GaVI (Gesellschaft für angewandte Versicherungs-Informatik mbH) was founded in 2002 as a shared IT services provider for German public insurance companies in Bayern, Baden-Württemburg and Wiesbaden, and now also serves companies in Münster and Kiel. Headquartered in Mannheim, the company employs 475 people and generates annual revenues of €187 million.
As an IT services company, GaVI needs to provide its clients with highly reliable and available platforms for their business-critical applications. At the same time, it is important to deliver a cost-effective service by simplifying processes and increasing internal efficiencies.
"We offer a very flexible service, so we are happy to host and manage systems running on a wide range of platforms," said Stephan Müller-Ahlheim, Head of Infrastructure Technology and Databases at GaVI. "But it is also our responsibility to identify strategies that can benefit all our clients by reducing operational costs—and one good way to achieve this is through consolidation."
GaVI's clients were using a variety of e-mail platforms—IBM Lotus Domino, Netscape and Memo—running under various operating systems including IBM AIX, HP-UX and Microsoft Windows, on numerous physical servers. By consolidating all these environments to a single strategic platform, GaVI would be able to provide a better, more cost-effective service.
GaVI selected Lotus Domino as its e-mail server—with Lotus Notes as the e-mail client—and set out to design an architecture that would deliver it most effectively.
"We were already using IBM mainframes to run core business applications, and we were keen to use them for the Lotus environment too," said Müller-Ahlheim. "With the availability of the IBM Integrated Faculty for Linux (IFL) processors, we had for the first time the opportunity to run Lotus Domino on SUSE® Linux Enterprise Server for IBM System z—and when we did the calculations, this turned out to be a very cost-effective option."
IBM System z provides an ultra-reliable hardware infrastructure, as well as advanced virtualization technologies that enable many separate environments to be hosted on a single physical machine. This saves on rack-space and electricity costs, and also simplifies hardware maintenance.
"IBM and Novell (now a part of Micro Focus) have been working together for years, and SUSE Linux Enterprise Server for IBM System z is now a very credible and useful complement to z/OS on the mainframe platform," said Müller-Ahlheim. "Combining the security, performance and reliability of SUSE Linux Enterprise Server for IBM System z with the advantages of the IBM mainframe architecture creates a powerful platform for business applications."
Erich Amrehn, IBM Executive IT Specialist at the IBM Research & Development Laboratory Böblingen and Member of the worldwide zChampions Team said: "An important success factor was the close cooperation between Novell (now a part of Micro Focus) and IBM Development, optimising the correlation between operating system and platform specifics to achieve the best possible results for the customer."
GaVI moved 16,000 users onto the new Lotus Domino platform, which runs on 16 IFL processors—divided equally between two IBM System z9 mainframes to provide high availability in case one of the machines fails. The company also uses several IFLs to run eBusiness applications on SUSE Linux Enterprise Server for IBM System z.
The final stage for the project will be to migrate a further 5,000 users into the new environment, which will provide a completely uniform platform for e-mail across the entire group.
By consolidating its e-mail systems to a single platform, GaVI has achieved both of its main objectives.
First, reducing the number of applications, operating systems and physical servers has made the whole environment much simpler to manage by creating synergies in system administration.
Second, consolidation has reduced software licensing, hardware and data centre costs—saving GaVI more than €100,000. With a single platform, the company also minimises the number of suppliers it needs to manag.
"SUSE Linux Enterprise has a very strong user-base, so it is not difficult to find people with the skills to support the environment," said Müller-Ahlheim. "The system management processes for running SUSE Linux Enterprise Server for IBM System z are well established, and the ability to leverage specialised processors means that we get the best possible price-performance."
GaVI now intends to improve availability and performance by upgrading to the latest versions of Lotus Domino and SUSE Linux Enterprise Server.
"Linux is a strategic platform for us, and Novell's ownership of the SUSE Linux Enterprise distribution is a major advantage," said Müller-Ahlheim. "Novell's support for the open source community aligns well with our own strategy—helping us to choose solutions that deliver the best service and value to our customers."