Insurer Bets On 32-Processor Intel Server

Penn National Insurance is the first U.S. customer to bet on Blue Bell, Pennsylvania-based Unisys Corp.'s new 32-processor Intel Corp. server. The server will run Windows 2000 Data Center Edition, the companies said this week.

During the next 24 months, the insurer will use the mainframe-like ES7000 Intel server to consolidate applications currently running on more than 60 servers, said Tom Miele, director of infrastructure at Penn National in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

Penn National's current collection of servers includes Hewlett-Packard Co. Unix servers, Compaq Computer Corp. Windows NT servers and IBM mainframes.

The consolidation project is part of an effort to enhance the company's electronic-business capabilities. The company will also roll out two new applications: a Web-based claims processing application for 1,200 independent agents and a policy administration system.

Penn National will take delivery of the Unisys ES7000 in June and then migrate applications in two stages. Many of the core applications scheduled to run under Windows 2000 on the new server will be tested on smaller four-way and eight-way systems before being put on the ES7000.

"We are taking a very cautious approach. ...It is going to be some time before we put any production applications on Windows 2000," Miele said.

Penn National is an early example of a company trying to curb server proliferation by taking advantage of scalable, relatively inexpensive Intel servers and the central management capabilities promised by Windows 2000.

"Server consolidation is going to be a big story," said Joseph Ferlazzon, an analyst at Technology Business Research Inc. in Hampton, New Hampshire.

The Unisys ES7000 -- priced from US$150,000 to more than $700,000 -- can be partitioned into six smaller servers, allowing users to consolidate multiple applications within one box.

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