Microsoft Windows Server 2003 Customer Solution Case Study

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Microsoft Windows Server 2003

Customer Solution Case Study

World’s Largest Domain Registrar Moves 3.5 Million Domains from Linux to Windows


Country or Region: United States

Industry: Technology
Customer Profile, based in Scottsdale, Arizona, is the world’s largest domain name registrar. It has more than 1,100 employees.

Business Situation

Go Daddy customers were increasingly asking for Windows®-based hosting services to complement the Linux-based services already provided by the company.


Go Daddy adopted a range of Microsoft® technologies including Windows Server® 2003 and now supports half of its Web hosting business, and all of its domain hosting business, on Windows-based servers.


  • Better, more robust development

  • Vendor dependability, assistance and knowledge transfer

  • Scalability and reliability that increase customer satisfaction

“I’ll admit it: I was a UNIX fanatic. But Windows Server is a great platform both for us and for our customers, and we’re glad to offer it.”

Michael Chadwick, Vice President of Technology,
—the world’s largest domain name registrar and one of the world’s largest Web site hosting companies—offered hosting on the Microsoft® Windows Server® 2003 operating system, but its primary hosting platform was Linux. Company executives doubted that Windows Server could offer the scalability and reliability that they need in order to provide 99.9 percent uptime for millions of customers. In what one Go Daddy executive calls “a real eye-opener,” Windows Server met all of Go Daddy requirements and erased the performance advantage of Linux. The Microsoft .NET Framework provides a better, more robust development environment than Linux, making it easier for Go Daddy engineers to build quality products. And the company’s relationship with Microsoft means it has an address for service, support, and updates on product direction that the registrar can factor into its technology plans.


It’s not by accident that has become the world’s largest Internet domain name registrar—with about 13.6 million domains under management—and one of the wor

“…[W]e expected a big disparity between performance on Windows and Linux. That's the myth: that Linux and Apache are the better Web service platform. But we debunked the myth.”

Michael Chadwick, Vice President of Technology,

ld’s largest hosting providers. Since its founding in 1997, the company has aggressively pursued a strategy that combines great technology solutions and customer service with prices that are much lower than most of its competitors.
Providing that combination of great solutions, support, and prices hasn’t been easy, especially as Go Daddy expands to offer an increasing array of services: comprehensive hosting solutions, Web site creation tools, Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) certificates, personalized e-mail with spam filtering, and e-commerce tools.
One key to implementing that strategy has been going with the best and most cost-effective technology, wherever and whatever that may be. The company was an early adopter of Windows®-based technologies and some of its largest systems ran on Microsoft® technologies. From its founding, the company used the Windows operating system as an environment for Web hosting, and it built out its registry code, domain hosting service, and e-commerce Web site using Windows-based technologies.
But that use of Windows-based technologies in the late 1990s was overshadowed by the registrar’s more extensive use of Linux open source software, particularly for Web hosting. The company adopted Red Hat Enterprise Linux and is currently running version 3.
“I’ll be frank—we had concerns about Windows,” says Michael Chadwick, Vice President of Technology, “One of our concerns was with site density. We needed to host as many customers as possible on a single server in order to keep costs low, while still maintaining a high quality of service for our customers. And we needed maximum reliability—we shoot for 99.9 percent uptime—to give our customers the quality service that they expect. The bottom line is that we have to sell our offerings to our customers in a way with which we’re comfortable and can make money. Back in the late 1990s and early 2000s, Linux was that way.”
But over the next few years, technologies changed. As Windows-based technologies matured, an increasing number of developers were trained on them—and they wanted a place to host their applications. As the Windows environment became increasingly popular in the enterprise market, the companies that chose Microsoft servers for their enterprise applications wanted to boost efficiencies of scale by also using Microsoft servers for their Web applications. That further increased the demand for Windows-based Web hosting.
“Around 2003, we began hearing more and more from our customers that they wanted Windows-based hosting,” says Justin Jilg, Director, Corporate Development, “And we’re in the business of responding to our customers. That’s how we ensure their satisfaction and our continued growth.”

Go Daddy wanted to expand its Windows-based Web hosting and domain name registry services. But it also wanted to maintain its standards for scalability, reliability, and cost-effectiveness. “Our perception at the time was that Windows lagged behind Linux,” admits Chadwick. “We didn’t think it would be possible to meet our needs as well as those of our customers.”

Soon after the Microsoft Windows Server® 2003 operating system became available in 2003, Go Daddy created a “test bed” with 500 actual customers on a single computer. “We didn’t try a simulated lab environment because it’s nearly impossible to predict the ways that custo

"Windows Server really performs for us. It was an eye-opener. On the measures that are important to us--site density, uptime, responsiveness--we are perfectly comfortable with Windows."

Michael Chadwick, Vice President of Technology,

mers will choose to use a hosting environment,” says Chadwick. “We had to see Windows Server 2003 in action. We did—and we were impressed.”
The success of that first deployment led Go Daddy in 2004 to upgrade its Windows-based customers—then running on Windows 2000 Server—to Windows Server 2003. The company started with an upgrade of several thousand customers and found it could increase the number of customers per server computer without a problem. Go Daddy adopted key Microsoft technologies including Internet Information Services (IIS) version 6.0 for Web serving and SQL Server™ 2000 for database support.
At the same time, Go Daddy continued to upgrade its own applications to the latest technologies. For example, it embraced the Microsoft .NET Framework, an integral component of Windows that provides a programming model and runtime for Web services, Web applications, and smart client applications. Using tools such as the Microsoft Visual Studio® .NET 2003 development system, Go Daddy migrated the Web application control panel through which its customers manage their accounts to Microsoft ASP.NET Web pages. Today, much Go Daddy application development is based on Microsoft .NET technologies.
By 2005, Go Daddy was responding to significant demand for Windows Server-based hosting. In addition, Go Daddy migrated thousands of customers from Windows 2000 Server to Windows Server 2003 and IIS 6.0. Go Daddy also made the decision that year to make Windows Server its default environment for Web hosting. While customers are free to choose Linux hosting, the company’s decision to make Windows Server its default hosting environment reflects the fact that Go Daddy felt comfortable putting a larger number of new customers on Windows Server.
“Thousands of customers are flocking to Windows every day,” says Jilg. “We’re comfortable with that choice, with our ability to give them quality service and support, and to make money at the same time.”
By 2006, what had been an almost exclusively Linux-based business for Go Daddy just a few years before was now split evenly between Linux and Windows-based hosting. Go Daddy capped that change in 2006 by migrating its 3.5 million parked domain accounts from Linux to Windows Server.

As it relies increasingly on Windows-based technologies, Go Daddy is meeting its customers’ needs as well as its own. The company is enjoying better, more robust application development, a single source for service and support, and constant updates on Microsoft product direction that it can use in its own technology planning. The scalable, reliable solution leaves Go Daddy, and its customers, satisfied.

Better, More Robust Development

According to Chadwick, both the development tools and available developer pool for .NET-based solutions are currently better than those for Linux, leading the company to build most new applications on .NET.

“It’s long been the case that the Visual Studio environment was a better, more robust Web application development platform than what was available for Linux, making it easier for our engineers to build quality products,” says Chadwick. “Microsoft technologies give you more features and enable you to develop your solutions pretty quickly. It’s now also the case that it’s much easier for us to find and hire a well-trained .NET developer than one trained in PHP [Personal Home Page tools Hypertext Preprocessor]/Java and Linux, so we’re better positioned to develop for .NET. We got the domain registration solution up and running on Windows—from development to production—in just one month. That was pretty aggre

“With Windows and .NET, we have a vendor--Microsoft--that we can go to and that wants to help us grow.”

Michael Chadwick, Vice President of Technology,

ssive, but .NET and a quality engineering team made it possible.”
Vendor Dependability, Assistance, and Knowledge Transfer

By using an established vendor, Go Daddy can get the most from its software acquisitions. “When we roll out solutions for hundreds of thousands if not millions of customers, we need enterprise solutions in which we can have absolute confidence—we don’t deploy solutions created in someone’s garage,” says Chadwick. “We have that confidence in Windows Server and .NET-based technologies. These are tested, commercial products backed by the service and support that we need. We don’t get that from every open source component, as many don’t have a company standing behind them.”

“With Windows and .NET, we have a vendor—Microsoft—that we can go to and that wants to help us grow,” Chadwick adds. “That doesn’t exist to the same extent on the Linux side, and it’s part of what helps tip the scale in favor of Windows.”
As members of the Microsoft Hosting Program (available to all hosters without charge from Microsoft at, Go Daddy received information about how to reduce total cost of ownership on Windows, as well as about Microsoft product direction. “It’s very important that we understand what changes are ahead for the core technologies we use,” says Chadwick. “That’s something we don’t get with Linux.”
Chadwick cites the example of a change to the forthcoming version of Internet Explorer—7.0—that will check the status of SSL public certificates by default when Web users are presented with a Web site certificate to accept or decline. The change will mean a significant increase in traffic to public certificate authorities. Go Daddy expects traffic to its certificate site to increase drastically. Thanks to Microsoft dissemination of its product plans, Go Daddy was forewarned and deployed a technology solution to handle the increased traffic before it materializes.
By working with Go Daddy and other hosters, Microsoft product groups and consultants have gained valuable insights about how to optimize Windows in hosting environments—insights that have helped shape the future direction of Microsoft software.
Scalability and Reliability That Increase Customer Satisfaction

“When we began Web hosting on Windows Server 2003, we expected a big disparity between performance on Windows and Linux. That’s the myth: that Linux and Apache are the better Web service platform,” says Chadwick. “But we debunked the myth. Windows Server really performs for us. It was an eye-opener. On the measures that are important to us—site density, uptime, responsiveness—we are perfectly comfortable with Windows.”

Site density has become a particular concern for Go Daddy as sites have gone from static to dynamic, increasing in size and complexity. But Windows Server has closed the former gap with Linux in site density rates. Windows Server 2003 supports nearly twice as many sites as Windows 2000 Server and at the same time handles the increase in dynamic sites—sites that use a server-side scripting language to run.
Chadwick says he and his colleagues are especially pleased with the ability of Windows Server to support the tens of millions of requests per day that their domain hosting servers receive. “It’s a very high-volume, small-transaction bu

“It's very important that we understand what changes are ahead for the core technologies we use. That’s something we don't get with Linux.”

Michael Chadwick, Vice President of Technology,

siness, and it demands high reliability,” says Chadwick. “We’re delighted that Windows Server—and IIS in particular—handles it to our satisfaction.”
For example, Chadwick points to the ability to reconfigure IIS on the fly. “With Apache we have to restart each time we add a new host or make any other configuration change,” he says. “We don’t have that issue with IIS and this is very powerful for us”
Windows Server also handles the load to his customers’ satisfaction. Chadwick reports that customer satisfaction with Windows-based sites has climbed significantly over the past few years, erasing another former advantage for Linux. The most important customer satisfaction metric to Go Daddy is customer attrition. On that measure, Windows has closed the gap it used to have relative to Linux. Chadwick attributes the change to the greater uptime, faster resolution of support issues, and easier ability to create dynamic sites that Windows Server 2003 offers compared to previous Windows versions.
“I’ll admit it: I was a UNIX fanatic” says Chadwick. “But Windows Server is a great platform both for us and for our customers, and we’re glad to offer it.”

For More Information

For more information about Microsoft products and services, call the Microsoft Sales Information Center at (800) 426-9400. In Canada, call the Microsoft Canada Information Centre at (877) 568-2495. Customers who are deaf or hard-of-hearing can reach Microsoft text telephone (TTY/TDD) services at (800) 892-5234 in the United States or (905) 568-9641 in Canada. Outside the 50 United States and Canada, please contact your local Microsoft subsidiary. To access information using the World Wide Web, go to:

For more information about products and services, visit the Web site at:

© 2006 Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved. This case study is for informational purposes only. MICROSOFT MAKES NO WARRANTIES, EXPRESS OR IMPLIED, IN THIS SUMMARY. Microsoft, Visual Studio, Windows, the Windows logo, and Windows Server are either registered trademarks or trademarks of Microsoft Corporation in the United States and/or other countries. All other trademarks are property of their respective owners.
Document published July 2006

Software and Services

  • Microsoft Servers

  • Microsoft Windows Server 2003 Enterprise Edition

  • Microsoft SQL Server 2000

  • Microsoft Visual Studio .NET 2003

  • Services

  • Microsoft Services

  • Technologies

  • Microsoft .NET Framework

  • Microsoft ASP.NET

  • Microsoft Internet Information Services

Windows Server 2003

The Microsoft Windows Server 2003 family helps organizations do more with less. Now you can run your IT infrastructure more efficiently, build better applications faster, and deliver the best infrastructure for enhancing user productivity. And you can do all this faster, more securely, and at lower cost.

For more information about Windows Server 2003, please visit:

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