Elders Group looks to big iron to accommodate big Java plans

Mammoth server will run $1.3 billion suppy chain and the OPEL network

Australia is home to the biggest mid-range server in the Southern Hemisphere following a multi-million dollar implementation of an IBM System i by agribusiness conglomerate Elders Limited.

The company expanded from its genesis in agriculture development to include livestock and grain supply, financial planning, banking, telecommunications and real estate. Elders was founded in 1839 and has more than 400 branches across Australia,China, Japan, Germany and Korea.

The IBM System i 570 has 16 processors with 12 activated, 384Gb of RAM, more than 30Tb of disk storage and support for more than 3000 users.

Elders CIO Chris Ferguson said the machine will support a new Supply Chain Management (SCM) system which will be rolled out to 430 locations as the backbone of the company's $1.3 billion merchandise business.

"We've been replacing our many smaller IBM mid-range machines with fewer, more powerful ones over the last 10 years," Ferguson said.

"It will cater for growth over the next five years, allows us to take on more applications faster, and significantly opens up options for improving our disaster recovery

"SCM systems are very Java-hungry and the new 570 is big enough to weather that."

He said the system has been split into 16 partitions running VMware which allows the company to run all of its applications without requiring individual boxes.

The new system replaced an existing 750 model with five partitions to give Elders high availability and room for growth. All stock and financial applications including HR, livestock, wool, and grain management systems will be transferred onto the new box.

Elders computer facilities manager Andre Laubscher said it purchase a smaller 570 to give it a more robust DR service.

"We bought a second 570 with about three partitions for extra capacity and better [in-house] DR," Laubscher said, adding it will ditch its subscription DR service.

Ferguson said this would provide higher availability and could reduce DR times from about two days to two hours.

Elders has another smaller 520 which is used for development and testing.

Laubscher will work on modernizing the 570 around the IBM WebSphere platform, and will open the remaining four partitions as extra capacity is required.

The national OPEL network will also use the mammoth server to access Elder's core applications and databases.

Elders will replace its 10 year-old SCM system over the next six months with a new customised solution, Odyssey, from Melbourne-based company Mid-Comp.

"We needed a decent Java-based system to stay competitive, and we happily went for a local company over the big vendors including SAP and Movex," Ferguson said.

IT staff are finishing the final stages of tweaking the IBM system and will start quality assurance tests in November this year.

The IBM system was installed in Elders' Adelaide data centre last month with help from consultancy firm SynergyPlus.

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