FRAMINGHAM (03/02/2000) - You know you get cranky when your pizza isn't delivered on time - Domino's does too. That's why when the company decided to take pizza orders online, it brought in a fault-tolerant ordering system that keeps servers up and pizza orders flowing.
The pizza company is so convinced online services are the way to go, it expects that 50 percent of its business will be conducted over the Internet or interactive TV - such as WebTV - in the next five years, says Glen Mueller, president of Domino's franchisee RPM Pizza in Gulfport, Mississippi.
To prepare for that growth, individual Domino's franchises are contracting with QuikOrder, an e-commerce service provider in Chicago. In the eight months QuikOrder has been taking orders for Domino's, it has logged more than 10,000 orders. When the project is complete, over 300 stores in 15 states will use the online system. In Mueller's case, he is installing QuikOrder software in 160 stores.
QuikOrder, which supplies the e-commerce software, installed a fault-tolerant cluster called the Endurance 4000 from Marathon Technologies in its Chicago headquarters to keep its servers functioning 24-7. "The competition to online ordering is people ordering over the phone," says Ray Anderson, president of QuikOrder. "We wanted dial-tone reliability, just like the telephone company offers. We can't have any downtime. In fact, if a user was on the system and something failed, we wouldn't want the user to know it."
When a customer visits the quikorder.com site, he enters his zip code, name, address, e-mail or ICQ address, and other pertinent information. If the store is open, he orders the pizza he wants. If the store is closed, he will be directed to check back later. Comments, such as "Watch out for hungry pit bull," or "Deliver to pool in backyard" can be added to the order, and the system will tell the customer how long delivery will take or when his carry-out will be ready.
The QuikOrder system automatically dispatches the order to the closest Domino's store. Domino's sends a confirmation to the user's e-mail. Pizza reorders take less that 30 seconds because information is saved about each customer in QuikOrder's system.
QuikOrder's online delivery system runs on four Pentium II 400-MHz Windows NT servers connected to each other via Gigabit Ethernet links. Two servers act as compute servers that handle application processing; the other two handle I/O for the system and share a storage subsystem.
The two compute servers run Marathon software, which sends data to and receives data from both compute servers simultaneously, and synchronizes operations so the pizza-ordering application runs in lockstep fashion across the servers.
Data is written to the disks on each server or mirrored, thereby providing redundant backup for the entire system. The I/O processors (IOP) handle processing with peripherals such as disk drives and printers.
Each compute server is paired with an IOP. If a component in a compute element or IOP fails or if the pair fails, the other pair continues processing.
"We've been operational for eight months with not a minute of downtime," Anderson says. "Every minute of downtime is a potential lost pizza order."