EBS chooses Linux for IT consolidation project

15 Feb 2007

EBS Building Society has chosen Linux as part of a major project that will see many of its servers consolidated to run on a mainframe. It’s believed the move will help reduce costs and complexity for EBS.

The building society, which is the fifth-largest credit institution in the country, has chosen SUSE Linux Enterprise Server (SLES) from Novell as the foundation for the consolidation project. This will involve hosting IBM WebSphere applications and SLES will support more than 1,000 users within EBS in 2007.

EBS has been able to save on software licensing and hardware costs as a result of the project. It has also benefited the firm’s disaster recovery strategy, as this is now easier to perform backups from a single mainframe than on many distributed machines. The cost of the project has not been disclosed.

The deployment of Linux dovetails with a large service-oriented architecture project that EBS had been undertaking so that its systems could communicate directly with those of its mortgage brokers.

According to David Yeates, senior manager for IT architecture with EBS, the company had been using Linux for several years and it was compatible with the IBM Websphere applications that it already had in place. “We’d be a fairly large mainframe site and we wanted to consolidate a lot of distributed servers onto a single mainframe box,” he told siliconrepublic.com.

Currently EBS has moved 20 applications from individual servers across to its mainframe and could move up to 15 more without having to add a second processor to the mainframe.

Paul Nicholls, enterprise systems manager at EBS, added that the project wasn’t overly time consuming. “Once you have a reasonable image build [for a server], adding subsequent servers is fairly straightforward. It’s easier than on a physical server; you can build a Linux server very quickly,” he said.

A key factor in EBS’ decision was IBM’s support for SUSE Linux Enterprise Server in the mainframe environment, said Nicholls. In addition, EBS had an established relationship with Novell having already implemented WorkGroup and Resource Management products. “We were looking for a one-stop-shop rather than adding on top of another vendor’s Linux.”

Kevin McAteer, Novell client manager, said the win was a strategic one for the company because it showed its technology running mission-critical applications on a mainframe. “That’s a significant step forward from Novell as a basic file and print server,” he said.

McAteer added that there tend to be fewer opportunities for Linux at the desktop as financial institutions usually have long refresh cycles for their operating systems. “If you can lock down the desktop and roll out the applications, they’ll do it. Most organisations at the end of a cycle would consider it,” he claimed.

Novell’s recent technology agreement with Microsoft also has potential benefits for customers like EBS. “It gives us a lot of opportunities for both our Linux applications and our Microsoft applications so we can view things in a more consolidated way,” he said.

By Gordon Smith