Centrelink to migrate 450 Windows systems to Linux

As part of a $312 million infrastructure refresh project, Centrelink will migrate at least 450 Windows servers over to Linux and join the small number of enterprises running the open source operating system on the mainframe.

Centrelink infrastructure planner David Oram said the bulk of the department’s infrastructure consists of about 1400 Intel servers and 300 Sun servers, with the Intel systems “roughly” split between Windows and NetWare.

“We want to achieve some shifting of workload, we want to move stuff off the Windows environment, off the NetWare environment, off the Solaris environment, and on to Linux,” Oram said.

“Domino on Linux will see the need for 450 Windows servers to be moved over to Linux and the discontinuance of Windows licences.”

The refresh project doesn’t look good for Centrelink’s Solaris installations either, which Oram values at about $25 million.

“I have been told that we have to chop $17 million off our mid-range budget by server consolidation,” he said.

“And we want to move stuff – because the number of our Solaris boxes are running at 5 to 10 percent utilization – onto smaller Intel boxes. Some of the other stuff is running 80 to 90 percent of a farm of 880s, so we’d like to pick them up and wack them on the zSeries partitions.”

Overall, Oram said Centrelink has four operating systems and would like to simplify by getting that number down to “three, two”.

Centrelink’s Linux SOE is based on SLES (SuSE Linux Enterprise Server) for reasons to do with “incumbent vendors” and as a result of the much publicized “Linux Laboratory” project.

“We will use Linux for file and print serving but it won’t be badged SuSE, it will be badged Novell,” Oram said.

SLES 9 for zSeries will deployed on Centrelink’s mainframe environment for “anything that needs quick access to customer data”.

“We’ve found that getting data out of the IBM mainframe via Ethernet and open communications adapter is just too slow,” he said. “Because we’re doing the J2EE application development we would like to run that close to the developed applications that are massaging customer data and as close as possible to the Model 204 databases. And to make that nice and close, we stick it onto the zSeries hardware under a Linux partition. Yes, Linux on the mainframe!”

Does Centrelink have any Linux in production today? “Absolutely we do!" Oram said.

"Apache servers [are] on the intranet and there is some open source software, including Linux, in the gateway.”

Oram, during a presentation at this year’s Australian Unix Users Group conference in Melbourne, said Centrelink has had “many flirtations” with open source software, including JBoss, Perl and Python.

Centrelink’s server environment may be getting a Linux makeover, but the same won’t be happening on the desktop.

“I’ve got 24,000 colleagues who have 200 applications that I have to migrate and convert [so it] may come, may not come,” Oram said. “We get very good licensing out of Microsoft and we’ve already rationalised these applications twice.”

Oram said ‘Webifying’ the applications was explored and Centrelink would need to spend between six and eight million dollars to do it and WAN upgrades would also be required.

“Bottom line – we’re paying $3 million to Microsoft annually and we need to pay Telstra $5 milllion to get rid of the $3 million to Microsoft and that’s not a good proposition,” he said.

“One of the things Linux has enabled us to do is decouple the idea that operating system equals hardware.

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