Optus bets on Linux blades

What began with single application, edge network services a few years ago, has exploded into core database and business systems at the Linux-loving Optus.

Sources familiar with Optus' infrastructure told Computerworld the telco has shifted much of its core server workloads to Red Hat Linux on IBM blade servers which now number around 200.

One source said the Linux blades are running a "wide range of applications", including the Optus Web site, some internal business systems like customer management, and 3G connection services. A mixture of internally developed and commercial applications have been deployed on the open source OS, including "a lot of Java-based applications" deployed on BEA's Weblogic or the open source JBoss J2EE application servers.

At the core there is an Oracle RAC database on four dual-CPU Linux blades - an architecture similar to Telstra's, which commited to a Linux-based Oracle cluster for data warehousing over two years ago.

"Optus is commissioning more servers on a regular basis which started in 2004 and has been building up ever since," the source said, adding the blade servers are spread across a number of locations around Sydney.

Optus is managing its infrastructure with Red Hat's satellite management tool.

The big loser may be Hewlett Packard (HP) as Optus' moves away from its hardware and services in favour of IBM and Red Hat, respectively, the source said. While Optus has "only a few" in-house Linux specialists, its team of over twelve Unix specialists are being cross-trained in Linux reflecting the company's desire to migrate off its remaining "legacy" Unix systems.

Optus still has AIX, HP/UX, Solaris, and Tru64 installations, and although still deploying "some" Solaris and AIX, its emphasis is on Linux which now comprises "up to half" of all its Unix servers.

"A large part of Optus' push to Linux is cost savings in software and ongoing management," the source said. "It's costing Optus less to manage 100 Linux servers than the same number of Windows or Solaris servers."

The source said performance is "not an issue" and Optus is generally happy with the reliability of Linux.

Optus' general manager of IT program management Stuart McDonald said the company uses Linux "in many capacities" and does not have a preference for suppliers.

"We continue to choose the best of breed for the applications that support our customer services," McDonald said. "Optus has in place a team for system administration who support a wide range of operating systems [including] Linux."

A spokesperson for HP denied the company's products or services are being phased out by Optus, stating the company remains one its "most important customers both in terms of hardware and services".

"We continue to enjoy a strong relationship across the business and look forward to this continuing in the future," the spokesperson said.

Linux vendor Red Hat declined to comment.

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