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AIX > Case Studies > Miscellaneous

Square Pegs, Square Holes

The City and County of Honolulu allow their applications to dictate the platforms on which they run.

Photography by Dana Edmunds


Hard to Believe

Incorporated in 1907, the City and County of Honolulu, which includes the entire Hawaiian island of Oahu, covers some 600 square miles and, with a population of more than 900,000 people, is the 12th largest city in the country. It offers a host of government services, including public safety and welfare; culture and recreation; community and human development, and citizen participation; and general government operations. Supporting these services are around 10,000 employees.

When Mufi Hannemann became the mayor in 2005, he brought with him, as Bruce says, “an understanding of the value of technology in business.” And it’s a good thing he did because the Department of Information Technology (DIT) had been underfunded by an estimated $100 million over the previous five years. Its driver’s license, motor vehicle, financial and core business applications were more than 25 years old. The programs were running on systems the manufacturer no longer supported.

“During his first campaign, the mayor ran in part on the themes of fiscal accountability and transparency. There was no way to actually live up to those promises with a 35-year-old homegrown financial application,” Bruce says. “So one of the first major projects we undertook under Mayor Hannemann’s direction was a new ERP financial system. We went live on that system in 2007, in 18 months, on time and on budget, and in addition we deployed Phase 1 of Maximo Asset Management, an IBM Websphere* Portal, Tivoli* Storage Manager, and Tivoli Work Scheduler, as part of the ERP phase, which is hard for many to believe.”

Notably, the older homegrown application ran on three aging IBM mainframes, which where replaced with two IBM System z9* Business Class servers (z9 BC), a modern, new ERP application from IBM business partner CGI that runs on two System p5* 570s and a newer POWER6* processor-based Power 570, five IBM System x servers and an IBM System Storage* DS8100 storage-area network (SAN). Just this IT infrastructure change had a dramatic impact, with the some-700 physical reports the DIT had been producing with the old system every day dropping to only 40. This is largely because much of the information the CGI ERP system generated is now available online.

But that was only the beginning. Under Bruce’s guidance, the organization began quickly chipping away at its old, dusty infrastructure to create a more modern one that would make it easier for City and County employees to access information—as in the case of the aforementioned CGI ERP application.

As with all things government, though, procedures and policies are in place to ensure the proper solutions are chosen and deployed. In the case of CGI, the winning vendor to replace the aging financial system, there were two different versions available, one that ran on a System x server running the Windows platform and another on the System p solution. Although essentially the same, the scale of the enterprise demanded that the application run on the IBM system.

“Because of our size, we didn’t feel comfortable running it on a [System x server running Windows] platform,” Bruce notes. “We had to make sure we had a platform that was robust enough to handle the high-transaction volume we had anticipated. That was one of the driving forces behind us selecting the System p.” (It should be noted that even though Bruce heads the DIT, he has no say in the software- procurement process, per City and County law. He does have final approval in terms of the software and hardware on which the software runs. At his suggestion, all of the IBM hardware the organization recently acquired was financed through IBM Global Financing.)

This System p hardware choice, which included two p5 570s, was made despite lacking internal knowledge about the capability to run AIX* or Linux* on the System p platform. Bruce’s IT employees were primarily focused on the mainframe and System x servers running Windows environments, and as he explains, “Technologies and capabilities such as virtualization and even LPARs and being able to dynamically reallocate resources was pretty foreign to them. It wasn’t the most popular decision, moving to the System p, but it was one that had to be made.”

To streamline training, the City and County brought in several vendors to help bring Bruce’s IT personnel up to date. These included IBM, IBM business partner Sirius Computer Solutions (which, after a bidding process, also helped procure the hardware), CGI and various local contractors who were familiar with the platform.

Now, Bruce’s staff is more comfortable with the System p environment and is taking advantage of advanced partitioning and other technologies such as dynamic provisioning. As Bruce explains, “We don’t have to run out and buy another piece of hardware if we happen to have a lull in a development cycle on a particular application, or if resources are available at off peak times. We can repartition the box, or let the system itself determine resource allocation, to give us the resources we need for another project.”


Jim Utsler, IBM Systems Magazine senior writer, has been covering the technology field for more than a decade. Jim can be reached at



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