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By standardizing on a Microsoft* and Intel® architecture e-Commerce solution, the Home Shopping Network* reduced costs, increased performance, simplified vendor management, and decreased time-to-market for new functionality.

In an effort to maximize its return on investment, Home Shopping Network ( decided to migrate the database tier of its Web solution from Solaris* to Microsoft* SQL Server* 2000 and Microsoft Windows* 2000 Advanced Server running on Intel Architecture. By standardizing on the Microsoft and Intel e-commerce solution, HSN Interactive has been able to improve the company's ability to deliver new functionality and react to market forces. HSN has also experienced improved performance, simplified vendor management, and reduced hardware, software, and support costs.

Company Profile
The Home Shopping Network (HSN) sells goods via television 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Products are presented by hosts on the Network's category-specific shows, produced in the company's studios located on their campus in St. Petersburg, Florida, and telephone orders are taken by representatives working at the company's multiple inbound call centers. The company has been wildly successful, with a steady growth rate and annual sales for 1999 of over $1 billion.

Although HSN primarily uses television to sell goods, they are leveraging the Internet through HSN Interactive as a way to attract additional customers, accept orders, and provide a high level of customer support. By facilitating Internet access to order status and e-mail support, provides a high-quality level of customer service, while at the same time reducing call center costs by minimizing those calls not resulting in additional orders. "We have an explicit strategy to keep our business model simple," explains Scott Mitchell, Chief Technology Officer for HSN Interactive. "Our online strategy is to leverage our television media through value added content, community, and commerce features, with the goal of selling more product." HSN Interactive receives up to 750,000 page views per day.

Business Challenge
HSN runs its core business-including inventory, order management, and fulfillment-on a series of legacy applications running on a Unisys mainframe. To extend this functionality to the Internet, they relied on a mixed-platform solution developed for the company by a third-party. The presentation and business logic tiers of their Web solution consisted of Microsoft Internet Information Server and Windows NT* running on six dual-processor Intel-based servers. The data tier, consisting of catalog data, the customer database, and community content like the site's message boards, resided on a Sun server. Information transfer between the Web platform and the mainframe was accomplished with twice-daily bi-directional batch transfers, with new orders being sent from the Web platform to the legacy system, and inventory levels and order status being sent in the opposite direction.

This mixed environment was causing a number of problems for the company. "We were unhappy with many aspects of this environment," explains Stan Antonuk, Director of Site Operations for HSN Interactive. "The mixed platform decreased our agility-it took longer than it should have to deliver new functionality in response to changing market requirements. We were experiencing performance and availability problems, and the mixed platform made it more difficult and time-consuming for our developers to fix problems and optimize performance. Having multiple vendors and support organizations added complexity that we didn't need, and staffing was also more difficult in that we needed to recruit people with expertise in two very different systems."

Solution Overview

HSN Interactive is the online subsidiary of the Home Shopping Network. Products are advertised on television and orders are taken via the company's website.


Industry: Retail
B2C E-Commerce

Microsoft* Technologies/Products Used: Microsoft Windows* 2000 Advanced Server
- Internet Information Services 5.0*
Microsoft* SQL Server 2000*
Microsoft Visual Studio 6.0*

Intel® Technologies/Products Used:
Presentation/Business Logic Tier:
Six dual-processor Intel� Pentium� II and Pentium III servers, each with 512MB RAM

Database Tier:
Two 8-way Intel Pentium III Xeon� processor-based servers, each populated with four processors and 2GB RAM

By standardizing on the Microsoft & Intel e-commerce solution, HSN reduced costs, increased performance, simplified vendor management, and decreased time-to-market for new functionality.

In May 2000, HSN decided to migrate the data tier of its solution to the Microsoft and Intel e-commerce solution. "When we were presented with the opportunity to migrate to a completely Microsoft and Intel e-commerce solution, we jumped at it," recalls David Schrader, Manager of Systems Engineering for HSN Interactive. "Our previous mixed environment had presented many challenges that we would not have moving forward."

All necessary development for the migration was completed in only six weeks, and in August of 2000 the data tier was replaced with a cluster of two 8-way Compaq* ProLiant* 8500 servers, each populated with four processors, and running Microsoft Windows 2000 Advanced Server and Microsoft SQL Server 2000. The 2-node cluster, which accesses shared external disk storage, is configured in an active-passive failover configuration to maximize availability, using the functionality provided in SQL Server 2000. "We selected the eight-way servers so that we could scale up to meet customer demand simply by adding additional processors," notes Schrader.

Why HSN Selected Microsoft and Intel
HSN Interactive standardized on a completely Microsoft and Intel e-commerce solution for numerous reasons, all having a positive influence on the company's bottom line. "Our decision was made based on a previous relationship with Microsoft that was very strong and very positive," recalls Mitchell. "Intel and Compaq were also involved, and added value in terms of sourcing and helping design a strong Web infrastructure. We were expecting improvements in time-to-market, performance, and scalability, as well as better management tools, monitoring functionality, and maintenance capabilities. So far, we haven't been disappointed. We've seen significant benefits in all of these areas."

The new solution has greatly enhanced the company's ability to respond to changes in the market. "By standardizing on the Microsoft and Intel e-commerce solution, we significantly improved our ability to deliver future improvements and remain competitive," emphasizes Mitchell. "The solution's tightly integrated products and services have enabled us to leverage software that has already been built-either by us, Microsoft, or a third party. This phenomena has already been proven to us as we were able to rebuild our entire website from the ground up in under 45 days!" Mitchell is counting on the single solution to provide staffing and training benefits. "There is a larger available labor market for people with experience using Microsoft products on Intel-based servers" he says. "These resources are more accessible and obtained at a generally lower rate. Training is of a much higher quality and is also much more accessible. This allows us to focus our energy more on building great experiences for and relationships with our customers, and less on recruitment of technologists."

Adopting a completely Microsoft and Intel e-commerce solution has also simplified vendor management for HSN Interactive. "Vendor relationship management continues to be the great unrealized expense," explains Mitchell. "Microsoft is one of the few software companies that offer the breadth of great products addressing most business needs. From the operating system to the Web servers, they have great applications. Standardizing on the Microsoft and Intel solution has enabled one-stop shopping for software solutions from a company that consistently delivers high quality products and services. Moving forward, my staff only needs to learn one set of fundamentals and one way of doing things, and they will enjoy the consistency of documentation, information sources, and training

Summary - Business Results
By standardizing on the Microsoft and Intel -based products, HSN Interactive has been able to improve the company's ability to deliver new functionality. It has also resulted in improved performance, decreased costs, and reduced overhead. "There are four factors that are, and will remain to be, reasons why I will continue to use the Microsoft and Intel e-commerce solution as opposed to their competition. First, it increases our agility and improves our ability to change in response to market forces. Second, it affords me access to a more robust labor market. Third, it greatly simplifies vendor management. Finally, the solution enables better performance and scalability, and maximizes our ability to leverage future Microsoft and Intel enhancements." We're in a competitive market, and competition will only get fiercer. To remain competitive, we'll have to deploy richer features, which will mean upgrading our hardware and software. Along these lines, we're already looking at the Microsoft .NET platform running on Intel Itanium processor-based servers."

Related Information

Mircrosoft: E-Commerce

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