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On Location: Chicago Tribune: Server Consolidation


Unfortunately, the cutover to the new server environment hit a snag: A small piece of software written for the transition contained a coding error that caused the Tribune's editorial applications to experience intermittent processing failures. As a result, the Tribune was forced to delay delivery to about 40 percent of its 680,000 readers and cut 24 pages from a Monday edition, costing the newspaper nearly $1 million in advertising revenue. Don't ever let anybody tell you that data-center renovation isn't risky.

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More than nine months later, the Tribune's IT department is still sold on server consolidation, despite the high-profile outage. "One five-hour delay doesn't change the fact that this project has brought us significant cost savings and improved our system reliability for the long run," says Darko Dejanovic, vice president and CTO of both the Chicago Tribune and Tribune Co., which also owns the Los Angeles Times, Long Island's Newsday and about a dozen other major metropolitan newspapers. "There's no question that server consolidation was the right move for us."

Following the outage, the Tribune's IT staff re-examined its processes and made a few changes. CCI, the Tribune's editorial applications vendor, now maintains a more regular on-site presence in the data center. Problem-escalation policies have been changed to help end users raise concerns more quickly. Application-testing processes have been modified to incorporate more thorough testing by business users. And to the IT staff's credit, the consolidation project not only stayed on track, it finished a few weeks ahead of schedule and about 10 percent under budget. After editorial applications were stabilized, the Tribune proceeded to migrate applications for operations--that is, the physical production and printing of the newspaper--and circulation to the new Sun server environment. Both made the transition without a hitch, and no special migration code was needed. By the end of August, all the applications scheduled to run on the new servers were operational.


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