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From Old School to New School




 

To that end, Havertys has developed distribution and customer-service systems that link the entire company together, helping reduce inventories while still meeting and-more often-exceeding customer expectations. These applications are run primarily on iSeries systems, including two 870s (one acting as a production box and the other as an offsite mirror) and an 825 that runs Havertys' distribution-center and customer-service applications for its East Coast operations. (The company expects to consolidate the 825 onto the production iSeries system when its replaced by an eServer i5 570 server later this year.)

 

As with many other companies, Havertys had introduced several PC servers into its IT environment, even though most of its production computing took place on the iSeries system and its precursors. In fact, most of its applications were developed in-house, based on green-screen coding. About 12 years ago, however, the company decided to move some mission-critical processing to what at the time was thought to be a more open platform, Windows*. Clary remembers, "We jumped on the Microsoft* bandwagon pretty hard without really understanding the downside to that."

 

That downside became especially apparent when Havertys introduced Intel* technology-based servers into each of its retail locations. As Clary notes, "Thats when the wheels started to get pretty wobbly."

 

Not only did the company have to pay for the hardware and maintenance costs, but also the licensing of the software-including office-type applications-that ran on the servers. This was true even after the company began adopting a thin-client approach to desktop computing. (It currently has some 3,000 thin clients in use.) "Most of the product licenses are per user, and as we continued to grow, we would pay more, but the quality of the products didn't really increase," Clary says. "And when we, say, created a spreadsheet, we would have to have a file license to save it to a network drive. We could never outpace the incremental cost for adding each additional thin client."

 

The Citrix-server-based thin clients were heavily tilted toward Windows, running embedded versions of NT and XP. This, according to Clary, "was better than having a thick client" at each workstation, but the software costs were again becoming prohibitive. After attending a CIO briefing in Rochester, Minn., in September 2003, Clary took notice of the iSeries systems partitioning capabilities, especially as they pertained to server consolidation, which held the promise of helping Havertys counter the upward-spiraling software costs.

 

Notably, Clary had little interest or knowledge about Linux at that time. "The only thing that really sparked my interest was talk about reducing licensing fees for file and print," he remembers. But soon, talk about Linux began filtering up to him, and despite his "old school" notions about free software, he and his IT team began considering it as an alternative to the companys reliance on Windows. He explains, "In March 2004, we moved our file and print services to Samba running on the iSeries system and eliminated the need for paying those out-of-control Microsoft licensing fees."

 

 

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



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