Omaha Bank Picks IBM to Replace Sun, Wintel

Savings estimated at $11.4M through 2011

First National Bank of Omaha is nearing completion of a project to replace a Sun and Wintel distributed server infrastructure with an IBM-based mainframe and blade-server architecture based on Linux.

Though the project is only 80% complete, the move is expected to save the company $1.8 million this year in operating expenses and another $9.6 million through 2011, bank officials said last week.

The bank expects to complete the project by April. Much of the savings will result from reducing the number of engineers needed to run its systems from 24 to eight.

Kenneth Kucera, division head of the Omaha-based bank's enterprise technology services, said he had been weighed down by the cost of managing nearly 600 servers, including 30 Sun Solaris boxes and 560 Intel-based systems from Hewlett-Packard Co. and Dell Inc. In order to manage that growing infrastructure and keep up with necessary administrative tasks, the bank was forced to add network and server staff at the rate of 30% per year.

For the new infrastructure, First National Bank chose an IBM zSeries mainframe for its processing hub, along with 70 IBM BladeCenter servers. For storage, the bank selected IBM's high-end Enterprise Storage Server and Hitachi Data Systems Corp.'s midrange Thunder storage array.

A Growing Trend

Stacey Quandt, an analyst at Robert Frances Group Inc. in Westport, Conn., said changing from distributed server infrastructures to mainframes and blades is a growing trend as companies look to reduce complexity and save data center space.

"In many banks, the situation tends to be Sun UltraSparc systems they're looking at changing out," Quandt said. "Given the benefits and reliability of mainframes, and then to leverage blades and Linux, that combo has been very compelling to financial services companies."

Kucera said he would have considered Sun products had they been available. But when he began hunting for a way to consolidate his infrastructure in 2003, Sun had nothing to offer in the way of blade servers or Linux. "They were late to the game," he said.

Sun officials didn't respond to requests for comment.

Quandt said Sun has been selling Linux on blades for some time but is still working on launching a mainframe equivalent—its next-generation UltraSparc server, which will sport Sun's upcoming Niagara multicore chip. That system is due out in 2006, Quandt said.

Kucera said the IBM eServer zSeries 990 will be used to monitor and maintain key banking operations that were previously supported by Sun Solaris servers. The 70 IBM eServer BladeCenter servers will support Web-based banking and office applications that had run on the 560 Windows-based servers.

"Linux gives me the option to scale up, down or across platforms—mainframe, midrange, PC desktop," Kucera said. "And it's more cost-effective."

For example, it's impossible today to run Microsoft Windows on a mainframe, he said. But Kucera can run 60 virtual Web servers on the IBM mainframe using SUSE Linux.

"As a result of consolidation, we only have to maintain a handful of servers instead of nearly 600, making the task much less complex and expensive," he said. Fewer servers also means fewer network connections to maintain, which helps bolster network security at a lower cost.

A bank holding company with more than $16 billion in managed assets, First National Bank is also running IBM's WebSphere application server, portal and business integrator; IBM's DB2 Universal Database, Lotus Instant Messaging software and Tivoli and Rational applications; and IBM ThinkVantage desktops and laptops.

IBM is also providing Kucera with its capacity-on-demand features for computing resources when the bank needs additional capacity. That arrangement allows the bank to rent computing resources whenever they are needed simply by expanding the number of processors available in currently installed zSeries servers for as little as a day at a time.


First National Bank of Omaha


560 Wintel servers

30 Sun UltraSparc multi-processor servers

Sun Solaris operating system


One eServer zSeries 990

70 IBM eServer BladeCenter servers

IBM TotalStorage SAN Volume Controller virtualization software

WebSphere applications running on virtual Linux servers


Copyright © 2005 IDG Communications, Inc.

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