National City Standardized on Red Hat Enterprise Linux to Scale in Support of Rapid Business Growth

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August 25, 2009

Customer: National City Bank, Inc.

Geography: North America
Country: United States


Business Challenge:

Reengineering the datacenter infrastructure with a cost-effective and scalable platform that provided mission-critical reliability and superior performance to accommodate fast-paced business expansion

Migration Path:

From UNIX systems, including Sun Solaris, running on proprietary RISC machines to Red Hat Enterprise Linux running on Intel Xeon Processor-based HP ProLiant servers

Software:

Red Hat Enterprise Linux, JBoss Enterprise Application Platform, Oracle DB

Hardware:

600 Intel Xeon Processor-based x86-based physical and virtual HP ProLiant DL580 servers

Benefits:

Reduced IT operating costs down to two cents per transaction which has the potential to save millions over the life of the systems, provided the ability to scale for business growth, and reegineered datacenter without unscheduled business interruptions

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Background:

Prior to being acquired by PNC Financial Services Group, Inc. (www.pnc.com), National City Corporation was the eighth largest financial holding company in the country, with core businesses of commercial and retail banking, mortgage financing and servicing, consumer finance, and asset management. As a part of PNC Financial Services Group, Inc. one of the nation’s largest diversified financial services organizations – which provides retail and business banking; specialized services for corporations and government entities; wealth management; asset management; and global fund services – PNC will become the fifth largest U.S. bank by deposits. The acquisition of National City is expected to place PNC fourth among U.S. banks based upon number of branches, and will give PNC the No. 1 deposit share position in Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Kentucky and the No. 2 position in Indiana and Maryland.

Business Challenge:

Due to increasing business demands, rising costs, and an aging database infrastructure, National City had made the strategic decision to reegineer its datacenter infrastructure.

National City decided that reegineering its datacenter by migrating from costly proprietary RISC machines running Sun Solaris and other UNIX distributions to commodity x86 blade machines running Red Hat Enterprise Linux would enable future growth. Two things drove this decision: a directive from senior management to cut costs, and the need to scale capacity quickly to accommodate the rapid growth of the business.

“Our processing needs were going up, and we needed to find a way to meet those needs at the lowest possible cost,” said Thomas McGinnis, a platform engineer at what was then National City, in Cleveland. “Clearly, this pointed to the deployment of Linux on commodity hardware as opposed to building an entirely new datacenter.”

Solution:

Reegineering National City’s datacenter infrastructure was vital in enabling the continued growth of the bank’s business. The existing datacenter contained costly systems running UNIX, with no opportunity to scale for growth. The datacenter’s new infrastructure runs Red Hat Enterprise Linux on a combination of physical and virtual HP ProLiant DL580 servers in a production environment.

In evaluating Linux vendors, it became quickly apparent to National City that the choice was between Novell SUSE or Red Hat Enterprise Linux. National City asked its internal developers and administrators for feedback and their response was quick and decisive: Red Hat Enterprise Linux.

“Their reasons centered upon the richer functionality and performance that Red Hat Enterprise Linux provided, as well as their familiarity with that particular Linux distribution,” said McGinnis. “For our users, Linux was synonymous with Red Hat, and we were also impressed that we would get superior performance, reliability, and stability at an attractive pricepoint.”

The Intel Xeon Processor-based HP ProLiant servers running Red Hat Enterprise Linux support the bank’s most business-critical applications, from Oracle financial software, to JBoss Enterprise Middleware-based applications, online transaction processing (OLTP) systems and customer-facing loan application systems. All are replicated with immediate storage back-up.

National City’s datacenter has deployed 150 HP ProLiant servers running 400 virtualized instances of Red Hat Enterprise Linux. “We did this primarily for cost reasons,” said McGinnis. “We were purchasing increasingly powerful hardware, and needed a way to condense things down. We’re at a point where we can get as many as 1,100 guests running on a single rack of blade servers natively running Red Hat Enterprise Linux.”

One of the crown jewels of National City’s IT infrastructure was a new high-density facility featuring water-chilled racks, each of which could hold 54 blade servers. “It really improved our ability to provision hardware quickly, as we could pre-deploy the hardware and pre-stage it,” said McGinnis.

A homegrown application allows users to request resources, and the application designs and deploys the servers they need automatically. “Users put requests in and we can satisfy the requests within the day,” said McGinnis.

“In addition to its ability to scale, Red Hat Enterprise Linux offers rock solid reliability and has been extremely stable. Our decision to standardize on the Red Hat Enterprise Linux infrastructure was key to enabling rapid business growth while maintaining customer service levels,” said McGinnis.

Benefits:

The price-performance of the Red Hat Enterprise Linux platform has proven exceptional. In 2007, PNC evaluated the best platform to run Oracle Financials Software.

“We tested UNIX running on a variety of machines including a RISC server that cost a quarter of a million dollars and is one of the most powerful boxes you can buy, and compared it to a Intel Xeon processor-based HP Proliant DL580 running Red Hat Enterprise Linux,” said McGinnis, “The Intel Xeon processor-based HP and Red Hat Enterprise Linux combination blew everything away. Given those performance results, we started migrating our Oracle applications over to Red Hat Enterprise Linux immediately.”

“Red Hat is acknowledged by everyone in our organization – from senior management on down — as key to supporting the growth of our business,” said McGinnis. “It has allowed us to scale at a cost we could not have achieved with any other vendor.”

As Red Hat’s reputation within National City grew, the bank’s business divisions began asking for their applications to run on Red Hat Enterprise Linux. Today it is the the standard operating system. “The internal performance related adoption made things a lot easier for us, as it allowed us to phase out even more of our UNIX machines in favor of Red Hat,” he said. The bank continues to perform benchmarks to validate that its strategy is on course.

“We were able to improve the price-performance of our financial applications on the Red Hat and Intel processor-based HP ProLiant servers to achieve two cents per transaction, which will translate to millions in savings,” said McGinnis, “and was far lower than what we were able to achieve with the UNIX based systems.”

The large – and growing – community of application vendors that certify their software on Red Hat Enterprise Linux accelerated adoption throughout the bank. “A lot of vendors were initially cautious, but we gradually saw more and more application certifications as more businesses moved to Red Hat Enterprise Linux from proprietary operating systems,” said McGinnis. “This is now one of the major attractions of Red Hat.”

Red Hat Enterprise Linux also paved the way for other, indirect, cost savings. For example, its ease of use made it possible for the bank’s IT employees to be more productive.

“Red Hat Enterprise Linux is a lot more user-friendly than Solaris, which has a very high learning curve,” said McGinnis. “This allows our team to do more. That, coupled with the fact that Red Hat’s business model provides more for less, gave us the opportunity to achieve even more significant cost savings.”

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