Aviva consolidates with mainframe Linux

Financial services giant Aviva Group has joined a handful of local organizations prepared to give Linux on big iron a run in an effort to consolidate its application infrastructure.

Formerly Norwich Union Australia, Aviva Group operates the Navigator and Aviva brands and administers about $20 billion in funds for some 300,000 customers.

With a mainframe and more than 400 - predominantly Linux on Intel - distributed systems, the server count was growing to cater for the group's expanding funds management applications, Aviva CIO Kevin Sharkie said.

Being a 100-year-old company [Norwich Union] we had a mainframe [and] with the sale [to Aviva] we decided to buy our own," Sharkie said.

Sharkie said a decision was made to invest in a z800 series mainframe to bring the mainframe and Linux environments together to rationalize the burgeoning infrastructure. The project started in 2003 and is now "finally" operational.

"The value [in mainframe Linux] is one common base and there are many people who understand zLinux," he said, citing Aviva's use of the open source MySQL database on zLinux for a financial advisory application as an example of a common open system being consolidated on the mainframe.

A Sybase application running on Solaris is another example of a workload being migrated to zLinux, this time with Oracle as the database. This is "one month away" from being brought online.

Aviva decided to standardize on SuSE Linux two years ago because it was already a large Novell customer and could see Novell heading in the direction of Linux. This allows Novell's services to also move to the mainframe.

The number of servers is now down to about 200 and Sharkie is "always looking" to reduce that number.

"We still have a raft of Intel servers that require security updates," he said. "We are licensed with Rational and looking at using more Linux."

IBM's Asia Pacific Linux software sales director Ivan Kladnig said the zSeries' virtualization capabilities allow hundreds, or even thousands, of Linux servers to be hosted on a single physical mainframe.

"The Linux server market is no longer a small part of the overall server market and is growing three times faster than the Windows server market," Kladnig said.

He cited a 2004 survey by IDC which asked end users to rate the most appealing thing about Linux, the outcome of which was that reliability, not cost, ranked highest.

"Within IBM we have about 3000 servers and 35,000 clients running Linux," he said. "The open source community is a meritocracy very much based on peer acceptance. We have more than 600 people working on Linux in our Linux technology centre. This acts as IBM's conduit to the open source community."

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