IT Management

One of Italy’s leading domestic oil players consolidates distributed platforms to System z10 for greater freedom of application choices. Since 1969, Gruppo API ( has used IBM mainframes for its core processing, but its data center until recently also housed a total of 60 Intel-based Linux servers and IBM RS/6000 AIX UNIX machines. API IT management wanted to position the data center for business growth through a strategy of server consolidation and extended utilization of open application platforms such as Linux that would yield both flexible platforming options and reduced costs of software licensing and deployment. This article describes how the company achieved those objectives.

Comprised of 25 separate companies, Gruppo API has approximately 4,100 service stations across Italy, with a domestic market share of 11 percent. It’s responsible for the integrated management of the downstream oil cycle, especially all the operations from the supply and trading of crude oil to the refining, logistics and marketing of oil and its derivatives through distribution and sale. The organization has a total oil refining capacity of more than 4 million tons, of which 3.9 million tons are processed at a refinery in Falconara Marittima on the Adriatic Sea, and an additional 230,000 tons are processed at the Alma refinery in Ravenna, Italy. API also annually produces 2 billion kWh of electricity.

Identifying Infrastructure Requirements

Freedom of choice was a key factor in the company’s decision to adopt open platforms.

“We wanted to achieve an open environment because it allowed us to utilize many more vendor product options,” says Gaetano Scebba, API’s CTO. “We felt that expanding our Linux platform was the best way to accomplish this.”

The initial question for API IT was whether to position Linux (and also UNIX) at the distributed server level, or to virtualize the data center environment within the footprint of a System z.

“We were running an SAP application server on UNIX, with an SAP DB2 database on System z,” says Scebba. “Also on UNIX were our electronic mail system, a data management system, and our Internet security and authentication.”

On the Intel side of the operation, servers supported Microsoft applications, and were running in a virtual VMware environment.

“Our distributed UNIX and Linux systems had rapidly grown to 60 servers, and we were finding this environment increasingly complex to manage,” says Scebba.

The lifecycles of all these assets had to be separately inventoried and managed. It also was problematic to monitor and manage servers as API’s corporate network expanded. When servers were added, storage resources that the servers utilized had to be constantly reconfigured and re-cabled.

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