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Roy Sharples, head of IT at Ceme, said one aim of adopting Windows Server 2003 early was to deliver a "bleeding-edge" IT architecture, and be part of Microsoft's .net vision for web services. "We are not risk-averse and we negotiated some excellent deals with Microsoft," he said, although he acknowledged that the system was easier to implement because the centre had no legacy systems.
Ceme's back-office systems, including SQL and Exchange servers, are up and running on Windows Server 2003, and enterprise applications such as customer relationship management, human resources and financials will move over before the centre opens in September.
The two other main components are IBM hardware and Cisco networks.
Microsoft claims Windows Server 2003 will help companies run their IT infrastructure up to 30% more efficiently and is "more secure by design".
The centre is also looking at Visual Studio .net 2003, which will launch alongside Windows Server 2003 on 24 April, to turn its architecture into a web services platform for delivering content to students.
Ceme is a collaboration between colleges, the government and businesses such as Ford. Sharples hopes the centre's IT infrastructure will become a benchmark for other educational establishments.