Chicago’s Tribunes Server Consolidation a Success Summary This case study is an analysis of the Chicago Tribunes Server consolidation in which the Chicago Tribune moved its critical applications from several mainframes and older Sun servers to new, dual-site data-center infrastructure based on Sun 15K servers. The Tribune clustered the Sun servers over a 2-mile distance, lighting up a dark-fiber, 1-Gbps link between two data centers. This configuration let the newspaper spread the processing load between the servers while improving redundancy and options for disaster recovery. Baltzan and Philips, 2009 p 162) Company Background The Tribune is America’s largest employee-owned media company, operating businesses in publishing, interactive and broadcasting. In publishing, Tribune’s leading daily newspapers include the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, Newsday (Long Island, N. Y. ), The Sun (Baltimore), South Florida Sun-Sentinel, Orlando Sentinel, Hartford Courant, Morning Call and Daily Press. The Company’s broadcasting group operates 23 television stations, WGN America on national cable, Chicago’s WGN-AM and the Chicago Cubs baseball. (Tribune. com)
Case 2a 3 Tribune Interactive manages the interactive operations of Tribune’s daily newspapers and their associated websites, plus all aspects of the company’s classified advertising operations. Its national classified sites include CareerBuilder. com, Cars. com and Apartments. com. With more than 50 websites overall, Tribune Interactive ranks among the nation’s leading news and information networks. The sites attract more than 15. 5 million visitors per month. (Tribune. com) Information Systems Background In the past the Chicago Tribune maintained applications for their operations n mainframes at two different locations. This was causing the mainframes to be underutilized and was costly to maintain both systems. While merging the 2 systems the Chicago Tribune experienced a five hour outage because 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. Baltzan and Philips, 2009 p 162) Case 2a 4 The Tribune Co. is also looking at consolidating other processes at other locations. The company’s other newspapers are planning a move to a similar, clustered Sun server configuration in the near future. Several of the Tribune Co. newspapers have begun to explore ways to use one another as backup sites, though the lack of WAN-distance dark fiber limits the newspapers’ ability to do clustering, as the Chicago Tribune did. And while it is consolidating hardware, Tribune Co. is also looking to consolidate software.
Currently, each newspaper maintains its own applications for classified advertising and billing, which means that the parent company must support about 10 different billing packages and the same number of classified advertising programs. (networkcomputing. com) Most newspapers feel that they have their own unique processes for handling those functions, but most of the business processes can be standardized. So far, the Tribune newspapers have standardized about 95 percent of their classified advertising processes and about 90 percent of their advertising sales processes.
Over the next three years, Tribune Co. will replace the disparate billing and advertising applications across the company with a single package that will be used by all the business units. (Baltzan and Philips, 2009 p 162) Case 2a 5 The different newspapers will not necessarily share the same data, but they will have the same processes and the same graphical user interface (GUI) for accessing them, over time, that will allow some of the call centers handle calls for each other–East Coast centers can handle some of the early-morning calls, and West Coast centers can handle the late-day and evening calls. informationweek. com) (Baltzan and Philips, 2009 p 162) The Chicago Tribunes strength lies in its enterprise architecture that allowed the newspaper spread the processing load between the servers while improving redundancy and options for disaster recovery. Although the Chicago Tribunes server consolidation was a success, the case study highlights several weaknesses: It was a high cost to maintain redundant applications within several business units. The availability of systems is limited to the local area Tribunes Newspaper’s users groups on their LAN.
And there is no failover in place to ensure systems reliability during system migration. Case 2a 6 Opportunities for the Chicago tribune are to replace the old billing and advertising applications across the company with a single package that will increase availability and be used by all the business units so they can share services and decrease cost. Where WAN-distance dark fiber is available, business units can do more clustering to use one another as backup sites and increase availability to all users. The immediate threat to the Chicago Tribune is that their disaster recovery plan needs improvement.
Even though the Chicago Tribune recovered from a five hour outage it cost the newspaper nearly $1 million in advertising revenue. Future improvements can’t be sustained with these kinds of losses. Case 2a 7 Conclusions and Recommendations The successful consolidation of the Tribunes servers was the first step of their Enterprise Architecture; other projects that remain to be implemented are to consolidate billing packages and classified-ad programs. And the implementation of Sun Solaris 10, which will let individual applications run on partial CPUs, freeing up processor power and making more efficient use of the Sun server cluster.
By standardizing the processes for their classified advertising and advertising sales, they will be able to enhance their local billing and also be able to tie all the Tribune Co. Classified web applications together. By combining the local classified databases it will allow the Tribune Co. to fully leverage it’s many classified advertising websites such as Career Builder, Cars. Com and local newspapers to a website similar to Craig’s List but on a much larger scale with greater availability.
The Tribune’s IT staff should build a disaster recovery plan that includes backup, recovery, failover and require applications vendors, to be on-site during critical systems migrations. Because of the size of this company, the nature of its business (news & media) and its dependency on information technology for operations the back up plan should also include a hot site to ensure operations in case of a disaster. Case 2a 8 Appendix STRENGTHSWEAKNESSES Enterprise ArchitectureHigh Cost for Redundant Applications RedundancyAvailability of Systems Limited
Options for Disaster RecoveryNo failover in place THREATSOPPORTUNITIES Weak Disaster Recovery PlanStandardize Billing and Advertising Applications Backup Sites with Clustering Share Services, Decrease Cost Case 2a 9 References On Location: Chicago Tribune Server Consolidation http://www. networkcomputing. com Server Consolidation Delivershttp://www. informationweek. com About the Tribune, Tribune Publishing, Tribune broadcasting http://www. tribune. com Essentials of Business Driven Systems, Chicago’s Tribunes Server Consolidation a Success, Baltzan and Philips