Brent Biernet, the assistant vice president of network services at COCC, says it was the reassuring presence of a big company like Novell that convinced him to make the switch to SUSE Linux. "Before, it was hard to consider Linux, even though it is so cost-effective." Biernet had limited experience with Linux in the enterprise, using it for spam filtering and other non-mission critical applications.
But keeping experienced Unix administrators on staff was proving costly, and Biernet knew there were large numbers of talented young Linux systems administrators coming out of schools around the country. "We recognized a trend," he says, "and we wanted to take advantage of cost savings available with Linux," but still maintain the high level of security and performance that the company's customers require. "Because this is banking, the reliability, the bullet-proof nature, is absolutely critical. It's just gotta work. We look very carefully at that."
So COCC met with Novell and was convinced that it could achieve its goals if it were to move its Oracle databases from AIX hardware platforms to Intel boxes running SUSE. The transition didn't take long; Biernet says the first SUSE server was up and running within eight weeks. "We had some challenges early on with getting Oracle to work right in the SUSE platform," he says. "But that was just a matter of our techs working with the Oracle techs."
COCC has realized many benefits from its adoption of Linux. For example, it has been able to afford several more physical servers to run separate instances of crucial applications, instead of multiple instances all on one box. This helps when applying patches, says Biernet, since it doesn't take the network down, which means the IT staff doesn't have to do its work in the middle of the night or on days off.
Not only that, but the company has reduced its hardware costs by 40%, even with the increased number of servers running the databases. And Biernet says COCC is saving at least $50,000 a year in software licensing and labor costs too.
Biernet says he is happy with Linux and plans to evaluate its suitability for other uses within COCC. "I think we'll continue to monitor it, and any place we find that it fits well, if it's the best tool for the job, we'll use [it]."