Union Pacific: Red Hat and JBoss Innovation Award Winner

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June 17, 2010

Customer: Union Pacific Railroad Company

Industry: Transportation
Geography: North America
Country: United States

Business Challenge:

With rising costs, and an aging mainframe IT infrastructure, Union Pacific's ability to scale for growth was limited. Union Pacific needed a stable and capable platform to migrate its mainframe environment.


To develop a more flexible operating platform to build its distributed IT environment, Union Pacific is migrating to a Red Hat Enterprise Linux-based virtualized infrastructure to replace the mainframe. Union Pacific also needed to develop a thinner web application tier, and the company turned to Red Hat’s JBoss Enterprise Middleware to develop a highly customized, web application platform to run in the virtualized Java Hosting environment.


Red Hat Enterprise Linux, Red Hat Network Satellite, JBoss Enterprise Web Platform, JBoss Enterprise Web Server, JBoss Operations Network, SAP Enterprise Resource Planning, Oracle RAC, PeopleSoft Financials


Union Pacific has increased its ability to scale for business growth with more capable system management and development tools for its virtualized environment, and has increased its system performance at a significantly lower cost structure


Union Pacific Corporation (NYSE:UNP) is one of Americaand#8217;s leading transportation companies. Its principal operating company, Union Pacific Railroad, is North Americaand#8217;s premier railroad franchise, covering 23 states across the western two-thirds of the United States. Union Pacific Railroad (UP) is an operating subsidiary of Union Pacific Corporation. The railroad links every major West Coast and Gulf Coast port and provides service to the East through its four major gateways in Chicago, St. Louis, Memphis and New Orleans. Additionally, Union Pacific operates key north/south corridors and is the only railroad to serve all six major gateways to Mexico. UP also interchanges traffic with the Canadian rail systems. The railroad has one of the most diversified commodity mixes in the industry, including chemicals, coal, food and food products, forest products, grain and grain products, intermodal, metals and minerals, and automobiles and parts. The largest of Union Pacificand#8217;s 25,000 customers include steamship lines, vehicle manufacturers, agricultural companies, utilities, intermodal companies and chemical manufacturers.

Business Challenge:

Union Pacific has long been a company that utilized technology effectively to support, maintain, and drive its core business performance. For decades, the company relied on a mainframe based IT environment, but due to changing business demands, multiple acquisitions, and the rise of open-source technology Union Pacific started to migrate away from the mainframe technology.


With rising costs, and an obsolete mainframe IT infrastructure, Union Pacific needed to identify and implement a flexible, cost effective and most importantly stable and reliable operating platform that would provide the tools and capability to scale for growth as the company built its distributed IT environment.

The Union Pacific IT team began evaluating various open source operating platform solutions for the distributed infrastructure, ultimately Red Hat Enterprise Linux was selected. The new operating platform needed to be long-lasting, scalable, and reliable, since Union Pacific only conducts planned outages during disaster recovery testing, due to the critical applications running on the system.

Union Pacific required a system that could efficiently handle compute-intensive applications, such as those that build optimization models for its transportation operations system. The team spent two years conducting a detailed technical evaluation. At the conclusion of the evaluation, Union Pacific selected Red Hat Enterprise Linux with built in virtualization to replace its existing mainframe and to become the foundation for its distributed infrastructure.

Today, Union Pacific’s distributed data center consists of 2,500 servers, with more than 900 systems running Red Hat Enterprise Linux. Union Pacific is also utilizing the built-in virtualization technology in Red Hat Enterprise Linux to handle the mission-critical applications being migrated from the the mainframe and onto the distributed processing platform.

Due to the large number of distributed systems, a key component of the decision to select Red Hat Enterprise Linux, was the systems management tool, Red Hat Network Satellite. Red Hat’s on-premise systems management solution that provides software updates, configuration management, provisioning and monitoring across both physical and virtual Red Hat Enterprise Linux servers. With the help of Red Hat Consulting, Union Pacific installed and configured the Red Hat Network Satellite to manage and provision the company’s 900 Red Hat Enterprise Linux servers.

A key part of the Red Hat Enterprise Linux based-infrastructure is a transportation system called NetControl, which will replace the mainframe-based Transportation Control System that was responsible for tasks such as order taking, monitoring and scheduling shipments and train schedules, and dealing with service interruptions.

Union Pacific also has switched to a new SAP Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system, which is now running on Red Hat Enterprise Linux, along with the company’s JMS messaging platform, Oracle RAC, PeopleSoft Financials, derailment prevention system, disaster recovery system, JBoss Enterprise Web Platform, and JBoss Enterprise Web Server.

Union Pacific also needed to develop a thinner web application tier, and the company turned to Red Hat’s JBoss to develop a highly customized, web application platform to run in the virtualized Java Hosting environment. Union Pacific previously used Oracle BEA WebLogic, but due to the rising costs of the proprietary solution and the need for a more flexible and light-weight framework, the company migrated to JBoss Enterprise Web Platform, and JBoss Enterprise Web Server.

The applications that run on JBoss Enterperise Middleware include interactive user applications to internal services and processes systems to batch processing. Union Pacific Railroad is currently in the implementation phase of a multi-year overhaul of its enterprise Java hosting environment. The railroad is transitioning from a highly-shared, heavyweight container platform using WebLogic to a virtualized, light-weight JBoss Enterprise Web Server and JBoss Enterprise Web Platform-based environment. This solution includes Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5.4 and the KVM virtualization components, which are all managed via JBoss Operations Network. In its JBoss Enterprise Middleware architecture, Union Pacific Railroad utilizes cloud computing concepts at the Java application hosting level to deliver highly-flexible, scalable, manageable, and highly-available web applications for its run-time environment.


With the new Red Hat Enterprise Linux and JBoss Enterprise Middleware based IT infrastructure, Union Pacific has increased its ability to scale for business growth, increased system management capabilities, and ultimately increased its technology performance at a significantly lower cost structure, thus enabling the company to effectively support its core business performance.

Union Pacific’s IT system is as mission critical as it gets; the railroad is a 24×7 operation with a true 5×9′s uptime and availability requirement. Union Pacific has zero unplanned outages, and essentially only has planned outages during its annual disaster recovery timeframe. With Red Hat, reliability has not been an issue.

With Red Hat Network Satellite, Union Pacific has been able to gain enhanced performance, centralized control and higher scalability for their systems, while deployed on a management server located inside the datacenter and firewall. Red Hat Network Satellite allows the company to manage its large number of systems with comparable ease to managing one, existentially enabling Union Pacific to do more with less.

Union Pacific has found great value in the open source community, as they are beginning to contribute to open source community projects such as JOPR, with the ideology that the company will not necessarily realize short-term benefits, but more long-term benefits, such as insight into the product roadmap, feedback on upcoming features, and greater involvement with the open source community.

In terms of its recent migration to JBoss, the company values the breadth of the enterprise middleware products available, the flexibility and ability to customize for its environment, and the Red Hat support model, that enables access to the source code, key engineers, and open discussions with the JBoss team to discuss questions and concerns. With JBoss, Union Pacific is able to develop web applications in a customized, flexible and light-weight framework, at a lower cost than heavyweight proprietary solutions.

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