Bank vault data centre tests Server 2008

New platform more efficient and configurable

Banks may be closing branches to the disgust of many customers, but for one local IT services company, a disused bank vault became the ideal secure site for a new data centre to enter the hosting market.

Networking-Plus, based in Brisbane, moved into the building of an old Commonwealth Bank branch that had a large vault which was converted into a modern data centre with overhead cabling and fully-redundant air-conditioning.

Infrastructure manager Robert Warren told Computerworld the company has recently branched out into hosting when the new data centre went live in July last year.

"It's certainly secure as the door takes two people to move," Warren said, adding the power service is also top-notch as the building shares the same grid as an adjacent hospital.

The vault data centre houses about 35 servers, most running Windows Server 2003 and some running Red Hat Linux, with capacity for hundreds more.

To expand its hosting business Networking-Plus became an early adopter of Windows Server 2008 and is now testing four servers.

So far Warren is "very impressed" by the small memory footprint Server 2008 requires to host Web sites.

"The memory handling is extremely improved over 2003 and we'll be able to run more Web sites per server," he said, adding FastCGI support will also allow more clients to be consolidated on single machines.

A lot of Networking-Plus customer sites were developed in ASP.Net, and Warren describes it as a "no-brainer" to upgrade them to Server 2008 because of the integration with IIS7.

"There is some great technology that will allow you do diagnose and trouble-shoot servers [and] Server 2008 pinpoints errors a lot easier," he said.

Warren is also investigating Server 2008's virtualization technology to offer a server appliance customers can deploy on site yet be managed centrally.

"Server 2008 and IIS7 represents one of the more exciting developments in hosting because the ability to integrate third-party modules into IIS7 gives hosters the opportunity to differentiate themselves and introduce a lot of creativity in the market."

Microsoft Australia's director of server and tools, Martin Gregory, said in the hosting space the key thing is IIS7 as Microsoft has taken the IIS 6.0 code base and made it more extensible.

"The single biggest change is performance with FastCGI able to serve 6000 pages per second," Gregory said. "We've been collaborating with Zend to optimize PHP for running on Windows and customers can run PHP in a high-performance way on Windows."

Gregory said there are new things "underneath the bonnet" in Server 2008 that make it easier for hosters, like a componentized architecture and the PowerShell scripting environment.

An 18-year veteran of Microsoft, Gregory said there is a lot of exciting news and deployments of Server 2008 and "the reaction has been pretty favourable".

Windows Server 2008 is due for local release at the end of February.