Interviews

OKDHS IT actually found they needed two compilers. One was GCC, which linked the Oracle libraries and ran on SUSE Linux Enterprise Server (SLES). The other was a Micro Focus COBOL compiler required to support KIDS system interfaces in the Linux on System z environment.

It was GCC, which, at the time, did not ship with a service pack that fully supported the System z environment.

IT waited for the puzzle to fall into place, piece by piece, working methodically. The SUSE GNU compiler issue was resolved once the correct service pack arrived. This secured Oracle’s guarantee of support for the new environment on System z. Looking for every way to safely expedite the process, OKDHS IT was still able to “work ahead” by jump-starting problem resolution with a download of a copy of the GNU compiler so IT could build in the IBM patches that were needed for System z. Downloading and patching allowed IT to cautiously move forward, even as it was waiting for the correct service pack to arrive.

“We also encountered a major challenge with the data recovery and backup process,” says Little. “This process included parts of Oracle and Tivoli, and although the hurdles we faced were purely technical, they took a long time to overcome.”

Little and other DHS IT managers acknowledge that backup for the new virtual environment became a highly detailed process that involved the creation and documentation of multiple procedures and checkpoints.

“To facilitate backups, we took snapshots of every logout because, at first, we were getting a lot of corruption,” says Little. “We used flash copying with the IBM stack and took snapshots of the DASD. We still do this. The Tivoli Storage Manager hooks into the Oracle RMAN [Recovery Manager] utility to complete the backup mechanism.”

Little says that recovery and database backup became major challenges because there just wasn’t a good unified online solution at the time that would support RMAN, which is Oracle’s primary data backup utility.

As they overcame technical hurdles that were symptomatic of being an early adopter of a server consolidation strategy, OKDHS IT staffers also had to face their fears of the unknown. The level of fear varied, depending on the person with whom you talked.

“Some of the IT staff was very apprehensive,” says Aleta Seaman, database manager. “All of this was bleeding-edge technology when we started our consolidation. Still, both on the operating system and the hardware sides, people were excited about the possibilities.”

Little agrees. “A big part of the project was achieving a comfort level,” he says. “At the time we started our migration, Linux was still a dirty word in much of the IT industry. Linux was considered a ‘hobby’ or a ‘toy’ system then. We knew that the end result was to bring missioncritical applications to a new platform—and along the way, we had to feel comfortable by first performing the database migrations with databases that weren’t considered missioncritical. In this way, if an outage occurred and we had to move back to our original platform, we could do so without impacting a lot of people.”

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