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Case Study: IWOOT: Using open source to give you what you want

How SteelEye Technology's LifeKeeper helped a web-based gift retailer

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Stuff you don't need ... but really, really want, is the theme of I Want One of Those dot com, a web-based gift retailer.

Ensuring that web shoppers can find and buy this stuff is a top IT priority and recently led to the implementation of a new business continuity solution from SteelEye Technology by Open Minds.

IWOOT, as it is colloquially known, has an enormous selection of constantly updated gifts available in six price bands. These range from less than £20 through to £50-£100, and on to money no object.

The business started trading in January 2000 with just £10,000 and simply hasn't looked back. Sales in 2006 went past £10 million are set to grow another 40% in 2007.

Naturally, the company has had a substantial IT component to its business for some time. Sagar Vadher is the Head of IT at IWOOT and explains that it uses industry standard X86 servers running a mix of Windows and Linux with PC workstations for development, management and monitoring.

As can be expected, the busiest time of the year is the Christmas period with November and December being the busiest months. This puts an increasing strain on the core Postgres database system handling online transactions and its continued availability is of great concern.

In the Christmas 2006 trading season, Sagar commented that: "The systems were really straining when sales ran up the wall. It was pretty hair-raising. We had people working all hours just to make sure that the systems worked. We don't want to do Christmas like that anymore."

The experience prompted a rethink. With Christmas being the most important trading period there simply has to be dependable server availability. There were nine servers in the ERP system then in use, in other words, several single points of failure; not good at all from a business continuity sense.

IWOOT decided to redesign its infrastructure for business continuity and choose to migrate to a new ERP system running on just two servers in a high-availability configuration. For the ERP software they moved away from a proprietary system based on Uniface and into the Java/open source environment, selecting the web-based OfBiz from the Apache Foundation.

The application was customised to fit the needs of the business and rechristened jWOOT3. Why did they choose to go an open source route? "We're looking to cut costs by moving to open source and avoiding ongoing licence fees."


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