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Baldor upgrades its Big Iron

When Arkansas-based Baldor Electric's mainframe lease came up for renewal, the company evaluated Big Iron's total cost of ownership and decided the cheapest route was still the mainframe.

There was a time not so long ago when Baldor Electric IS director Mark Shackleford saw the price tag on a standard Windows box and thought to himself, "Now that's the way to go."

But total cost of ownership doesn't end with the figure at the bottom of the hardware receipt. So Shackleford took a step back, thought about how much system downtime cost his company -- about $100,000 per hour -- and decided that the most cost-effective solution for Baldor, a global designer and manufacturer of industrial electric motors and generators based in Fort Smith, Ark., was to stick with the one platform he knew it could always count on -- the mainframe.

Shackleford was running his most important applications on an IBM z800 mainframe, with nine Unix boxes laying around to handle the small stuff. But when the lease on his z800 came up for renewal in December 2004, Shackleford, sick of chucking between two and three Unix boxes a year in the trash, decided that reliability was Baldor's cheapest option.

Baldor migrated to a z990 in January, and consolidated those Unix-based servers onto a single IBM z990, or "T-Rex," with 24 separate, secure partitions on Linux and z/OS. According to Shackleford, this has allowed Baldor to increase application performance by 40% and cut IT expenditures from 1.7% of total sales to 1.2%.

He expects to get that figure under 1% by the end of 2005.

"Where the rubber meets the road is in the financials," Shackleford said. "We've tried to go the cheap route. You look at Windows servers, you look how cheap it is, and you think 'Wow.' But at $100,000 an hour for [system downtime], you look at those outages and it doesn't take long to see that they aren't so cheap."

Baldor uses mySAP Business Suite for the zSeries running Linux for all its worldwide sales and distribution, manufacturing, payroll and finance for 3,800 employees. Using zSeries partitioning and virtualization technologies, Baldor is able to run the entire set of its global SAP applications in 24 separate and secure partitions on SuSE Linux Enterprise Server 9 and z/OS.

Mike Bliss, IBM's director of z9 technical support and marketing, said Linux and the mainframe are a perfect fit because Big Iron's vast capabilities, combined with the relatively cheap cost of running Linux, have helped keep the zSeries on, or at least near, the cutting edge.

"People can think very narrowly about the cost of computing," Bliss said. "You might think 'Wow, the mainframe is expensive,' but if you think of all the things that make up total cost of ownership … that's where we have a huge advantage and can attack all the pieces of the cost structure people don't think about."

Baldor has had a long history with SAP on the IBM mainframe. In fact, Shackleford said the company was the first North American company to adopt SAP for a Big Iron box when they made the move to SAP R/3 in the late 1990s.

And while Shackleford isn't ready to dub himself a Big Iron evangelist, he is nonetheless thrilled he stuck with the mainframe.

"A lot of people say the mainframe is dead, but it is one of the most open platforms out there, and it is the platform with the highest reliability," Shackleford said. "I'm a believer because I see what it can do in its environment."

For more information:

First National Bank of Omaha makes move to Big Blue

Ancor migrates from IBM mainframe to Windows

Let us know what you think about the story; e-mail: Luke Meredith, News Writer

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