Big Blue Through and Through
In consolidating nine data centers worldwide to one location, Parker Hannifin International chooses to go with a vendor it knows well.
Parker Hannifin International has bet its enterprise network on IBM's iSeries servers.
In one case—consolidating nine data centers worldwide into one central location in Hemel Hempstead, England—the decision was simply a matter of upgrading from an IBM AS/400 to a newer and more powerful IBM iSeries server. However, when Parker International wanted to fix e-mail performance and reliability bottlenecks a couple of years ago, the company did an exhaustive analysis of all leading server vendors. It opted for IBM, largely because of the company's institutional expertise running IBM products.
Nick Cummins, Parker International's computer operations manager, says the company's international data center servers had run JD Edwards' World ERP software over IBM AS/400's for several years, so upgrading to IBM's iSeries 840 last fall was never really in question. The ERP software handles the company's accounts payables and receivables, communications across the supply chain, and manufacturing information.
The project's goal is to service 107 Parker International sites (in 36 countries across Asia, Australia, Europe and South America) and 7,000 users out of a central data center in England. In the past, the British data center managed 80 of the 107 sites, so Parker viewed consolidation as a way to cut costs, streamline network management, and share information more efficiently.
Cummins says with all the different time zones Parker International services, his staff runs shifts 24 hours a day. This makes it all the more important that Parker International has a powerful server it can count on. Cummins says in many ways, it's the availability of IBM's more powerful servers that lets the company consolidate data center sites more easily. He notes that the iSeries 840 processes data roughly 50 percent faster than the AS/400. The new server also lets Parker disk-mirror up to 3.5TB of data.
|Product Information |
iSeries 840, iSeries 890
One World ERP software
Reliability is Key
Cummins says Parker International will upgrade to an iSeries 890 during the middle of 2003, running the machine with about 30GB of memory and taking disk-mirroring up to the 10TB range. The company also plans to run some Linux applications over the iSeries machine, but has yet to move forward on the Linux project.
One big benefit of the iSeries 890 is that with IBM's logical partitioning technology, IBM's OS/400 V5R2 promises support for consolidating Linux, Windows, ported Unix and OS/400 applications on a single server.
Brad Day, a senior analyst at Giga Information Group, says the iSeries 890 also lets companies run multiple versions of operating systems, thus preserving applications that may be running on earlier versions. "A company can run an old version of JD Edwards and the latest release of WebSphere," he says.
Cummins says he's aware of the benefits of V5R2; he says Parker International may be looking to evaluate these added benefits in the future.
Because Parker chose the iSeries for its performance, reliability and scalability; V5R2 may simply be icing on the cake.
"When the other sites are finally transferred to us [in a few months], the need for reliability will be even greater," Cummins explains. "It basically boiled down to the skills we had. We're an IBM shop and we wanted to take advantage of that expertise."
Parker stands to realize significant cost savings on the data center consolidation project. Cummins says a single iSeries 840 will save the company $350,000 up-front for a large site, then $70,000 in subsequent years, and $90,000 up-front for a smaller site and $40,000 yearly thereafter. The company will save money in license fees, hardware/software, disaster recovery, labor costs and depreciation.
Of course, achieving such impressive cost savings isn't easy. Cummins says most of the other machines Parker consolidated were running on non-English systems, which meant that all of the databases were in a foreign language, typically French, German, Swedish or Portuguese. Not all the staff spoke English and Parker needed to make sure that when they restored the data to the English system in Hemel Hempstead, the data looked and printed the same.
"We had meetings with six people where only two spoke English," says Cummins. "What we did was talked through the people who spoke English as a second language so we could get the work done."
Another problem: the inevitable turf wars. Despite the clear cost savings the company stood to gain, Cummins says some of the sites were reluctant to give the consolidation project their full support, largely due to fear of job losses at the local level.
There was also the practical logistical issue of getting the tapes halfway around the world, the data restored on the Hemel Hempstead machines, and all the fixes implemented and testing completed before the users arrived for work on a Monday morning. Cummins says Parker would have a non-critical employee fly to England with the tapes and physically hand deliver them so the British staff could get cracking on the conversion.
Converting to a single system requires a lot of time-consuming manual work, Cummins observes. Every user profile had to be changed on the local machines, a process that took five minutes per ID. Then profiles had to be newly created on the servers in Hemel Hempstead, which took roughly two minutes per ID. Adding to the tedious nature of the project, many sites used their own data formats for library table names, security, naming conventions and printer settings, all of which had to be changed to meet Parker International's in-house standards.
"We faced many issues as we consolidated our data centers," says Cummins. "Foreign languages, characters, currency, reluctance from sites, logistics, standards needing to be changed. E-mail was less stressful, but still complicated as we were very new to Domino on the AS/400."
Parker International's decision to opt for IBM was not as clear-cut a couple of years ago when the company needed to fix e-mail bottlenecks for about 2,000 users across 70 sites worldwide.
Parker was running Lotus Domino over two Compaq Proliant mail servers and two Compaq Proliant application servers, but the Compaq servers didn't scale effectively as Parker added users. The system crashed regularly—more than once a week, recalls Cummins—and end-users were complaining.
"We looked at Sun and just about everybody else, but because of the link between IBM and Lotus and our in-house IBM expertise, it was decided that the iSeries was the best platform," notes Cummins.
Now, Parker International has fixed its e-mail bottleneck by running six Lotus Domino servers over a single IBM 730 AS/400. The company will upgrade to an iSeries Model 830 server this fall.
Parker International opted for the IBM 730 AS/400 because for roughly the same price the company could leverage its expertise with IBM equipment. The AS/400 cost $300,000 while fixing the e-mail bottleneck using Intel servers would have cost around $350,000.
Going with an Intel-based server other than Compaq would have meant finding people who could run and manage them. Cummins also says that the Compaq servers—or any other Intel-based server—doesn't offer the scalability Parker requires. Opting for the 730 AS/400, which now services 6,000 users, delivered the fix Parker was looking for, plus it saved overall man-hour costs. "Basically, as we scaled we needed something more powerful."
Details: Parker Hannifin International
Team Leader: Nick Cummins, computer operations manager
Location: Hemel Hempstead, United Kingdom
Goals: Consolidate data centers worldwide for 107 sites in 36 countries in Asia, Australia, Europe and South America; fix e-mail bottlenecks for 70 sites worldwide
Business: Diversified manufacturer of motion and control technologies with 250,000 products, 45,000 employees, and annual sales of $6 billion. High-profile projects include seals for the NASA Space Shuttle and hydraulics for films such as "Titanic" and "Pearl Harbor."
Web Site: www.parker.com
Scope: Parker Hannifin International handles 45 million transactions/month, exchanging 1TB of data/month for 6,000 Lotus Notes users and 7,000 users of JD Edwards' World ERP software.
- Data center: IBM 840 iSeries server, JD Edwards World Version 7.3
- E-mail operation: IBM 730 AS/400, 6 Lotus Domino servers
- Consolidate data centers from 9 to 1.
- Fix e-mail bottlenecks across 70 sites worldwide.
- Data center consolidation: Install IBM iSeries Model 840 server. IBM 840 processes data 50 percent faster than previous 740 AS/400, improves Parker's ability to share information, and enhances resilience using tower level mirroring of 3.5TB of data.
- E-mail management: IBM 730 AS/400 running six Lotus Domino servers to be upgraded to IBM iSeries 830 by fall 2002. Solution fixed performance and reliability bottlenecks and makes overall administration and back-ups easier.
- iSeries 840—$2 million
- JD Edwards World—$90,000
- 730 AS/400, Lotus Domino—$300,000
- Data consolidation: For a large site, Parker estimates savings of $350,000 in first year and $70,000 annually thereafter; small sites save $90,000 the first year, $40,000 each year following.
- E-mail management: Upgrading existing Intel servers to provide equivalent level of resilience, scalability, administration and performance would've cost $350,000. Because the cost was similar for IBM equipment, Parker International decided to leverage its IBM expertise.
Steve Zurier is a technology writer based in the Washington D.C. area. He specializes in covering internetworking and communications technologies.