Server upgrades, network improvements, monitoring systems, oh my!

Many exciting upgrades and improvements are underway at AmeriCommerce.  These changes will increase performance, improve security, enhance uptime monitoring and more.  The improvements have been in design phases for months and we are excited to begin this transition!

Server Software

Starting last week we began the upgrade from Windows Server 2003 and SQL Server 2005 to Windows Server 2008 with IIS7 and SQL Server 2008.  These upgrades have shown significant performance increases, with Web servers upgrading from 32bit to 64bit.  Approximately 80% of storefront databases have been transitioned to the new SQL Server 2008, while the remaining databases will be transitioned within the next week.  Around 20% of the web servers have been transitioned to Windows Server 2008, while the remaining servers will be migrated over the next quarter. 

These changes make for faster page loads, faster site updates when we release new versions, and more automation for our IT staff allowing them greater control as we continue to add new servers and clusters.

Server Hardware

AmeriCommerce has recently upgraded some of the primary SQL Servers to new energy efficient Dell PowerEdge 1950 III servers with dual quad core Xeon processors and 8GB of RAM.  Combined with the new 2008 versions of Windows Server and SQL Server, the speed of our SQL Servers has dramatically increased!  Our current roadmap is to purchase only the new energy efficient quad core servers going forward for SQL and Web servers, while moving off of the 1850 dual core servers ASAP.

The AmeriCommerce  server infrastructure grew 62% in 3Q 2008, adding additional Web, SQL, Backup, and network administration servers.


Another major upgrade is the switch from Microsoft Operations Manager 2005 (MOM 2005) to Microsoft System Center Operations Manager 2007 (OpsMgr 2007).  The new OpsMgr 2007 is a complete re-write of MOM 2005, and dramatically improves on usability and functionality.  Using OpsMgr 2007 we will be able to closely monitor response times of every element on our networks, from Web Server request queues to SQL Server transactions and networking gear load.  This new functionality will allow for predictive load analysis which will enable our IT staff to monitor usage information closer than ever before to pinpoint potential bottlenecks and make corrections before storefront visitors even notice. 

Another round of monitoring improvements are scheduled for the next few weeks once OpsMgr2007 is completely configured which will improve off-hour monitoring and response time of on call IT engineers.


AmeriCommerce is also transitioning from Backup Exec server backup software from Veritas to Microsoft’s Data Protection Manager 2007 (DPM 2007).  For our purposes, backing up, restoring, and archiving SQL databases and web data files with DPM is a huge step forward from Backup Exec.  Last quarter AmeriCommerce added new MD3000 drive arrays for multi-terabyte online disk backup to augment our tape libraries which means we can keep storefront backups ready and available on disk for an extended period of time before having to go to tape for a restore.  This change also allows us to archive data for longer periods of time since tape backups happen less frequently now and are primarily for archive and off site backups.


Last but not least, security is an ongoing concern in everything we do.  This year we upgraded from Cisco PIX firewalls to the newest generation of Cisco ASA firewalls configured in a redundant fashion.  The new firewalls bring Intrusion Detection and Prevention along with gigabit networking interfaces for fast speeds between the different security zones.

As part of the server infrastructure upgrades we have instituted Active Directory services across all servers to centralize our management and service accounts.  This allows for fine control over our IT Staff accounts and gives us new policy management and auditing abilities to ensure all servers in the network are consistently configured for best security practices.