Earlier this year, Mainframe Executive had an opportunity to talk with Per Johansson, senior manager of Mainframe Global Infrastructure & Operations. Johansson leads the mainframe operations of Volvo Information Technology (Volvo IT), a billion dollar (U.S.), wholly owned subsidiary of the Volvo Group with 5,000 employees, headquartered in Gothenburg, Sweden. Volvo IT provides computing, telematics, consulting, and other information solutions, operating as an independent IT services company to its largest customer, the Volvo Group, and to external customers such as SCA (tissues, packaging, and forest products), Assa Abloy (locks and door items), Skandia (insurance), and the City of Stockholm. As a leading Nordic IT services provider, it is of paramount importance for Volvo IT to minimize costs and offer the highest-performing IT services to all the Volvo Group units and external customer businesses it serves.
The Volvo Group is one of the largest global, commercial-transport solutions suppliers, selling its complete line of trucks, buses, construction equipment, diesel engines, and other items into 180 nations worldwide. Volvo Group is the world’s second largest, and Europe’s largest, heavy truck manufacturer. The Group’s major brands today include Volvo Trucks, Mack Trucks, Renault Trucks, UD Trucks, Volvo Buses, Volvo Penta marine engines, and Volvo Construction Equipment. Sweden’s largest company and exporter, the publicly held Volvo Group, had 103,300 staff (employees and temporary staff as of Sept. 30, 2010) across the eight main business units and 12 support areas with production plants in 19 countries (see Figure 1). In business for 80 years, Volvo Group is truly a global company with massive commercial vehicle experience and scale.
From 1998 to 2008, the Volvo Group made a number of large commercial vehicle-builder acquisitions, substantially increasing the Group’s share of important global market segments. Each acquired company was an existing IBM mainframe user with its own data center(s), so the total number of mainframes around the world that came under the management of Volvo IT swelled to 11 at its peak. Here, Johansson talks about Volvo IT, its use of mainframes, its consolidation of mainframe systems, and the benefits received.
Mainframe Executive: Per, how long have you been with Volvo IT, and have you always worked with mainframes?
Per Johansson: I joined what is now known as Volvo IT 22 years ago and have worked with mainframes during all this time. For the last six years, I’ve led the Mainframe Global Infrastructure & Operations group. Volvo has a supportive, loyal culture, so most people have a long tenure here, just as I do. Each member of my staff of around 100 professionals, comprising the global System z infrastructure team, averages greater than 17 years of service. The strengths of this team’s deep knowledge, vast mainframe experience, continuity, and closeness to the information technology needs of the business user are real pluses. Finding individuals with excellent mainframe skills and experience can sometimes be difficult. Therefore, we periodically hire and train groups of younger IT professionals to build their mainframe competencies and strengthen our team.
Mainframe Executive: In the 10-year period leading up to 2008, the Volvo Group made a number of large acquisitions that included Renault Trucks, Mack Trucks, and the Nissan Diesel Motor Co. (now known as UD Trucks). Some of these companies had mainframes in their data centers. How did you go about managing those extra systems?
Johansson: Yes, quite a few acquisitions took place in a reasonably short period of time. By 2002, we had too many data centers and a total of 11 IBM mainframes at peak from this acquisition activity. We had to create and implement a long-term consolidation plan that would steadily centralize workloads onto our mainframes here at Volvo IT in Gothenburg. As IBM introduced new mainframes, we upgraded to each new System z generation as quickly as possible, progressively moving from two z900s to two z990s to two z10 EC machines, followed by our most recent move to two z196 systems in October 2010. We successively merged all our old workloads and LPARs, plus many new workloads, onto these central, Gothenburg-based hosts.
By consolidating mainframes, data centers and workloads, we grew centralized processing capacity steeply, increased performance, and decreased service costs with each move we made. Using these increasingly more powerful centralized mainframes has enabled us to handle strong Volvo Group growth and the processing needs of our current 11 external customers.
ME: Are all the members of your mainframe team also centralized in Gothenburg?