According to Nationwide, the ability to create virtual servers rather than physical ones enables the company to “better manage its data center power consumption, and improve utilization by more than 80 percent.” This, in turn, allows the company to defer the expenses that it would have incurred in data center expansion, cooling, and electricity costs.
“Virtualizing our IT environment on IBM mainframes running Linux has allowed us to significantly reduce the total cost of ownership of our Web hosting environment by leveraging open source technology, such as SUSE Linux, instead of getting tied to proprietary solutions,” says Guru Vasudeva, associate vice president and enterprise chief architect at Nationwide, at a recent LinuxWorld conference.
“New virtualization capabilities also will help us provision new Web hosting environments in days rather than months,” Vasudeva adds.
For example, Nationwide promoted its re-branded Website by advertising heavily during Super Bowl XL. Virtualization enabled the company to significantly increase computing capacity for a two-week period to handle the expected big traffic spike on its Website and then decreased capacity after the event.
Where Nationwide represents a classic mainframe data center mixing mainframe and distributed open systems, Hoplon Entertainment, Brazil, represents the new breed of emerging digital companies. Hoplon creates and markets massive multi-player online games. These games attract a global audience. For a popular game, Hoplon can easily find itself needing to handle thousands of simultaneous players.
“Sometimes, this might mean there are tens of thousands or even hundreds of thousands of players on the same server,” says Targuinio Teles, Hoplon CEO, speaking to analysts at a recent briefing.
Hoplon’s initial plan was to build clusters of traditional servers. Each cluster would handle 3,000 to 5,000 users. As games grew in popularity, Hoplon would add more clusters. This is the conventional approach, but it had one major shortcoming: “Players on one cluster can’t interact with players on other clusters,” Teles told the analysts. But in multi-player gaming, players want to interact with all players at once.
The company either had to solve the player isolation problem or limit the number of players who could play simultaneously. But limiting the number of players wouldn’t only reduce Hoplon revenue, it would drive players to other game providers and kill customer satisfaction.
IBM suggested a radical approach—using SOA and virtualization on the mainframe. When Teles thought about it, the idea made sense.