|Company||Platform Home Loans|
|Number of employees||250|
|Project||Manage transition from Microsoft Windows NT operating system; provide robust Internet services; reduce cost and complexity of IT infrastructure|
|Solution||Consolidated four IBM AS/400 systems to one IBM eServer iSeries model 810 server with three logical partitions running Linux and OS/400 applications; consolidated 13 Intel-based servers to nine Integrated xSeries Servers inside the i810 server|
|Business benefits||Reduced physical footprint and system management costs, better data integrity, easier backup routines, fast disaster recovery, great scalability and low costs|
Established in 1989 and acquired in 2001 by Britannia Building Society, Platform Home Loans is an intermediary lender in the UK mortgage market. Platform provides mortgages exclusively through intermediaries, such as brokers and independent financial advisers. This rapidly growing company has around 250 staff handling more than 35,000 mortgage applications each year.
Customer mortgage applications were processed on IBM AS/400 systems, with additional infrastructure applications on PC servers running Microsoft's Windows NT operating system. Users employed a variety of interfaces to systems, ranging from text screens to graphical browsers.
Malcolm Duff, IT Director at Platform, comments: 'The catalyst for change was the end of support for Microsoft NT. The existing systems were not designed to run the newer versions of Windows Server, which required a complete -- and therefore expensive -- hardware refresh. The combination of an increase in business volumes, the growth of online mortgage applications and a desire to cut server maintenance and licensing costs called for a strategic rethink.'
Consolidated cost savings
Platinum Blue, an IBM Business Partner, suggested a complete server consolidation exercise, based on IBM eServer iSeries systems and IBM Integrated xSeries Servers. Capital had been allocated only for the replacement of the PC servers, so this total consolidation represented new expenditure. Platinum Blue worked with Platform to develop a server consolidation solution that would deliver performance and flexibility to the business as well as demonstrating a rapid return on investment.
Malcolm Duff reports: 'Consolidation to the iSeries platform was the easiest sell to the board for unbudgeted expenditure I have ever made.'
Platform consolidated its four AS/400 systems to a single IBM eServer iSeries model 810 server, with nine Integrated xSeries Servers (IXS) to replace 12 physical PC servers. IXS is an Intel-based server on a single card that is installed inside the IBM iSeries server, and uses its disk, tape and network resources. Platform uses its IXS cards to run infrastructure applications such as email, print, domain controllers and ftp services. Three logical partitions (LPARs) on the i810 run core mortgage applications, Web servers and Linux for file and print services.
'Though this solution represented a higher initial capital outlay, we have avoided the cost of implementing separate backup and storage area network strategies for our Windows environments,' says Malcolm Duff.
'The i810 has solved our core systems challenges,' he continues, 'providing faster response and easier management through consolidation. The IXS technology has enabled us to back up and restore our Windows systems from the i810, helping us to ensure business continuity fast and cost-effectively. Our IBM Business Partner Platinum Blue has helped us develop, implement and support this consolidation solution, and their experience in delivering a number of these projects has been a great benefit to Platform.'
Platform sells an increasing number of loans via the Internet. Data from online mortgage applications is processed and returned immediately, so brokers can show consumers the price of the loan, leading to fast sales. The new iSeries server hosts the Web server for these online transactions alongside the production systems, as Malcolm Duff explains:
'We did not want live production data exposed to the Web. By using LPARs on the i810, we can provide very high-speed internal network connections from the Web server to production data, with very high levels of security.'
By consolidating its Windows systems to the iSeries environment, Platform has simplified its infrastructure and reduced the administrative workload for IT. Says Malcolm Duff, 'The iSeries server is a fantastic platform for consolidation. The build quality is outstanding -- for example, there was a major explosion at one of our locations, and yet the end-of-day run on the AS/400 continued uninterrupted. And the versatility -- handling several different operating systems simultaneously -- helps to deliver low total costs of ownership and operation.'