This PowerUp blog entry was written by Nigel Fortlage. An IBM Champion for Power, Fortlage is CIO and VP of IT for GHY International.
In 2002 my company, GHY, approached the end of lease of its existing IBM midrange server. This was not a new occurrence as we had started with the platform in 1989 on our original AS/400 B35. We thought our 2002 experience would be like the other times when we did an equipment roll over. Little did we know that was the start of a journey over the last decade that won awards, solved problems, enabled service improvements and powered innovation. As you will come to learn, this is not the journey at its conclusion, but rather a review of an ongoing story that focuses on business needs, user satisfaction and always chasing the vision of making IT simple.
In the blog entry, I will be reviewing the details behind the story, helping others understand not only the technological gains and rationale, but the business case created and approved that allowed this story to unfold.
The Story of GHY
In 2002 we upgraded our eServer 720 to an iSeries 270 and 820 that went into service in 2003. That brought into play the first virtualization and server consolidation activity at GHY. At this time, we left most of the Intel workloads on stand-alone boxes. It also set the bar for the gains we recognized and continue to benchmark against in order to preserve the level of simplicity that it introduced to our operations. Of most significance was the shift from spending time being reactive to being proactive, and focusing on the business and user needs.
Eighteen months later we were given the opportunity to begin planning for POWER5 technology, which went live in 2005. Of most significance with this platform, like the new PureFlex system, could run all four operating systems (OS/400–now i, AIX, Linux and Windows) in virtual machines simultaneously. The OS/400, AIX and Linux environments were IBM POWER technology-based LPARs, while the Windows server instances ran natively on cards (blades) that were installed in the I/O chassis of the machine. One key difference between the current design of the new PureFlex systems and that design was that PureFlex uses a hypervisor that is independent of the operating system. With the POWER5 environment, on the other hand, OS/400 managed the whole solution and treated AIX and Linux as guest operating systems under OS/400 management. This was our first exposure to hyper reliable Windows servers that didn’t require regular rebooting because of the OS/400 oversight and memory management of the Windows servers.
The key business deliverable in this initiative was maintaining the many hard and soft gains we had from the first step in our journey, but also providing environment choice for the business to select applications that suited their needs rather than applications that fit what we had. It was during this phase that we replaced all of our core business systems as we had no technology constraints holding us back.
With the economic downturn that began in 2008, like many businesses we had to maintain status quo as growth was tempered. It was at this time, as we held our own, that I added an element of business development to my corporate role along with my VP IT role. As the business became hyper focused on delivering new added value and growth-oriented strategies, we were able to start planning in 2009 for growth as the world economy started to come out of the depths of the downturn. That planning resulted in delivery of what I have been told is the world’s first commercially sold POWER7 server to our data center in January 2010.
POWER7 technology represents a fundamental shift from POWER5 technology. This has enabled steady growth using this platform without additional investment from the business. We also were able to use some of the industry “best practices” by adding our first SAN from IBM using multitiered storage to support storage virtualization, adding VMware to virtualize Intel workloads and adding fibre switching to connect everything. This added new layers to manage but virtualized our data center.
The business outcomes with this solution were both hard and soft. We first wanted to maintain the gains we had from our 2003 and 2005 initiatives, and we added new capabilities for growth enablement such as running Intel technology-based Linux workloads on IBM Power, which extended the value proposition of the Power server. The technology was much “greener” with regard to power and cooling—our data center is running at least 4 degrees cooler with that hardware and our UPS battery power has longer run times when supporting this new platform. That green message is very powerful when taken to market. I learned this when new marketing responsibilities was added to my existing IT leadership position.
So now in front of us is a decision to consider our end-of-lease actions in 2014. Do we hold our own as we have no capacity reasons to help drive these discussions as the introduction of POWER7 addressed that exceptionally. The pureFlex System offers many benefits that we see as worth talking about but here is the list of factors as we see them today:
- The economy will be a large driver
- Reducing complexity in IT will be a key driver
- Simplifying management under one pane of glass is critical
- Preserving all of our gains through this last decade is key
- Allowing for growth without constantly going back year after year to ask for more funds is critical
Each point has its own business (not IT) story. I will share that during the session at the IBM Power Technical University in Las Vegas on Oct. 29 to Nov. 2. If you’re planning to attend, come on out to one of the sessions: Tuesday, Oct 30, 11:45 a.m. and Wednesday, Oct 31 4:15 p.m.
About GHY InternationalFounded in Winnipeg in 1901 by George Henry Young, GHY International is one of Canada’s oldest customs brokerage companies, and is family owned and managed by the fourth-generation great grandson of Mr. Young, Richard Riess. In February 2012, GHY International was recognized as the only Gold Standard Level certified provider of exclusive customs brokerage services in North America by Canada's 50 Best Managed Companies. This is the fourth year in a row of qualification for the firm.
Over the years, the company has grown to become national and international in scope, with more than 100 employees providing Canadian and U.S. importers and exporters with a full range of international trade services leveraged around our core competency of Customs Brokerage, International Trade Compliance and International Trade Risk Management.
About Nigel FortlageI am a passionate leader who happens to oversee technology. I believe that technology is best leveraged as an enabler. I see possibilities and solutions, not roadblocks and barriers. I lead an award winning team of professionals who fuel my desire to push the boundaries in all things we do. I enjoy a wide diverse portfolio of responsibility. I oversee all aspects of social media as part of our overall business development strategy. I actively participate in business development opportunities including client visits and sales calls. I share my passion, knowledge, and insights through written articles, interviews, public speaking venues nationally and internationally, and in person. I started my working life on the vendor side. I strive to develop partnerships in all aspects of delivering customer care. I have a Certificate in Applied Management: Information Technology Specialization through the University of Manitoba. Accepted the IBM Innovation Award for the iSeries server on behalf of GHY International in Chicago in 2005.