In 2002, La Quinta's Director of Internet Technology Raven Zachary started benchmark testing on open source platforms. He was familiar with the strengths of open source software and believed that with it, La Quinta could improve the performance of its Web site. In order to prove that, Zachary and his staff ran several Java applications, first on Sun's iPlanet Web servers and WebLogic application server technology, and then on JBoss Application Server, from iPlanet and WebLogic.
Under heavy load conditions, Zachary found that throughput, system utilization rates, transaction success/error ratios, and transaction response times were markedly improved under the open source software platform. Notably, transaction times decreased by as much as 50%.
La Quinta found other arguments in favor of JBoss as well. "We found that open source was a better fit," says Zachary. "When you embrace open source you have a greater ability to migrate your code from platform to platform without dealing with hardware or software requirements for a proprietary solution."
Zachary comes from a solid open source software background. Formerly a contributing editor for MacWeek magazine, in 1993 he co-founded Studio X, a company he says was the first Internet service provider and Web site design company in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Studio X used the Apache Web server to power its Web hosting services. In 1998 Zachary co-founded the Mozilla for Mac OS X project, designed to bring the Mozilla browser to Apple's Mac OS X.
Zachary says the move from a proprietary system to an open source platform at La Quinta was supported from both the top and bottom of the organization, citing the level of open source expertise in his staff, as well as the confidence instilled in management by the results of benchmark testing. "We were able to prove to ourselves and the other IT managers that it was the right decision to make," Zachary says.
Zachary began the process of migration by porting the company's Java Web services to the JBoss application server, following the OpenTravel Alliance XML Partner Connectivity Standards. The new system, up and running for a year this March, is "fantastic," according to Zachary. "We have attained added efficiencies that have increased the speed of the Web site, and in turn increase customer satisfaction."
La Quinta's base operating system is Solaris, but Zachary says that may change soon. "Until recently, Linux was not a top performer for Java, but with the 2.6 kernel there's been a lot of improvements that enable full use of Linux for Java users." Zachary is setting up a Linux pilot; he has one developer running Fedora Core on a desktop and testing La Quinta's custom Java applications. "It's running great," he says. "We're going to test those applications on a Linux server."