Digital Aims to Make E-commerce More Reliable With RWS

The average electronic commerce application will lose more than a million dollars this year as a result of computer failures, according to a recent report from the Standish Group Int’l (Dennis, Mass.), a market research and advisory firm that specializes in e-commerce and mission-critical software.

Attempting to aid companies when the transaction server fails, Digital Equipment Corp. launched Reliable Web Services (RWS). RWS, in simple terms, is the simultaneous use of an e-commerce client and a server: The client does the actual processing, and the server receives all the same data in real-time and is lying in wait, ready to handle all the processing should the client fail.

Designed to provide continuous computing availability for Internet Information Server (IIS) applications, RWS works in conjunction with IIS and Microsoft Transaction Server (MTS) to facilitate the integration of enterprise databases with Web-based applications in real-time. RWS is a plug-in DLL that works in conjunction with ISAPI API and uses an Internet interface. "We built Reliable Web Services [to work with] Microsoft IIS and MTS architecture for seamless integration by commerce Web applications," says Dan Bourquard, project leader, RWS, Digital.

The architecture of RWS comprises a client component and a server component. The client is an ISAPI filter that handles all the incoming requests, marking them for shadowing, and then forwards them onto the server component. The server accepts the requests from the client via Digital's Reliable Transaction Router (RTR) component, and then initiates the processing of the respective Active Server Pages (ASP). All requests are shadowed on the server via the RTR, which does all the routing, and the server automatically takes over processing if the client fails.

The shadow server is a redundant system with local and remote database synchronization, along with wide-area disaster protection and software fault tolerance. To ensure what Digital claims is 100 percent system availability, RWS employs automatic failover and failback for real-time transaction process integrity. Users place each of the systems in the redundant configuration in a strategic location for continuous operations in case of a catastrophic event. For instance, if a company has branches in more than one location, it can place the two systems at different branches. So in the case of a disaster, the server is safe, the data remains in the company’s possession, and the transactions continue processing, seamless to the end user. The end result: fewer lost transactions.

Working with Microsoft Site Server Commerce Edition, RWS can be configured and maintained with a configuration wizard. This wizard enables the system administrator to create and modify RWS facilities, identify specific ASP applications that require disaster tolerance, partition those applications between Internet servers for load balancing and availability, and monitor performance of the RWS components. Users can administer the entire system through the Microsoft Management Console.

Jim Johnson, chairman of the Standish Group, says, "For inline database updates, Reliable Web Services can provide the security so that if you have transactions that need to be completed, they will be. It definitely adds a new dimension to the reliability of Windows NT."