Creature comforts served daily

Even if you don’t know the name, you’ve probably sat on a Palliser chair.

Palliser Furniture, based in Winnipeg, is one of the largest furniture makers in the country. Founded in 1944, it employs 5,500 people — 3,800 of those are in Winnipeg — and has four manufacturing facilities

in North America alone.

But despite the size and scope of the organization, it has only one server running its development and manufacturing applications, thanks to logical partitioning.

“”We had two AS400s,”” says Jerry Andre, who manages technical services for Palliser. “”We got rid of one since going to the LPAR.””

A logical partition, or LPAR, is a segmentation of a mainframe or server’s memory and other resources, enabling it to run its own copy of the operating system and associated applications. LPARs are created via special hardware circuits and allow multiple system images to run in one machine. There can also be multiple instances of the same operating system or different OSes.

Many vendors offer partitioning, including Hewlett-Packard and Sun Microsystems for their respective Unix boxes.

Palliser has an IBM AS400 820, and that one server is running its ERP system, MAPICS, serving about 400 users for scheduling, ordering, and inventory control, says Andre. “”All of your standard manufacturing processes are done off of MAPICs.”” Accounting and payroll are also on the same box. “”We run a product called IFM for our accounting, and we’re also a JD Edwards shop,”” adding that Palliser is the processing of migrating to OneWorld. Otherwise, it has standardized on Dell servers, primarily to run Novell GroupWise for messaging.

When Andre joined Palliser about a year and a half ago, Palliser also had an AS400 170 for development work, which was quite slow, he says, and at 25BG of hard drive space, was limited in capacity. “”We had an investment in this thing we were paying monthly on, and we weren’t getting any value out of it.””

But the 820 running the production applications had plenty of capacity, as well as dual processors, says Andre, so Palliser decided to upgrade it to a new OS that provided dynamic LPAR. “”You can go into the system and dynamically allocate resources to the LPAR. It allows us to share the resources in our production environment that we couldn’t do before.”” For example, he says, the company uses tape backup, which it can now extend to the development environment.

“”We can dynamically share that resource between two processing environments, whereas before you had this physical limitation.””

Andre says it’s difficult to quantify the advantages Palliser has gained from a dollar perspective, aside from the lease cost of the eliminated development server. “”Our administrator likes it better that he’s managing one physical box,”” he says.

Prior to the consolidation, the 820 was running about half capacity on average. Andre says it’s important to do an analysis of capacity requirements in advance. He says he will likely have to upgrade sooner than planned, but moving to LPAR was still worth it.

According to a recent report by Cambridge, Mass.-based Giga Information Group, proliferating overhead costs associated with computing infrastructures and increasing application resource efficiency are driving consolidation of multiple applications onto larger Unix servers in particular.

And server consolidation is a trend that’s growing, says Alan Freedman, research analyst for hardware and infrastructure at IDC Canada in Toronto.

“”The fact that all of the vendors are working on aspects such as capacity on demand, as well as logical and physical partitioning, that speaks to increased efficiency and increased utilization. It allows companies to run their applications and their mission critical business applications on larger servers that can handle more than one application.””

However, it’s not for everyone, he says. “”It’s not a clear cut decision. It’s not only application specific. It’s probably company size specific. You’re not going to get a small company going out and buying huge servers.””

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Gary Hilson
Gary Hilson
Gary Hilson is a Toronto-based freelance writer who has written thousands of words for print and pixel in publications across North America. His areas of interest and expertise include software, enterprise and networking technology, memory systems, green energy, sustainable transportation, and research and education. His articles have been published by EE Times, SolarEnergy.Net, Network Computing, InformationWeek, Computing Canada, Computer Dealer News, Toronto Business Times and the Ottawa Citizen, among others.

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