Nationwide Insurance is a large company. They have over 158 Billion (that’s BILLION) in assets and rank at # 98 on the Fortune 100.   Their server environment was mostly distributed in nature and very costly to maintain.

Their distributed server environment had several issues that drove them to consider virtualization as a solution, including rising costs for cooling, power/electricity, expansion of datacenters, datacenter floor space. A study in 2005 found that 78% of the distributed servers were running at an average of 10% utilization, which left a tremendous amount of server capacity unused on a daily basis.

The typical method for dealing with needs for processing capacity was to over-provision with physical distributed servers, and the lack of flexibility made re-allocating resources to other workloads and especially to other physical locations extremely difficult.  Additionally, the time to deploy a new server measured in months, which made it hard to handle spikes in server utilization and needs for capacity required more guesswork than actual fact.

Part of the due diligence Nationwide conducted was a study to determine what the best virtualization scenario would be, and they found that using a pair of IBM Z900 mainframe systems, they could virtualize hundreds of distributed systems.  The initial plan was to virtualize 150 servers by the target date, and they ended up virtualizating over 250.  Nationwide moved ahead and performed the conversion of a large portion of their distributed systems onto the mainframes and the savings alone are projected to be in the tens of millions of dollars over the next three years.

An example of their newfound capacity and flexibility was the Super Bowl ad and the resulting traffic they got to Nationwide’s web hosting environment.  In the testing before the actual ad ran, the systems involved were increased dynamically to handle more than 22 times the expected traffic, all while testing other major applications at more than 5 times the promised Service Levels.

Significant cost savings were achieved in the following areas:
– Floorspace and Power costs dropped by 80%
– Headcount dropped by 50%
– Provisioning dropped from months to days
– Disaster Recovery times dropped from days to minutes
– Virtual Environment costs were roughly 1/2 of Distributed Environment costs

There are some excellent resources available for companies that want to investigate virtualizaton on the Mainframe, including the IBM Success Stories and References site.  Also of note is the ZJournal magazine and website, it features a number of interviews, reviews and reports about using System Z and Linux.  Articles of note are here and here.

Does your company have any mainframes?  Do you use Linux on them?  SUSE Linux Enterprise Server 9 and 10 work great on Mainframes, email us and we’ll be happy to answer any questions you might have!

Ross Brunson –