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Swisscom IT Services

With SUSE Linux Enterprise Server for System z virtual servers running on IBM System z9 mainframes, Swisscom IT Services has a stable platform for business-critical applications.

About Swisscom IT Services

Swisscom IT Services is a wholly owned subsidiary of Swisscom Ltd, the leading telecoms provider in Switzerland. Swisscom IT Services employs approximately 2,600 people in 14 locations, offering the full spectrum of technology services to more than 850 large and mid-sized businesses across telecoms, aviation, banking, government and other sectors.


In addition to running the entire IT and application infrastructure for Swisscom—which has 5.3 million fixed lines and 5 million mobile customers—Swisscom IT Services provides fully hosted and managed environments for dozens of major enterprises.

To ensure that it could continue to keep prices low while raising service levels, Swisscom IT Services wanted to reduce the cost of running and managing business-critical applications. The challenge was to cut software and operational costs without compromising on availability, performance and security. This would enable the company to offer better pricing to clients, while simultaneously increasing its own profit margins and freeing up staff to provide value-added services.

Equally, Swisscom IT Services wanted to decrease the time-to-market for new systems—in particular, test environments—and to put a stop to the rapid growth in floor space, power and cooling requirements in its data centres.


Swisscom IT Services decided to introduce Linux on its IBM mainframes, selecting SUSE® Linux Enterprise Server for System z to run as a guest operating system on z/VM. The IBM System z9 servers at Swisscom also run z/OS-based applications and database servers in other logical partitions.

"Back in 2001, we chose SUSE Linux Enterprise Server for System z as our Linux distribution for the mainframe because it was better supported than the alternative options," says Bertrand Dafflon, Member of Management and Head of Linux Platforms, Swisscom IT Services. "Historically, there were strong links between SUSE and the IBM Böblingen mainframe laboratories in Germany, and SUSE Linux Enterprise Server for System z continues to be a cutting-edge environment."

Initially, the company migrated several applications to Linux that had previously run on commercial UNIX platforms. Today, there are some 200 Linux virtual servers running on two mainframes, and many are large and mission-critical systems.

"We aim to deploy all new applications on Linux: for example, on SUSE Linux Enterprise Server for System z if the application requires extremely high processing power for brief periods throughout the day," said Dafflon. "One of the key benefits of running virtualised servers on the mainframe is that we can manage a large number of systems with a relatively small team, enabling us to offer high service levels at competitive prices. Increasingly, our clients are requesting that we run their systems on this platform."

A further advantage of using virtualised Linux servers on the mainframe is the speed of deployment. Swisscom IT Services can provision a new virtual server in just two minutes and without any additional hardware cost. Equally, the company can instantly clone live virtual servers to create a test environment, and can automatically deploy new servers in response to changing business requirements.


"Using SUSE Linux Enterprise Server for System z has enabled us to significantly reduce software TCO," said Dafflon. "What is more, we believe that the quality of commercial Linux distributions is actually higher than commercial UNIX distributions, because Linux is backed by the open source community. No single vendor can match the support, testing and development that the community provides in concert with the commercial vendors."

With energy costs rising fast, Swisscom IT Services needs to ensure high levels of efficiency to maintain competitive pricing and healthy margins. SUSE Linux Enterprise Server for System z enables the company to run hundreds or even thousands of virtual servers in a system that draws just 20 kW—several times less than the equivalent physical x86 environment.

"SUSE Linux Enterprise Server for System z is helping us to consolidate our own infrastructure, generating cost savings that enable us to keep our prices low," said Dafflon. "Linux for us is not simply an operating system: it's a dynamic culture, and the service we build around it enables us to deliver added value to our clients."

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