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					                                                Microsoft Windows Server 2003
                                                Customer Solution Case Study

                                                Online Auction Site Replaces Linux and UNIX
                                                Systems with Industry-Standard Technology

Overview                                        “We trust in Microsoft’s vision for fully integrated
Country or Region: Western Europe
Industry: Professional Services
                                                infrastructure based on standard technologies, and
                                                this is the road we have chosen to go down.”
Customer Profile
                                                Peter Oertlin, Regional Director for Western Europe, QXL Ricardo
Founded in London in 1997, QXL Ricardo is
one of Europe’s leading online consumer
trading platforms. In western Europe, the
company employs 160 people and handles          QXL Ricardo is one of Europe’s leading online auction sites. In
50 million database transactions.
                                                western Europe, the company employs 160 people and handles 50
Business Situation                              million database transactions per day. Until September 2006, sites
The company wanted to replace open
source systems with industry-standard           in Denmark, Norway, and Switzerland were supported by Linux and
Microsoft® technology, ensuring ongoing         UNIX operating systems. These technologies met the company’s
support and increasing manageability.
                                                functional requirements, but were unable to match industry-
Solution                                        standard software in terms of support, availability of skilled
QXL Ricardo deployed an architecture built
on the Windows Server® 2003 operating           engineers, and clear product upgrade paths. As a result, the
system, Microsoft SQL Server™ 2005              company made the strategic decision to migrate its European
database technology, and the Microsoft
.NET Framework development                      operations to Microsoft® technology. The new infrastructure
environment.                                    provides the performance, scalability, and low total cost of
Benefits                                        ownership QXL Ricardo requires. Microsoft software, which has
 Microsoft engineers always available.         delivered 99.97 per cent uptime since deployment, is fully
 Upgrade paths protect investment.
 Standards reduce need for specialists.
                                                supported by Microsoft Gold Certified Partner Winwise.
 Protection for critical transactional data.
 Increased opportunities for analysis.
                                               Situation                                           experienced a fault 10 minutes after the last
                                               Founded in London in 1997, QXL Ricardo is a         back-up, large volumes of critical
                                               leading provider of online consumer trading         transactions would have been lost.
                                               platforms across Europe. The company’s IT
                                               infrastructure connects buyers and sellers—         Jeremy Calles, Head of the DBA Team at QXL
                                               24 hours a day, seven days a week—in a safe,        Ricardo, says: “With our previous solution, we
                                               efficient, and entertaining environment. A          risked losing 10 minutes of transactional
                                               wide selection of merchandise and services,         data, which equals up to several thousand
                                               both new and second-hand, is available for          auction bids. This kind of event would be
                                               auction and purchase on QXL Ricardo Web             extremely damaging for our business, so we
                                               sites, ranging from computer hardware and           decided to deploy a new solution that could
                                               software to consumer electronics,                   back up data continuously and in real time.”
                                               collectibles, sports equipment, holiday items,
                                               cars, and real estate.                              In April 2003, the company migrated its
                                                                                                   Danish and Norwegian sites from Linux and
                                               In western Europe, QXL Ricardo employs 160          UNIX operating systems and Oracle
“The clear upgrade path                        people and handles 50 million database              databases to a new architecture based on
for Microsoft products                         transactions and 500,000 Web site visits per        the Windows Server® 2003 operating system
                                               day. Originally all countries in western Europe     and Microsoft® SQL Server™ 2000 database.
and the promise of                             were supported by an IT infrastructure              This project paved the way for the migration
comprehensive and                              running on Linux and UNIX operating                 of the much larger and more complex site in
                                               systems, but QXL Ricardo wanted to migrate          Switzerland.
ongoing support were                           to a standardised solution. The company’s
also key factors in our                        Swiss site, which accounts for more than 65         Oertlin says: “We had two options open to us:
                                               per cent of its western European operation,         either to continue down the open source
decision to deploy the                         was the benchmark for all other areas of the        route or migrate to an industry-standards-
new technology.”                               business in terms of performance and                based, business-orientated infrastructure. We
                                               functionality.                                      ultimately chose to migrate our entire
Peter Oertlin, Regional Director for Western                                                       western European operation, including the
Europe, QXL Ricardo                            Peter Oertlin, Regional Director for Western        Swiss site, to Microsoft technology based on
                                               Europe, QXL Ricardo, says: “We wanted to            the excellent availability of Microsoft partners
                                               bring all our Web sites up to the level of the      and engineers. The clear upgrade path for
                                               Swiss site in terms of functionality. It was also   Microsoft products and the promise of
                                               a key goal to standardise our IT systems            comprehensive and ongoing support were
                                               across western Europe to increase                   also key factors in our decision to deploy the
                                               manageability and ensure a strategic                new technology.”
                                               roadmap for all future technology
                                               deployments.”                                       Solution
                                                                                                   QXL Ricardo migrated Danish and Norwegian
                                               In addition, QXL Ricardo needed to ensure           sites to the Microsoft infrastructure in April
                                               the real-time availability of key transactional     2003. In addition, the 12-month migration of
                                               data in the event of a hardware or software         the Swiss site was completed by September
                                               failure. Its previous database solution, based      2006, with the support of Microsoft Gold
                                               on “log shipping” technology, offered some          Certified Partner Winwise. Microsoft code was
                                               protection by transferring a log of database        optimised using the Microsoft .NET
                                               changes to a back-up server every 15                Framework version 2.0, and data was
                                               minutes. However, if the main database had          imported to the SQL Server 2000 database.
                                               Subsequently, data was migrated to SQL          number of instances, we referred technical
                                               Server 2005, the latest 64-bit version of the   issues to product experts in Redmond. This
                                               technology.                                     worked very well for us, and we are hoping to
                                                                                               establish even more direct contact with
                                               Oertlin says: “After the migration, all users   Microsoft in the future.”
                                               were able to view accurate data in the same
                                               way they had always done. After a few           Benefits
                                               performance issues during the first week, the   The new infrastructure offers QXL Ricardo a
                                               system has been able to provide 99.97 per       high level of support for its mission critical
                                               cent uptime, compared with 98 to 99 per         online operations. As well as providing the
                                               cent with the previous Linux system.”           required levels of performance in reliability,
                                                                                               scalability, and availability, the tools ensure
                                               The new infrastructure incorporates:            strategic benefits, such as clear upgrade
                                                                                               paths for individual products and the
                                                  A farm of Web servers running Windows       availability of skilled engineers. In addition,
“After a few                                       Server 2003 Web Edition and Standard        new data mirroring functionality ensures that
performance issues                                 Edition.                                    critical transactional data is protected in the
                                                  Five image and application servers          event of a hardware or software fault.
during the first week,                             running Windows Server 2003 Standard
the system has been                                Edition.                                    Access to Skills and Experience
                                                  Two core mirrored database servers          While it is typically difficult and expensive to
able to provide 99.97                              running Windows Server 2003 Enterprise      engage experts in open source technologies,
per cent uptime,                                   Edition and SQL Server 2005.                experienced, highly qualified Microsoft
                                                  Three listing servers and three search-     engineers are always available.
compared with 98 to 99                             engine database servers equipped with
per cent with the                                  SQL Server 2005 Standard Edition SP1.       Oertlin says: “Previously, we were very
                                                  A log database server running SQL Server    dependent on the knowledge in the heads of
previous Linux system.”                            2000 Enterprise Edition SP1.                our employees when it came to managing our
Peter Oertlin, Regional Director for Western      The Microsoft .NET Framework version        IT infrastructure. Now, our western European
Europe, QXL Ricardo                                2.0 development environment.                operations are based on standard
                                                  Microsoft Operations Manager 2005,          technologies in standard configurations, and
                                                   which will soon be deployed to monitor      we can engage qualified engineers who are
                                                   the performance of the entire hardware      trained to manage them. This is particularly
                                                   and software infrastructure.                important because we will suffer a severe
                                                                                               shortage of IT engineers in general—and open
                                               The new SQL Server 2005 database                source specialists in particular—over the next
                                               environment provides real-time back up of       decade. With Microsoft technologies, we are
                                               transactional data with new mirroring           prepared for the future.”
                                               technology. Failover of data to a second
                                               server takes place automatically. This is       In this respect, the migration to Microsoft
                                               available at all times, ensuring business       technologies was less a technology decision
                                               continuity in the event of a serious hardware   than a strategic one, according to Oertlin. He
                                               or software failure.                            says: “It is possible to conduct in-depth
                                                                                               performance benchmarks and total cost of
                                               During the deployment, QXL Ricardo had          ownership analysis over time, but strategic
                                               direct contact with Microsoft product teams     decisions are based on high-level concerns,
                                               in the United States. Oertlin says: “In a       such as support, streamlined IT
                                               management, adherence to industry                 added development activities,” says Calles.
                                               standards, and the availability of relevant       “It also automates the process of failover
                                               skills sets. We trust in Microsoft’s vision for   between servers and reduces previously
                                               fully integrated infrastructure based on          manual processes, such as maintaining the
                                               standard technologies, and this is the road       FTP server or managing folder shares.”
                                               we have chosen to go down.”
                                                                                                 While these benefits reduce workloads for
                                               This is particularly relevant when it comes to    the IT team, they also help ensure business
                                               expanding the company’s development team.         continuity. Calles says: “In the event of a
                                               “We are a fast-growing company with plans to      serious hardware or software fault, we will be
                                               recruit up to 20 additional developers in next    free to focus on core recovery activities.
                                               18 months,” says Oertlin. “We need people         Meanwhile, the system will ensure that
                                               with pre-existing knowledge, so it is very        failover takes place quickly, effectively, and
                                               advantageous to be working with Microsoft,        with no manual intervention.”
                                               as opposed to open source technologies.”
“This gives us                                                                                   Enhanced Opportunities for Reporting
confidence that it will                        The availability of excellent Microsoft           Because SQL Server 2005 mirrors data to a
                                               engineers has already been demonstrated in        second server in real time, Ricardo QXL has
always be easy to find                         France through QXL Ricardo’s work with            enhanced opportunities for business analysis
excellent global partners                      Microsoft Certified Partner Winwise. “We          and reporting. Calles says: “Where data
                                               have found that it’s a lot easier to find good    saved on a clustered database is not
with the Microsoft                             partners with Microsoft knowledge than good       immediately accessible, we can now analyse
knowledge and                                  partners from the open source world,” says        information in the mirrored database in real
                                               Oertlin. “This gives us confidence that it will   time. This allows us to report on the volume
experience we are                              always be easy to find excellent global           and nature of transactions and view business
looking for.”                                  partners with the Microsoft knowledge and         performance data more effectively. By
                                               experience we are looking for.”                   increasing business intelligence in this way,
Peter Oertlin, Regional Director for Western                                                     we can maximise the value of our
Europe, QXL Ricardo                            Protection for Business-Critical Data             transactional data and make the best
                                               Sophisticated data mirroring tools available      possible business decisions.”
                                               with Microsoft SQL Server 2005 are helping
                                               QXL Ricardo protect its mission-critical data.    Clear Upgrade Paths
                                               Calles says: “In our old log-shipping solution,   Increasingly, open source technology
                                               there was a risk of losing up to 10 minutes of    providers are moving toward a packaged
                                               transactional data, equalling up to several       solutions model. As a result, the idea of
                                               thousands auction bids. By contrast, data is      licensing is becoming common among all
                                               now mirrored to a second server in real time.     enterprise software providers, narrowing the
                                               This is partially active, so replicated data is   traditional gaps between open source and
                                               instantly available in the case of a hardware     Microsoft technology.
                                               or software fault.
                                                                                                 Oertlin says: “The differences between Linux
                                               As well as minimising operational risk,           providers and Microsoft are not that
                                               protecting customers, and ensuring business       significant any more when it comes to
                                               continuity, this element of the solution          licensing. Instead, we wanted to know that
                                               enhances the working lives of our IT              we could make an excellent, high-
                                               department. “The system is faster and easier      performance application using Microsoft
                                               to configure, allowing us to focus on value-
                                               technologies, and our testing with Microsoft      New Opportunities for Innovation
                                               in Munich showed that we could.”                  QXL Ricardo is currently working with
                                                                                                 Microsoft to understand the benefits of its
                                               The Microsoft database now offers significant     latest technologies, including the new
                                               benefits over Oracle technology, according to     Windows Vista™ Sidebar Gadgets. These will
                                               Oertlin. “In terms of functionality, SQL Server   soon allow users of western European Web
                                               2005 offers everything we need,” he says. “In     sites to monitor their ongoing auctions in
                                               addition, it is less expensive than Oracle,       small windows from within desktop
                                               both to buy and maintain.”                        productivity applications such as Microsoft
                                                                                                 Office Outlook® 2007.
                                               Adherence to Industrial Standards
                                               QXL Ricardo depends on its IT infrastructure      “We are on an innovative path that requires
                                               to stay in business. As a result, it must work    constant development and growth,” says
                                               with software that is fully supported by a        Oertlin. “We believe in the Microsoft vision.
                                               trusted technology provider. “There are           Using the company’s technology, we can
                                               always subtle differences between Linux           integrate exciting functionality such as
                                               environments depending on the supplier that       Windows Sidebar Gadgets and deliver a
“With our new Microsoft                        delivers them,” says Oertlin. “By contrast, we    range of concrete benefits for our users.”
                                               have taken the decision to work with a fully
environment, we can be                         supported technology environment based on
sure that all our                              a virtually ubiquitous industrial standard.

business processes are                         “With our new Microsoft environment, we can
effectively supported.”                        be sure that all our business processes are
                                               effectively supported. We can also tick boxes
Peter Oertlin, Regional Director for Western   for a number of other strategic criteria such
Europe, QXL Ricardo                            as product lifecycle, maintenance, and
                                               upgrade roadmaps. Microsoft has a clear
                                               strategy on all these elements, is 100 per
                                               cent trustworthy, and is dedicated to keeping
                                               acquisition and management costs to a

                                               Streamlined Software Development
                                               QXL Ricardo is exploring the significant
                                               benefits of the Microsoft .NET Framework
                                               development environment, and the
                                               company’s development team in Mougins,
                                               France, is already working with the new tools.

                                               Oertlin says: “Our developers have adapted
                                               well to the new tools. We can see that the
                                               industry standard products from Microsoft
                                               enforce a more business-orientated approach
                                               to software building that can reduce
                                               development times, speed time to market,
                                               and streamline project management.”
For More Information                                            Windows Server 2003
For more information about Microsoft                            The Windows Server 2003 family helps
products and services, call the Microsoft                       organisations do more with less. Now, you
Sales Information Center at (800) 426-                          can run your IT infrastructure more efficiently,
9400. In Canada, call the Microsoft                             build better applications faster, and deliver
Canada Information Centre at (877) 568-                         the best infrastructure for enhancing user
2495. Customers who are deaf or hard-of-                        productivity. And you can do all this faster,
hearing can reach Microsoft text telephone                      more securely, and at lower cost.
(TTY/TDD) services at (800) 892-5234 in
the United States or (905) 568-9641 in                          For more information about Windows Server
Canada. Outside the 50 United States and                        2003, please visit:
Canada, please contact your local                     
Microsoft subsidiary. To access information
using the World Wide Web, go to:

For more information about Winwise
products and services, call or visit the Web
site at:

For more information about QXL Ricardo
products and services, call or visit the Web
site at:

                                                                 Software and Services
                                                                    Microsoft Servers                             − Windows Server 2003 Standard Edition
                                                                     − Microsoft SQL Server 2000                   − Windows Server 2003 Web Edition
                                                                     − Microsoft SQL Server 2005

This case study is for informational purposes only. MICROSOFT

Document published March 2007

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