Xtra spends millions on email platform upgrade

Xtra is spending $7 million to upgrade its email platform to cope with more than 50% growth on the mail system over the past year.

Xtra is spending $7 million to upgrade its email platform to cope with more than 50% growth on the mail system over the past year.

Xtra says customers currently receive 3.3 million emails a day and send 1.2 million, half of which go to other Xtra users. Last year 1.1 million emails were received and 710,000 sent. The size of emails has also increased and people are checking for messages more often. Currently there are 430,000 users and the new system will support 600,000. The upgrade will see Xtra replacing all its SGI mail and storage servers with with Sun Netra, E420R and E450R servers and an EMC Symmetrix disk array providing 4752GB of storage capacity.

Xtra will also upgrade its InterMail email application from California-based OpenWave to the latest version. Xtra IT manager Shane Ohlin says the new version will let the ISP offer new email products to the business market. “A broad example is larger companies would like to be able to manage their mail accounts themselves. If a new employee starts they could come in through a web interface and enrol that person and give them an email address as if it were an internal mail system.”

The new system will be based on a distributed architecture and be able to split the network traffic load across all the systems. The architecture will be fully redundant with dual network paths, clustering and load balancing.

The EMC array will provide triple mirroring which will simplify backup and recovery, says Ohlin. “We’d hope to reduce system restores to 15 to 30 minutes even in the most catastrophic circumstances.” The decision to go with Sun was based on Sun being a development partner with OpenWave and Sun’s predominance in the ISP market, says Ohlin.

He believes the implementation, which will happen in October, is one of the biggest in the southern hemisphere.

“The key thing for us is that it’s a complete swap out of one environment for another, and it will be done with absolutely no impact on our customers,” says Ohlin. “That’s the Nirvana for IT projects,” he says of the implementation, which has been in the planning stages since October last year.

Ohlin says there are 20 people working on the project, eight from Xtra and on-site consultants from OpenWave from the US, SolNet, EMC, Veritas, StorageTek, Cisco and EDS.

Ohlin says there are “no plans” to use Hotmail despite the XtraMSN merger.

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