• INSURANCE giant Allianz Australia expects to save more than $1 million by switching from Microsoft Windows to Red Hat Linux for key applications.

    The move involves dropping the traditional Wintel (Windows-Intel) platform for a virtualised IBM mainframe running on Linux.

    The migration is part of a $4m technology infrastructure overhaul to match Allianz’s growing business requirements.

    Further cost savings will come from bringing in house some tasks outsourced to CSC.

    “Our data centre was running out of power and we couldn’t add any more servers to the infrastructure,” Allianz Australia infrastructure and operations head Peter Rowe said.

    “We started looking at virtualisation as one way of overcoming that problem and elected to revamp the data centre. We were also feeling quite constrained running (IBM) WebSphere applications on the Wintel platform and there was not enough flexibility to grow with Windows.”

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    About 60 servers were replaced with a single mainframe in the virtualised environment.

    Allianz has 350-plus servers and Mr Rowe sees more opportunities to reduce the fleet.

    “Development servers have been reduced by 40 . . . we can see another 40 to 50 being taken out.”

    Allianz’s online applications, such as home and motor insurance quotation programs, now run on IBM-Linux.

    “We believe this is just the beginning . . . the move from a Wintel-based environment to a virtualised Linux environment will save over $1m a year in facilities, hardware and software costs,” Mr Rowe said.

    A major reason for choosing Red Hat over Novell’s Suse Linux was the former’s tight integration with IBM’s platform, he said.

    In addition, Allianz will save more than $500,000 in middleware licensing costs as it moves from WebSphere to JBoss.

    Compatibility issues with Microsoft applications such as Word and Excel had prevented the company from moving to a desktop Linux environment, he said.

    “It’s difficult to move off when you’re chained to the Microsoft stack. It’s not just a technology shift but a cultural change as well for the whole organisation.”

    Meanwhile, CSC, which has a multi-million-dollar contract with Allianz, will continue to manage a large chunk of Allianz’s IT operations except for a few items brought in-house.

    CSC would handle mainframe, desktop, internet managed services and data centre facilities, but Unix, network services and file and print would be managed internally, Mr Rowe said. “It has become more cost-effective to run certain elements in-house.”

    Allianz had been revising its contract with CSC throughout this year, he said. A switch from Lotus Notes to Microsoft Exchange is also on the cards.

    Allianz has 55 staff in IT and operations as part of its 3600-strong employee base.

    Posted by Paul Littlefield @ 12:22 pm

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