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Allianz CIO 'lost hair' over Linux upgrade

Allianz Australia Insurance chief information officer (CIO) Steve Cole said yesterday he had done the equivalent of losing hair while undertaking an upgrade that saw the company move from multiple Wintel servers to a Linux mainframe.
Written by Ben Grubb, Contributor on

Allianz Australia Insurance chief information officer (CIO) Steve Cole said yesterday he had done the equivalent of losing hair while undertaking an upgrade that saw the company move from multiple Wintel servers to a Linux mainframe.

Allianz CIO

Allianz CIO Steve Cole
(Credit: ZDNet.com.au/Ben Grubb)

The insurance company had over one weekend moved from the Wintel environment of 60 plus servers over two separate datacentres onto a mainframe running Z Linux.

The upgrade had been triggered by the Global Financial Crisis, according to Cole, speaking at an Australian Information Industry Association (AIIA) Financial Services Forum in Sydney yesterday.

"It was a focus on how we can use technology to take expense out of our business by operating more smartly than just coming out with a carving knife," Cole said.

The company had decided to take risks around its infrastructure and how it was managing it, he said. The risks were so intensive that hair loss was involved, Cole joked.

"I've used the analogy of: I actually had a lot more hair last year than I ended with," he said.

Despite follicle loss, Cole was very content with the outcome.

"[I'm] very pleased to say it was a highly successful roll in terms of establishing a foundation from an infrastructure perspective that's really reduced complexity and we've been able to really establish a level of robustness around what we couldn't have in the previous environment," he said. "It took a huge amount of cost out of our bottom line. So that was a real learning experience in multiple ways as well.

"If you're going to change, you've got to take risk and you've got to manage that risk very carefully," Cole advised.

Cole said the company's IT investment had increased, "but not dramatically". "What has changed is the mix of the investment," he said.

"Our mix of investment between what we describe as the investment of running the business and changing the business has changed dramatically," he said. "We actually had a strategic focus around five years ago of baselining our run-the-business-costs, delivering a 5 per cent at least improvement in those costs."

Cole said that as a CIO there was "nothing more powerful" than having money that had been saved going into projects that had been put on the back burner.

Allianz will also move from IBM's Lotus Notes to Microsoft Outlook next year, according to a report by the Australian IT yesterday.

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