The WCPA Chronicle

The WCPA Chronicle

In Managing the New Enterprise, the development of the CSPA process at Sun from 1989 to 1993 is described. During that time, Sun transitioned from a mainframe-based IT organization to a Unix client-server one. Starting in 1993, Sun once again started a transition, this time to a web-centric IT infrastructure. It is from these experiences, and those of our many customers, suppliers, and partners , that the WCPA evolved. While Sun does not have an official process named the WCPA, we have coined this term for the entire collection of production acceptance processes used for web-centric applications. Before describing the process in detail, it is interesting to describe how it evolved internally at Sun.

In 1993, software developers in Sun's IT organization were as unfamiliar as anyone with the web. Inside SunLabs, Java was still known as the Green Project, known only to James Gosling and a small circle of other researchers. Other Sun developers, however, had crossed paths with Marc Andreesen, who at the time was developing the Mosaic web browser at the National Center for Supercomputing Applications at the University of Illinois. More than a few beta copies of the Mosaic web browser had been downloaded at Sun and were being used to access a few experimental web servers on Sun's Intranet. By March of 1993, enough engineers had downloaded copies of Mosaic that demand was rising to allow HTTP traffic through Sun's firewall. Sun's IT organization thus became involved with the web when Sun's first HTTP proxy server was set up inside Sun. All web traffic for Sun passed through this single proxy machine and over Sun's T1 line to the Internet.

By late 1993, Sun's marketing organization had become aware of the web and was looking for ways to publicize Sun's presence on the Internet. The January 1994 Winter Olympics in Norway were around the corner, being sponsored as usual by IBM. While it was too late for Sun to sponsor the Olympics, they were able to arrange for an electronic feed of all Olympic results. Sun set up a web server in Norway to bring these results, for the first time ever, to the web in near-realtime. In addition, during January 1994, the site went live. Since Internet bandwidth across the Atlantic was still limited, Sun set up a series of Unix scripts to mirror the Olympic results from the Norway server to, a server physically located at Sun's Northern California headquarters. The lessons learned during this event would become the start for the WCPA process.

During early 1994, more and more Sun engineers began experimenting with Mosaic and other early web browsers and servers. At the time, these were still unsupported by Sun's IT organization. The power of this technology and growing external interest in the web did not go unnoticed by Sun's marketing department. Sun had sometime earlier signed up as the official computer sponsor of the 1994 Soccer World Cup event and this seemed like the perfect venue for demonstrating Sun's ability to run large web sites. On the June 17th opening day and throughout the following thirty days, the main World Cup web server, a Sun SPARCCenter 2000 with four CPUs and two T1 links to the Internet, handled over six million accesses a world record.

Using experience gathered during the World Cup, Sun continued to expand its external and internal use of the web. In July of 1994, Sun's Intranet, called SunWeb, started life as the first internal web server fully sanctioned and supported by Sun's IT department. During the remainder of 1994, Sun continued to expand the content available on its web site, including:

  • August 1994 - Sun's online catalyst catalog (3rd party software) was launched, complete with WWW links to vendor's sites.

  • October 1994 - Sun's telemarketing group , SunExpress, published the first Sun online catalog (online ordering was not yet available).

  • December 1994 - Sun's Reseller Resource web site went live.

  • December 1994 - Sun's WABI product became the first downloadable software to be available on the site.

Sun's webmaster at the time performed the job on a part-time basis, stealing away an hour here and there from his day job to manage the site. As a production machine, was subject to Sun's own CSPA processes. This meant, for instance, twenty-four hour monitoring of system status, CPU load, and other critical factors. Of course the CSPA process did not address any web-server specific performance factors and thus the WCPA continued to evolve . At the time, this meant the addition of some simple scripts that monitored web server "hits," which of course was a number that soon became of interest to marketing.

Throughout the second half of 1994 and the first half of 1995, traffic to more than doubled every month, as measured by the WCPA scripts. In late May of 1995, two significant events were expected to drive web traffic to even higher. First, during the SunWorld event, the Java platform was officially introduced to the public. In addition, after having grown haphazardly over the last eighteen months, the site was ready for a redesign. A new format was introduced with monthly cover pages and feature stories. However, site analysis for June 1995 showed that traffic had grown by only ten percent over the previous month. Sun's IT department, following their CSPA processes, declared there was no problem with the server which in fact was running at less than 25% utilization, even during peak times. Marketing, of course, became concerned and started monitoring site traffic on a weekly basis. To make matters worse , site traffic during the first two weeks of July 1995 showed absolutely no growth in accesses.

After some analysis, it was finally determined that it was Sun's single T1 link to the Internet that had become the bottleneck. In mid-July, a second T1 link was added as an emergency measure. Immediately, traffic returned to its previous growth rates. It was at this point that the CSPA and WCPA processes started to merge, as it became apparent that the two could not be separated. Within a few months, the second T1 link was starting to become fully loaded, only this time everyone knew about it beforehand. Before any bottlenecks in network performance were hit, Sun upgraded its Internet link to a T3 line.

The WCPA process continued to evolve as Sun's internal and external use of the web grew. In September of 1995, Sun's IT organization introduced support for Netscape Navigator and started transitioning users off Mosaic. By late 1995, the SunWeb Intranet consisted of over 300 web servers with nearly a million pages of content. In addition, Sun's IT organization started to roll out its first Java-based applications. During 1996, the content and applications available on SunWeb continued to grow. To conserve both internal and external bandwidth, Sun deployed a series of caching proxy servers.

With the launch of Sun's JavaStation network computer in the fall of 1996, Sun made the next big move in evolving its Intranet and the WCPA. This was called the JavaStation 3000 project. The goal of the JavaStation 3000 project was to replace the Sun workstations on 3000 employees' desks with JavaStations. Not only did this accelerate the application development schedule for Sun's IT organization, but it also proved to be a valuable proving ground for Sun's own technology. Eventually, over 5000 JavaStations were deployed to employees ' desktops, providing a complete office computing environment built entirely around 100% pure Java applications. By the end of 1998, nearly all of Sun's internal applications will have been ported, rewritten, or replaced by Java applications.

As Sun re-architected its internal applications and processes around the web, employees became more and more confident doing their daily work in a browser environment. This also changed the way Sun's IT organization needed to think about remote access, at the time provided only via secure dialup lines. Sun's goal was to provide employees with secure access to internal web-based resources through the public Internet from any Java-enabled, SSL (Secure Socket Layer) supported web browser. As a result, Sun.Net was born. Today, Sun.Net enables employees to browse millions of internal web pages and run applications ranging from e-mail to network management from any web browser worldwide.

Software Development. Building Reliable Systems
Software Development: Building Reliable Systems
ISBN: 0130812463
EAN: 2147483647
Year: 1998
Pages: 193
Authors: Marc Hamilton © 2008-2017.
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