information online
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Always a pioneer in municipal cyberspace, Boston has added online tax- and fine-payment, as well as a wide range of information services to its award-winning Web site,

Company Profile
A government organization isn't a company, but governments face many of the same missions and challenges as private-sector businesses. And primary among them is delivery of the best services to its customers as efficiently as possible.

With the goal of improving the delivery of key city services, Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino set out to bring City Hall closer to the people, with Boston's Web site central to achieving that goal. This year, Boston became the first city in the nation to offer not just information on the Web, but the ability to pay fines and taxes and conduct other business, check City Council schedules, investigate assessed values of properties, and more.

For the city's 575,000 residents (and the additional half million people who commute into Boston every day) these and other municipal matters would until recently have meant mailing a check, placing a phone call, or even traveling in person to City Hall.

Now, the first (and often the only) stop for many Bostonians is the award-winning

Growing with the Technology
Boston has always been a pioneer in municipal cyberspace. In 1995, the city created an information-only Web site that itself evolved out of an early dial-up bulletin board service. The first site ran on DEC Alpha* processor-based servers, but by 1996, when the city performed a major upgrade on the site, the larger number of Web-oriented software programs available for the Intel® Architecture prompted the city to move its Web site to Intel® Pentium® processor-based servers.

With each site upgrade, more departments posted more information, applications became more interactive, and the site became more processing intensive.

At the same time, the city perceived a gathering opportunity: the rise of e-Commerce was applicable to municipal transactions as well as commercial and retail ones. In December 1998, the city took the major leap: it moved into transaction-oriented e-Commerce, offering residents the ability to pay excise taxes online. At the same time, the city unveiled a new software architecture that used ActiveX* to serve up dynamic Active Server Pages (ASP) rather than static HTML content.

This was Boston, not Oz. "We didn't want a 'man behind the curtain' implementation, where the user interface is automated but someone manually enters all the data into the back-end system," recalls Kyle Tager, manager of e-Government Services for the City of Boston. "We created a fully automated system based on the Intel Architecture that seamlessly integrates front-end and back-end business processes in real-time, with money accessed and deposited into our accounts as the transactions are made."

The combination of e-Commerce transactions and an ActiveX-based implementation raised the processing load significantly, and the number of departments posting information on the Web site was also on the upswing. The city's four-way Pentium processor-based Tricord system server was getting maxed out, and the city decided to replace it with "the most powerful box we could find," according to Todd Sims, director of Information Technology.

New ChallengesNew Chip
The city decided on Hitachi Data Systems* VisionBase* 8880 PC Server, the first commercial system to use Intel's new Profusion®** chipset for creating glueless 8-processor symmetric multiprocessor (SMP) servers. They started with six Pentium® II Xeon" processors at 400MHz, and recently upgraded to Pentium® III Xeon" processors at 550MHz.

The Hitachi* server affectionately known as "Hercules" to the City of Boston's IT professionalsruns 30 separate Microsoft* SQL databases for the various departments whose business processes are on the Web, plus the transaction server, certificate and Active Server Pages software for the Web site. A network of kiosks also access data on Hercules.

"We needed more performance, and since we were putting our core business on the Web, we also needed a server that would be extremely robust, and that would have the scalability and performance to render our ASP pages on the fly and grow with us as we move more and more of the city's business onto the Web. Eight-way Intel® Architecture-based servers have helped us achieve those goals."
Todd Sims, Director of Information Technology, City of Boston

"The Tricord was a powerful system, but it was running out of steam," recalls Sims. "We needed more performance, and since we were putting our core business on the Web, we also needed a server that would be extremely robust, and that would have the scalability and performance to render our ASP pages on the fly and grow with us as we move more and more of the city's business onto the Web. Eight-way Intel Architecture-based servers have helped us achieve those goals."

Sims has been happy with the system's performance, manageability and availability. "Uptime and availability are critical since the Web site has become so central to our core operations," Sims says. "The Hitachi server with Windows NT* and Pentium III Xeon processors is handling 100,000 hits per day, and performing very reliably." In fact, the entire server has never been down, and the system is going months at a time with no outages.

Cost-EffectiveIn More Ways Than One
The 8-way server is also cost-effective to manage, providing the city a level of performance that would otherwise require a number of separate machines. "Some organizations would rather have 20 or 30 no-name, throw-away boxes," says Sims. "That might give you a lot of redundancy, but it also means 20 or 30 different systems to manage and upgrade."

Having a single high-performance server makes the environment easier to manage, in Sims' view. "When you have a busy support staff, it's simpler and cleaner to manage one powerful system," he says. "With the 8-way Pentium III Xeon processor-based Hitachi server, we just have one copy of Windows NT Enterprise Edition. We know everything that's in the machinethe directory structure, the firmware-and we can keep tabs on what's going on. It's hard enough to support all the different departmental business requirements. Having just one platform to manage makes IT's job that much easier."

The city expects its Web site to lead to bottom line savings as well as IT savings. For example, Boston's Taxpayer Referral Assistance Center (TRAC) might log as many as 12,000 calls within a 10-day period. Since an automated TRAC application went online, the number of phone calls has been substantially reduced, leaving staff more time to resolve problems and handle special cases.

The city's reliance on the Intel Architecture is also a plus when it comes to generating content for the Web. More than 30 departments create their own materials to post on the site, and having them create the content on Intel® processor-based PCs and move it to Intel processor-based servers helps ensure a smooth process.

PopularAnd Praised
Boston's expanding Web site is proving popular with both citizens and employees. Web traffic has steadily and rapidly climbed from 1996's hundred or so separate visitors a day to 3,000-5,000 visitors daily by mid-1999. e-Commerce transactions are ramping up as well, and by September, 1999, the site was handling 1,000 parking ticket payments a month and had processed 6,000 excise transactions. The site's managers have even received unsolicited fan mail praising the site's information-rich convenience.

"People traditionally view city government as a dinosaur of an institution. They're delighted when they can come to the site, and not only get the information they need but can also transact real business any hour of the day. We're really changing people's mindset about city government."
Kyle Tager, Manager of e-Government Services, City of Boston

"People traditionally view city government as a dinosaur of an institution," says Kyle Tager. "They're delighted when they can come to the site, and not only get the information they need but can also transact real business any hour of the day. We're really changing people's mindset about city government."

"The Web isn't replacing traditional services; it's a way to control the load on the traditional services," Sims says. "By handling them more efficiently, we can deliver better quality customer service and free employees to address more challenging issues."

The Boston site is garnering national acclaim as well. Government Technology's 1999 Best of the Web survey ranked the site "Number 1" for local governments, praising its uncluttered interface, straightforward navigation and innovative applications.

New Horizons
Tager and Sims continue to address issues of their own, looking at what comes next: further expansion of the site's e-Commerce applications, including applications that will require such authentication features as digital certificates.

They're confident their 8-way Pentium III Xeon processor-based server has the horsepower and headroom to take whatever they and their Web visitors can dish out. "I think Hercules can handle a million hits a day without losing a wink of sleep," says Sims. The Intel Architecture provides the City of Boston with the assurance of performance, scalability and availability. As more users take advantage of the online services and new applications come online, the city can rest assured that the 8-way Pentium III Xeon processor-based system can handle the load. And the Intel Architecture enables the city to continuously scale to ensure the success of their online services by quickly upgrading the environment with additional servers as they are needed.

The City of Boston, which has made history so many times in the past, continues to do so in the new millennium.

Solution Summary

Solution Summary

Boston saw early that the same e-Commerce transaction-processing capabilities that are fueling the new economy could be applied to some very old municipal concerns: tax-paying, fine and ticket payment, government research, public information.

Using an Intel Pentium III Xeon processor-based server, has launched an aggressive and expanding program aimed at improving the delivery of services to the city's citizens and commutersand has won both popular acclaim and national awards by doing so.

**Profusion is a registered trademark of Corollary, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Intel Corporation.

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