DEWR bets on Itanium, upgrades mainframe

Charged with a mission to maintain and enhance the national job information resource, Job Network, the Department of Employment and Workplace Relations (DEWR) has upgraded its core infrastructure to Itanium and purchased new mainframes.

The department's Employment Application 3000 (EA3000) project evaluated its capacity to deliver an increasing transaction processing demand with the integration of backend mainframe information with the Microsoft SQL Server front-end.

Brynten Taylor, the department's technical services director, said that back in May his team discovered the transaction load was going to double so "we only had the option of SQL Server 2005 64-bit edition on Windows Server 2003" to cope with the increased load.

With HP as its preferred hardware supplier, the department bought two 16-way HP Integrity systems for production and disaster recovery. The systems are configured in clustered 8-way configurations for added redundancy.

"We could have gone elsewhere, but we have been getting HP to do more 'hands-on' services," Taylor said, adding the performance of Itanium is more than adequate.

"We are evaluating 4-way AMD systems as we need to double our Web systems which consist of two 8-node clusters," he said. "The HP [Proliant] BL45p systems are 64-bit capable, which is ideal, because we want to do an SQL Server rationalization."

DEWR has about 120 SQL Server database servers in production but the new Job Network portal on SQL Server 2005 did allow consolidation of three SQL Server 2000 cubes into one, which interoperates with Oracle and DB2.

The core system will remain DB2 on an IBM mainframe, which was migrated from an Hitachi mainframe as recently as last month.

"Mainframes have come down in price and are not as expensive as they used to be," Taylor said. "If you look at the TCO of mainframes and what they are doing you get some surprising answers back."

Taylor said mainframe competition has effectively disappeared, because "if you want to get 64-bit mainframes and the bigger boxes there is only one player in the market, IBM".

"If the application is working well - and it is a major exercise to pull all that data off and try and put it on an SQL or Oracle - why would you move it?" he said.

Over time, the department will continue to move some of the business logic off the mainframe to the mid-range, but that is a gradual process expected to take years.

Regarding Linux and open source options, Taylor said while the Internet gateway environment is Linux-based, its use is still confined to the labs and there is no formal evaluation initiative.

Microsoft Australia's application server product manager, Sarah Bond highlighting the robustness of the product, said about 50 local customers were using SQL Server 2005 on an early adoption program before its general release.

Paul Lamb, HP South Pacific technical marketing manager for enterprise servers and storage, said the number of Itanium systems shipped has accelerated this year and is now up to 700.

"Itanium enables customers to scale up effectively [and] partitioned environments in the larger scaled systems allow customers to pick and choose IT to meet business requirements," Lamb said.

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