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Feedback facilitates mission-critical shipping decisions and package tracking
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iShip facilitates mission-critical shipping decisions and package tracking with support from 8-way Compaq ProLiant* 8500 Intel® Pentium® III Xeon" processor-based servers

Company Profile
To some, managing a 24x7x365 Web site that is capable of processing a million shipments a day and stays current on the constantly changing rate structures of numerous parcel and freight carriers may seem like a logistical nightmare. To three-year-old Bellevue, Washington-based, it is a dream that has quickly become the company's route to success.

After developing UPS Online Professional*, a United Parcel Service shipping and tracking software program,'s founding managers and engineers sought to build a Web site that would let shippers compare rates and services among multiple carriersincluding UPS, FedEx, Airborne Express, the United States Postal Service and Yellow Freight. Today, corporate and individual shippers alike visit not just to shop for the best combination of shipping prices and services, but also to schedule shipments, print shipping labels, and even track shipmentsright from their browser. And soon, with its recent acquisition by, an Internet postage site that lets users print electronic stamps using ordinary laser or inkjet printers, customers will be able to go so far as to postmark their own parcels at the desktop.

"Our ability to accommodate this peak workloadis as mission critical as mission critical can be, without being life threatening."
Max Lakritz, Director of Data Center Operations,

With e-Commerce continuing to fuel the multi-billion dollar package shipping industry, is well-positioned to capitalize on a large market opportunity. And supporting the very essence of its business is a systems infrastructure based on the Intel and Compaq co-designed Profusion® chipset for creating glueless 8-way Intel® Pentium® III Xeon" processor symmetric multiprocessor (SMP)-based serversall in the form of the Compaq ProLiant* 8500.

Being the first to market can often yield competitive advantages�particularly for businesses driven by customer loyalty and built upon well-planned infrastructures. In's case, success will only beget more success, however, if it can continue to offer high-performing, highly available and scalable shipping services. As its existing corporate customers increasingly turn to for their mission-critical shipping needs, and as new consumers and parcel services come on board, must be positioned to keep up with change along many dimensions�instantaneously and without a glitch.

"Our business is 24x7x365," explains Max Lakritz,'s director of Data Center Operations. "Our shipping service sits within the systems organization of our enterprise customers. And an enterprise customersay, one launching a new productmay have millions of transactions to process in one day and none the next. Our ability to accommodate this peak workloadany day at any timeis as mission critical as mission critical can be, without being life threatening."

This unpredictable demand is of course heightened by the consumer marketany one of the two million eBay* shippers who can now receive pre-bid shipping information for each item under auction, thanks to an alliance between eBay and And then there are the Web merchants who are seeking to differentiate themselves during the holidays by offering sophisticated serviceslike tracking the shipping of the estimated $6 billion in online sales made during the November and December shopping season. All told,'s transactions can easily quadruple from one day to the next.

"We wanted to be able to advance our server models so that we could take advantage of Intel's rapid development of new chipsets."
Max Lakritz, Director of Data Center Operations,

What's more,'s OLTP environment must be based on the ability to handle exceedingly large amounts of dynamic data. Says Lakritz, "At eight to twelve KB per transaction, the average record size for shipping information is larger than most Internet-based transactions." Plus, with all carriers reserving the right to adjust routes and rates without prior notice as, say, the price of fuel changes, this information requires frequent modifications.

"With thousands of transactions processed a minute, and multi-terabytes of storage, we are one of the biggest players in an all-Microsoft Windows NT* e-Commerce environment," asserts Lakritz.

The challenge for is to maintain this market lead.

The Process: Designing a Scalable Systems Infrastructure
Lakritz set out to design a systems infrastructure that could accommodate's needs with successive implementations of the most powerful Intel® Architecture-based server solutions availablesolutions that would offer larger memory and cache sizes and more horsepower and I/O bandwidth for increasing levels of performance. "We wanted to be able to advance our server models so that we could take advantage of Intel's rapid development of new chipsets," says Lakritz.

To handle its high-end database transactions and client reporting needs, initiated its data centers with four 4-way Compaq ProLiant 6400R clustered sets of Pentium® II Xeon" processor-based servers running Microsoft SQL* and Internet Information Server IIS* on Microsoft Windows NT. Each server is configured with 2MB of cache, and is connected to 2TB of Fiber EMC storage.

"Our application is based on a traditional three-tier client/server methodology that exploits increased processor power and multiple processing points within our system," explains Lakritz. "During phase one of our operations, we succeeded in building a highly scalable data center infrastructure. When our quad servers reached the end of what they could do in terms of processing per secondwe could process 300,000 packages a day, but we needed to be able to process two million packages a dayit was time to transition to phase two and add more horsepower. We also needed greater I/O bandwidth expansion capabilities."

Lakritz and his team looked to the Profusion chipset, which was jointly developed by Intel and Compaq for the Intel Pentium III Xeon processor, and features a balanced CPU, memory and I/O architecture for running the most demanding applications. With the increase in processing power, they also considered advancing the basic building block from 4-way to 8-way, scaling even further to ensure continued success.

"To benchmark the Compaq ProLiant 8-way Intel Pentium III Xeon processor-based servers against the 4-way Intel processor-based servers and alternative architectures, we conducted a hardware examination of the industry's leading 8-way vendors as well as extensive internal tests and simulated performance loads," says Lakritz.

The decision was clear: replace the quad servers with two 8-way Compaq ProLiant 8500 Intel Pentium III Xeon processor-based servers, each with 500MHz, 8GB of RAM and 6TB of storageand triple the number of Intel® processor-based 8-way servers in the coming six months.

"We felt that the Compaq ProLiant 8-way versus 4-way Intel-based servers would allow us to more significantly scale our system performance," says Lakritz. "The advancement in component modularity of the ProLiant 8500 would give our Data Centers the ability to handle seasonal peaks, to reduce the production maintenance windows, and to offer a 99.9 availability environmentthe Intel® processor-based 8-way solution adds a mainframe-style level of hardware availability with notable cost savings over Unix*-based solutions."

"The 8-way excels in hardware expansion and redundancythe headroom and increased uptime and failure avoidance sets a new standard for performance and legitimacy in Intel® Architecture enterprise data centers."
Max Lakritz, Director of Data Center Operations,

The bottom line, according to Lakritz: "The 8-way excels in hardware expansion and redundancy�the headroom and increased uptime and failure avoidance sets a new standard for performance and legitimacy in Intel Architecture enterprise data centers. And Compaq's advance hardware design and fault tolerance was key in our selecting the ProLiant 8500 over competing vendors' products."

The Benefits: Loyal Customer and a Sustainable Competitive Advantage
And all that server uptime, scalability, processing power and price/performance translates directly into loyal clientele and a sustainable competitive advantage.

"The introduction of Compaq's ProLiant 8500 servers into our data centers is allowing us to stay ahead of our customers' growing transaction volumes, and is giving us a technological lead over our competitors," states Lakritz.

Repeat customers and a well-planned technological lead to handle ever-increasing levels of demand: the essence of success in the burgeoning online shipping world.

Eight-way Compaq ProLiant* 8500 Intel® Pentium® III Xeon" processor-based servers give the performance, high availability and scalability it needs to generate loyal clientele and maintain its market-lead position in a fast-changing multi-dimensional environment.

Technology Used:
Two 8-way Compaq ProLiant 8500 servers configured with Intel Pentium III Xeon processors at 550MHz, 2MB of L2 cache, 8GB RAM, and 6TB of EMC storage.

Microsoft Windows NT* Server Enterprise Edition operating system, Microsoft SQL* Server database software, and Microsoft Internet Information Server IIS*.

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