There aren't that many organisations which would consider consolidating 60 servers holding the most critical customer-facing applications down to one mainframe in the space of a weekend. But that's exactly what insurance giant, Allianzdid in May this year.
Allianz CIO Steven Coles said the planning for the migration of more than 60 Wintel boxes to one z10 mainframe was more than a year in planning.
"We have got two mainframes; one is a z890 which we have had for a while and manages our COBOL workload. More recently we have acquired a z10 which runs zLinux and we have migrated most of our web-facing applications onto that machine," Coles said.
"We have seen tremendous growth in our web front ends that support our business goal to be a leader in sales and distribution and they have become increasingly important. Traditionally they have run on over 60 separate pieces of kit out of data centers where capacity is becoming more expensive and scarcer."
In short, the driver for Allianz was to see how it could rationalise the infrastructure as much as possible, ideally onto one box. It did so through the deployment of a new mainframe and zLinux. A move which Coles says was pretty seamless for customers but one that provided the company with "significant benefits".
"The build up was around a year in terms of planning and at the time we were one of the few guys in Australia looking at using the technology in that way," Coles explained, adding the project was referred to as the 'Mainframe Virtualisation Project'. "So we spent a lot of time talking to IBM specialists globally and their clients to reassure us. We came out the other side with minimum disruption and from the end-user perspective it would be tough to realise the change had taken place."
For Coles the initial catalyst was challenges in gaining access to data centre space in metropolitan Sydney, which has been an issue faced by many corporations in recent times.
"That was causing us some concerns strategically as we were growing at pace and these applications were critical to that growth," Cole said.
While migrating to virtualised environments on x86 platforms has been a move made by many Australian companies, the take up of mainframes has received far less attention. While globally, IBM's mainframe revenue dropped 26 per cent in the July to September period, over the past two years Big Blue has had two solid years in Australia.
Across the country IBM has roughly 50 clients with 150 mainframe boxes between them (excluding IBM Global Services). And of this, six per cent are new customers over the last 24 months.
"It has really ticked all the boxes. It reduced the dependency on a data centre, it reduced the complexity from over 60 servers down to one box, it enabled us to put a lot more robustness around it in terms of DRP and scalability, and was environmentally friendly as well," Coles said. "It took our kVA power usage down from about 40 to 4 – so a significant environmental benefit as well." Plus it significantly reduced our IT running costs and paid for itself in just over a year.
In the next 18 months Allianz will also migrate its z890 COBOL workload over to the z10.
"I don't think we yet fully realise the potential benefits we are going to get as an organisation from having the majority of our applications on one physical box ," he said. "At the moment we have duplicate tables and code to support passing information to applications. If they sit on one box it will enable us to simplify the environment we have today. I have a sneaking suspicion that these longer term benefits may be greater than we think."