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Exception to Every Rule? Publisher Taps Microsoft as Its Primary Intranet Vendor
By Ellis Booker
Within a couple of months, the two Netscape Web servers now running the HarperCollins Publishers intranet will be unceremoniously disconnected, to be replaced with the Microsoft Web server that ships with Windows NT.
"It's hard to pay for Netscape products when we're 70 percent a Windows and Windows NT shop on the desktop and when the corporate database standard is [Microsoft's] SQL Server," said Kevin Vaugh, vice president of advanced technology and workflow automation in the San Francisco offices of HarperCollins. "It's pretty much an impossible offer to resist."
The Netscape Communications Servers that HarperCollins has on site were a practical necessity for a while. They were the only servers supporting Metro, one of the key software components in HarperCollins' intranet. But HarperCollins' information systems executives are confident that Metro's developer, Action Technologies of Alameda, Calif., will create a version of Metro that runs with Microsoft's Web server product, called the Internet Information Server.
That will enable HarperCollins, whose headquarters are in New York, to return to using Microsoft as the primary vendor on its intranet, which it has dubbed IntraWeb. In December, HarperCollins tapped Microsoft to be IntraWeb's prime integrator.
According to Vaugh, IntraWeb will support two broad applications: book production and back-end paper trafficking of contracts and financial documents. Both applications, he said, will leverage "skinny" clients in the form of browsers, and centrally deployed, server-based Web applications. Vaugh is also enthusiastic about the opportunity for distributed objects, using Microsoft's ActiveX framework. But he said this work is further off in the future.
However, the company is already seeing savings on the programming side. The current project is in the hands of just seven of the 200 people in HarperCollins' information systems group.
"We expect shorter application development times and a great reduction in training costs, since users will already know 80 percent of the application out of the box," said Vaugh. Like many other intranet proponents, Vaugh also expects substantial savings on client-side software maintenance, such as delivering new versions of client software.
The end goal for the intranet and the workflow application is to have all of the 3,400 users in the company access business applications from within a browser. Vaugh said this infrastructure will eventually support the entire book product life cycle--from the conception and acquisition of a title, through its production and distribution, to its sales tracking.
Reprinted from Web Week, Volume 2, Issue 5, April 29, 1996 © Mecklermedia Corp. All rights reserved. Keywords: intranets_products Date: 19960429
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