Down to the Wire
The server-consolidation project touches all of the Tribune's core systems--and there is little room for errors or missed deadlines. The organization has been doing what many of us have done--moving systems off mainframes and onto smaller boxes. Although it still owns some mainframes, the paper has migrated many systems to Sun Microsystems minicomputers to reap the benefits of a distributed architecture and cut costs. All well and good, except IT found itself maintaining various Sun boxes at different OS levels and with different database versions. Disaster recovery was a concern as well, because all the Tribune's systems were at a single location.
The server-virtualization goal was to clean up the Sun machines and implement real-time disaster recovery. When the project is completed, two Sun Fire 15K boxes will replace as many as five smaller systems. A redundant fiber link will connect the data center and headquarters. Two separate networks will merge into a single network, the company will go from standby disaster recovery to active-active disaster recovery, and many applications will be upgraded.
Darko Dejanovic, vice president and CTO at both the Chicago Tribune and the Tribune Co., has given this project his full attention and backing. Some members of what Dejanovic calls his "talented staff" proposed merging these projects into a single venture that would reduce both cost and complexity. They took the time to sell the project, write the plan and arrange a capital financial budget that dwarfs some IT shops' entire annual expenditures.
What perceived benefit could drive such a large investment? Three-minute downtime. If the primary server in the server-consolidation project were to go offline, there would be only three minutes of downtime before users were automatically logged back in and could continue working. In an industry where every minute is precious, that's music to users' ears.