Upgrading www6: The Application Side

by Francis Chu

The central web hosting service has been set up for many years to provide a consolidated, fully monitored and managed environment for hosting departmental web sites and project web sites. The hardware and the software of the central web service are maintained and supported by the Computing Services Centre (CSC) while the web page contents and applications are developed and maintained by the departments. To enhance the performance and to provide a more secure, more reliable and more efficient web hosting environment, the hardware and software of the central web servers (www6.cityu.edu.hk) and database servers (sqlcluster1.cityu.edu.hk) have been upgraded in July 2011.

Following are the highlights of the upgraded web server and database server.

  • · The web server is IIS 7.5 on Windows 2008 R2 Server.
  • · Multiple web servers are connected to a load balancer.
  • · User files and web pages are located on a network shared disk.
  • · Database support is provided by a Microsoft SQL Server 2008 R2 (sqlcluster1.cityu.edu.hk)
  • · Microsoft .NET Framework 4.0
  • · Crystal Report 2.0
  • · Single-Sign-On is provided by the Policy Agent for Access Manager 3.0

To ensure a smooth upgrade, new web servers and database servers were set up a few months beforehand and website owners were invited to test their websites on the new servers more than one month before the upgrade. Frequently asked questions about the upgrade and a brief guide on “How to test your website on new www6.cityu.edu.hk” were prepared to help the website owners to understand the changes of the new web hosting environment. They were also encouraged to invite their technical colleagues or developers who were involved in maintaining the website to help in the testing. Questions, enquiries and problems encountered were received during the testing period and advice was given to the website owners by our experienced support staff. All websites were fully tested and confirmed to work fine on the new web hosting environment before the day of the upgrade.

On 5 July 2011, the production web servers and database servers were shut down at 06:00 in order to synchronize the latest files, web pages and database files to the new servers. Soon after the synchronization of files, preparations and testing had been completed, the central web service on www6.cityu.edu.hk and sqlcluster1.cityu.edu.hk resumed normal at around 09:30 which was a bit ahead of the target completion time i.e. 10:00.

After the upgrade, the new web hosting environment inevitably increases the performance, security, reliability and flexibility of the server infrastructure. Moreover, the new web server IIS 7.5 version is a major enhancement to the Windows web platform which plays a central role in unifying Microsoft web platform technologies—ASP.NET, Windows Communication Foundation web services, and Windows SharePoint Services.