IT Management

SW: Nationwide built a business case first and obtained executive sponsorship. Then we assembled a dedicated team to finalize the design and implement the infrastructure. We also developed a rate structure, and created our operational process, all within four months. Nationwide then went back and reviewed our business case, and validated our original business case to the results.

Nationwide can achieve dramatic changes with a focused, dedicated team. The TCO analysis was critical for justifying the project, but you need to include everything. A TCO with only hardware and Linux OS doesn’t show the full benefits. Adding capacity is easy; start small. When creating servers, don’t create virtual copies of distributed servers; leverage the architecture. Nationwide took the time to determine what resources our applications needed—not what was provisioned in a distributed world. Significant adoption requires a good economic incentive for application teams.

In our zLinux project, the sustained support of senior management also was invaluable. Good enforcement and technology governance of standards were critical to Nationwide’s success.

We found Unix skills were easily transferable from dedicated environments to zLinux. Nationwide is in the enviable position of having extremely deep z/VM and zSeries hardware skills. We could not have been successful without these individuals. Finally, don’t underestimate the mental shift application teams will face. Nationwide spent many hours explaining and translating the zLinux environment to our distributed application groups.

z/J: Please tell our readers more about how you built the business case. Was mainframe Linux a hard sell?

SW: Management buy-in was relatively easy once we presented the business case. It’s important to move the decision from a technology to a business decision. We first constructed as detailed a TCO as we could on both the existing environment and our proposed new environment. This included documenting all our assumptions for the virtual environment. The keys were as follows:

  • In the shared environment we would be using about 20 percent of the floor space and power consumption we would use if we continue to deploy stand-alone servers and racks.
  • We had already demonstrated in an existing z/VM environment how we could quickly deploy and re-deploy servers. The only way to reduce our provisioning time in the stand-alone environment was to pre-purchase and stage our servers in anticipation of requests. This would mean sunk costs that we may or may not recover. In the virtual environment on a z/990 we had the ability to start relatively small and grow the environment as we needed more resources.
  • For the zLinux environment, we projected that our FTE support costs would be 65:1 as opposed to our current support level. Since we had total requests for 100 servers, we compared the current and go forward total costs in both stand-alone and virtual environments. Over a threeyear period, our virtual environment TCO was approximately one-half the cost of the traditional rack deployments.
  • We then followed the business case with a proof of concept, using our existing z/VM environment to validate that our applications could receive the same SLAs as in the existing distributed environment. We were able to demonstrate that a particular application in need of expanded resources could scale to five times its current peak requirements in the virtual environment on demand.

z/J: Did any platform turf wars erupt? Where did you encounter resistance along the way?

SW: Most of our resistance came from the existing distributed groups. Their resistance was based on their lack of understanding in what the zLinux environment could give them. We addressed this resistance during our proof-of-concept by demonstrating similarities in the distributed environment and what new features they could leverage in zLinux.

z/J: Has this success with Linux changed your vision?

SW: Yes, but not so much on Linux. The success of this undertaking has reinforced the importance of making an environment operational. You can create the best technical solution in the world, but until you can make it operational, it will be of little business value. This requires standards, an updated process to change, and deployment. Nationwide had the foresight to drive a technical solution without losing focus on the operational side.

z/J: What kind of future do you see for Linux on the mainframe?

SW: I see a bright future. By merging mainframe technologies with distributed technologies, we will have the best of both worlds.

z/J: Please elaborate.

SW: The zLinux environment will only continue to grow and evolve. The stability of the hardware, combined with the lower cost of ownership and speed to market of new features, will bring many new features to the environment. The zLinux environment at Nationwide has proved to be flexible, responsive, and cost-effective; these are the messages that will continue to drive virtual servers on a zLinux environment.

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