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System i virtualization prevents T-Mobile busy signal

T-Mobile has plans to double its U.K. stores and uses IBM System i virtualization software to prevent its backup jobs from backing up.

Doubling the number of cell phone stores in the U.K. had T-Mobile Direct worrying that its nightly backup jobs would put the company on hold.

Paul Baucutt, technical support manager of retail systems for the U.K.-based company, said growth in transactions and sales, coupled with the increase in stores, bumped batch processing at night from one hour to two hours.

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"This was unacceptable to us because it's running a large database that we have to do a backup on every night," he said, referring to a 166 GB DB2 database holding information about transactional data in the stores and what happens to each cellular phone.

T-Mobile had big expansion plans. At the beginning of the year, T-Mobile had 128 stores in the U.K., which it intended to double by the end of the year. By early next year, it wants to have 325 stores.

In the middle of it all is an eight-way System i5 570 running six Power5 processors (two of them are dormant) on nine i5/OS and Linux partitions. By using IBM virtualization and management software that came with the server, Baucutt said the company managed to postpone turning on the dormant processors and get rid of extra sales processing applications, saving the company tens of thousands of dollars per year.

Just as important, Baucutt said it was able to cut the nightly backup job down to 30 minutes.

Baucutt sung the praises of IBM Enterprise Workload Manager, software that monitors processor use by each partition and distributes workloads across them as needed. For example, if a transaction processing partition starts to have problems at night because it's using up all its designated CPU, Enterprise Workload Manager can draw in unused processing resources from other partitions.

"I take the view that support staff have enough work to do without having to manage a system," he said. "If a system knows how to manage itself, it knows better than you actually do."

Baucutt figures that Enterprise Workload Manager prevented the company from having to turn on at least one of the two dormant processors, which would have cost the company GBP₤35,000, or almost US$70,000.

T-Mobile Direct also used features from IBM Director, Remote Management Agent and the Virtualization Engine Console to manage the 2,000-plus systems out in the field. Before, the company had software from XcelleNet that gathered sales information from each store and reported it back to the main database. IBM Director can now handle those tasks, and so shutting the XcelleNet software down will eliminate licensing and support costs that T-Mobile has been paying. Baucutt didn't know exactly how much that change would save the company, but "it's quite a considerable amount."

That also allows T-Mobile to shut down systems in the data center that were used for the point-of-sale applications. That frees up about 25% of the facility's rack space and will reduce power and cooling costs in the data center.

Let us know what you think about the story; e-mail: Mark Fontecchio, News Writer.

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