Financials firm fires up Sun, dumps HP

Von Sandra Rossi

South Australian-based financial services firm Data Action has standardized its server, storage and hardware systems moving from a Hewlett-Packard (HP) Unix environment to Sun Microsystems" Solaris 9 operating system.

The retail banking services company, which has been providing transactional backend support to credit unions since 1981, initially purchased a storage solution from Sun before deciding to upgrade its servers.

To meet the demands of its customers, which include the credit union arm of Qantas and the Australian Defence Force, Data Action approached its incumbent supplier HP to add four new servers to its existing six.

Data Action CEO Brian McCulloch said HP had to demonstrate a lifecycle for its hardware and prove it was compatible with the existing environment. "HP recommended we switch to its new Itanium technology which didn"t really satisfy our needs; we don"t want blue-sky technology," he said.

"There was no proven growth path for the future and at the time of benchmarking it required a move to an unproven release of Sybase.

"Sun"s proposal supported an array of applications including network infrastructure and database workloads, ideal for our heavy transaction loads."

Data Action uses a localized version of the Harland Financial Solutions" Phoenix System, which manages accounts, processes transactions and handles daily interest accruals. It also controls other core banking requirements such as Internet banking, loan origination, CRM and collections.

However, Phoenix software requires a scalable computing environment robust enough to handle more than one million Sybase transactions an hour.

McCulloch said benchmark performance tests between HP and Sun were similar but the cost of running a mixed environment of old and new servers wasn"t feasible.

"We scrapped the plan of only buying four new servers and chose to remove HP altogether and install 10 Sun servers over a six-month period," he said adding that HP had enjoyed two contract renewals with the company previously. IBM was also invited to submit a proposal for the project.

In conjunction with the storage and server upgrade, Data Action switched operating systems from Unix to Solaris.

However, HP"s director of critical business systems Steve Williamson said Data Action is actually going against a local trend, claiming HP is making significant inroads into Sun"s install base.

"In Australia we have already signed up more than 350 customers who are running some 650 of HP"s Intel Itanium 2-based Integrity Servers. We have already ported more than 5200 ISV applications to Integrity, taking us six months ahead of plan and we are still growing by the hundreds monthly," he said.

"We are very pleased that our customers are experiencing the superior benefits of running multiple operating systems on one platform."

Only this week, HP inked a A$450,000 (US$345,000) deal with pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca for a range of HP Integrity rx2600 and rx4640 servers.

AstraZenca Australia IS manager Michael Dennis said the move to Itanium2-based servers was a "no-brainer" because the system will have paid for itself in maintenance alone in less than two and a half years.