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Ecometry migration steps beyond HP-UX

Migration to HP-UX was only the first step in the Potpourri Group's exit from Ecometry on an N-Class HP 3000. A serious bottleneck in IO forced the catalog and online retailer to migrate in a second phase, settling on the Windows version of the e-commerce software, along with new hardware.

IT manager Bradley Rish said that inefficiencies of the Oracle database design in Ecometry create a performance bottleneck. Their study of IO traffic revealed six files whose performance creates a bottleneck. And the best-performing file of those six "was still 20 times slower than number 7," Rish said, adding that Ecometry's design needs an upgrade to push the Windows edition faster than the 3000's MPE/iX and IMAGE.

Potpourri, which is a holding company that serves 11 other catalog brands, processes 3 million customer transactions a year through phone sales and the Internet. But one half of that 3 million flows in during the high-season's fourth quarter. To handle this business load, the Ecometry installation at Potpourri needed a wide spread of 76 disk spindles and four DL580 servers configured in a cluster. That hardware arrived after Potpourri had already installed and then walked away from an HP-UX RP4400 and its disks.

"Ecometry is IO unfriendly under Oracle," said Rish, "but it's less unfriendly under Windows than HP-UX. It's still not as fast as the 3000. [Ecometry vendor] Escalate need to get their act together on optimizing it."

Potpourri's board of directors put the migration in motion during 2005, after a couple of years of research by IT. The exit from the 3000 was based on HP's plans for the computer, not any inability to serve the 200-plus in-house users, plus Web transactions. The HP-UX version of the migration went live in 2007, while the Windows migration went into production mode last year.

Data migration required eight months, more than the IT pros at the company estimated. Rish said that two full-time pros, working the equivalent of one year each, were need to complete the migration to Windows.

Choosing those rack-mounted DL580s from HP got Potpourri to a wider selection of disk platforms. Reconfiguring the SAN environment cost $200,000 in disk hardware, he estimated. The entire project, including Ecometry's consulting, all software licenses and hardware, came in at $1.2-$1.5 million.

Potpourri has been live on Ecometry Windows for a year. Benefits Rish cites for moving away from HP-UX include more affordable Oracle licenses, improved horsepower (the DL580s use multiple 4-core Xeon processors), better options for cluster redundancy, and more in-house expertise. Potpoutrri went from a HP 3000-Windows experience to an all-Windows solution. Although the 3-CPU N-Class server had older disk technology, the Windows installation will need a database revision from Ecometry to meet the 3000-IMAGE performance.

Batch and job processing is an HP 3000 feature that migrating customers need to replace for Windows projects. Rish said Fluent Edge Technologies, which specializes in support of Ecometry sites both homesteading and migrating, suggested the Online Toolworks product SmartBatch.

Rish said that Potpourri is preparing a shift to a new PCI-compliant encryption solution. The company is targeting a May, 2010 go-live date for the new solution; the PCI compliance deadline is July, 2010.

He also said that the experience of migrating onto an Oracle solution has a personal benefit for any IT pro who makes the move. "It makes you much more marketable," he said, adding expertise in the widely-installed database. He added that Oracle's Linux solutions could extend career paths even further, since Oracle says that Linux is its leading development platform.