Campus News

Mainframe upgrade brings leaner, greener computing to campus

With a name like something out of Star Trek and sporting a prominent green stripe, the IBM z10, UGA’s newest mainframe computer, arrived on campus early last month.

Mainframes are powerful computers used in large organizations for critical business and data processing functions. At UGA, the mainframe supports human resources, financial and student applications, including OASIS. It is housed in the Boyd Data Center on the first floor of the Boyd Graduate Studies Research Center.

“This critical upgrade to our mainframe environment enables us to continue to provide an excellent computing resource for high-profile business services,” said Jeff Teasley, EITS director of operations and infrastructure.

The new mainframe upgrade, according to Teasley, is also significant with respect to another EITS project: the modernization of all databases residing on the mainframe. Some administrative applications still use a legacy technology known as IMS or Information Management System. The mainframe upgrade will assist in the continued conversion of this legacy technology to modern database and data access methodologies.

The new IBM mainframe also is “greener” because it processes an incredibly high number of transactions per kilowatt, making it one of the most energy efficient platforms in the world. Since the z10 supports UGA’s core administrative and student information systems, having an energy-efficient resource to support these critical applications demonstrates excellence in service and responsibility to the environment, according to Teasley.

This environmental responsibility is complimented by fiscal responsibility. Hundreds of applications run on the mainframe, and the software to run these applications can be very expensive.

“The z10 gives us even more opportunities to reduce costs,” said Shannon Marable, an information technology manager for EITS who oversaw much of the upgrade. “Since 2005, we have been able to reduce costs through sub-capacity pricing. We pay for actual use of the software based on processor time. The more efficient the processing, the more money we can save.”

In 2008, UGA received the SHARE Award for Excellence in Technology for focusing on cost savings without compromising customer service. SHARE, an organization of IT professionals who utilize enterprise-wide IBM technology, recognized the university for its efforts to improve performance and productivity, while reducing software costs and increasing customer satisfaction.

And now enhanced data storage, archival and recovery can be added the list.

“The upgrade provided for a complete refresh of the storage environment that holds UGA’s most important administrative and student data,” said Teasley. “Now, due to the newer technology and configuration of the equipment, critical full-data environment backups are accomplished on a nightly basis to an offsite storage frame instead of weekly via tape. Not only does this limit the potential for lost information, but it also dramatically improves the time it would take to recovery service functionality in the event of a Boyd Data Center disaster.”