Aussie financial firms dump Unix, Windows for Linux on the mainframe

Three Australian financial firms consolidate distributed Unix and Windows server environments onto Red Hat Enterprise Linux on IBM mainframes.

CHICAGO -- At the recent Red Hat Summit in Chicago, Red Hat Senior Solutions Architect Andrew Hardy trotted out three case studies, in which customers from the finance sector consolidated multiple Unix- and Windows-based systems onto Red Hat Enterprise Linux running on the IBM System Z mainframe.

In 2007, Allianz Australia Insurance Ltd., the fourth largest insurance company in Australia, had reached capacity of its 700 Windows-based servers and networking equipment.

Allianz decided to ditch the Windows machines in favor two IBM z10 mainframes running Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL), now in version 5.3, on the mainframe's Integrated Facility for Linux (IFL) processor. IFL allows users to run Linux workloads on big iron without the hefty price tag.

According to Hardy, the new system went live in production in April. The IT team at Allianz uses Red Hat Satellite and JBoss Operations Network to perform centralized monitoring and management of the OS and application layers of the stack, including Java virtual machines, he said.

"Everything is managed through one interface that's platform agnostic, so it doesn't matter if it's a mainframe, it's still one application programming interface, managed through Satellite, on one wide area network," Hardy said.

With RHEL on the mainframe, Allianz needed only two staffers to manage operations, versus the 18 people needed to manage the Windows machines. The result: Allianz projects $1 million in annual savings in combined hardware and support costs as well as a 20% cut in its carbon footprint.

Suncorp is another Australian financial institution converting from proprietary software -- in this case, from IBM's AIX OS and BEA WebLogic -- to RHEL and JBoss on IBM's z10. Suncorp is also moving from Oracle's database to Postgres.

"Suncorp was concerned about Oracle becoming the entire stack from a risk point of view," Hardy said. "And Suncorp needed to carve out costs and is moving to open source in a big way."

The bank is just progressing from proof of concept to production now.

The Bank of New Zealand has replaced 130 servers, most of them Sun Sparc machines, with two IBM mainframes: an IBM z10 for production and an IBM z9 for disaster recovery, using zVM for virtualization. Both mainframes are running RHEL 5 on IBM IFL processors.

According to Hardy, Bank of New Zealand completed its 2007 conversion in six months, ahead of schedule, and achieved not only a simplified and more efficient deployment but regained 30% of its floor space, cut power consumption by 38% and now produces 39% less carbon, putting it on track to meet its goal of becoming carbon neutral by next year.

The various mainframe success stories may be compelling enough for other IT organizations to consider alternatives to massive distributed computing systems.

Chuck Matern, an IT staffer from Home Depot, said the mainframe case studies "changed my perspective on the value of Linux virtualization on System z, particularly the idea of running file and print servers on the mainframe."

"I'll be looking at the numbers," Mattern said.

What did you think of this feature? Write to SearchDataCenter.com's Matt Stansberry about your data center concerns at mstansberry@techtarget.com.

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