Don't rule Windows out as an e-commerce server

Don't rule Windows out as an e-commerce server
By Jeff Berger

Think that you have to rule out Windows 2000 for a demanding e-commerce site, where performance is key? Not in the experience of HeyAnita.com. An information portal that lets site visitors or POTS (plain old telephone system) callers ask cyber "Anita" structured questions related to stock performance, traffic, weather, sports scores, horoscopes, movies, and more, HeyAnita.com demands top performance.

At first, the site's architects leaned toward Unix, for the performance, and because most of the telecom industry is based on UNIX. The HeyAnita site is the brainchild of five regular visitors to a Silicon Valley diner, including four members of the Microsoft senior technical staff and one Silicon Valley attorney. But the founders' prior affiliation with Microsoft did not predispose them towards Windows, says Microsoft alum and CTO Dan Sodhi.

"The UNIX proponents inside HeyAnita suggested that Windows 2000 wasn't scalable," says Sodhi, noting that the company looked hard at both UNIX and Windows NT before settling on Windows 2000. According to Sodhi, Win2000 proved its mettle in system testing involving telephony servers that could each handle 96 simultaneous phone calls. The ultimate goal was to support more than 10,0000 simultaneous calls.

The testing involved configuring each server as a single, easily replicated unit. As a result of the testing, system designers concluded that the platform would achieve the high levels of scalability the company desired. "As demand increases, we (will) just throw more servers at it," Sodhi says Ease of development and deployment are two other reasons behind HeyAnita's choice. "Programming talent on the Windows platform is simply more easily available than on the UNIX platform," notes Sodhi, adding that the platform's stability was also a major factor.

Sodhi also suggests companies install Win 2000 using the Windows DNA (distributed network architecture) model, now renamed ".NET".

So do not assume, without testing, that you have to use a Unix server for demanding e-commerce applications. Windows 2000 is an option you should consider.

Jeff Berger is a contributing editor based in Plymouth, Mass.


This was first published in August 2000

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