Huntington Bancshares moves to AIX for scalability

Also plans to roll out Linux servers for online banking services

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- With 300 Lotus Notes servers running on OS/2 in more than 300 branch offices, Huntington Bancshares Inc. was facing some availability and scalability issues. So last fall, it consolidated those systems onto four IBM AIX servers in its data center.

The migration to Unix allowed the regional bank holding company to plug the branches into its storage-area network (SAN), which gave Huntington better systems availability and a disaster recovery capability for its remote offices. Over the next year, an additional 300 NT servers running more than 200 applications will be consolidated onto larger servers.

"What I'd love to see is those 300 servers consolidated into 50. But what's realistic? Is it cost-prohibitive for us? Until you dive into each application you're running, you don't know," said Mark Almendinger, Huntington's vice president of enterprise infrastructure.

"The NT environment just doesn't scale that well," Almendinger said. "Yes, the [Unix] hardware will cost you more, but if you can go from more than 500 NT servers at a couple thousand bucks apiece and put that same solution on an AIX server that can scale and give higher performance and better manageability, it's worth it."

Huntington currently has 120 servers running Sun Microsystems Inc.'s Solaris and 50 servers running AIX.

"We have no preconceived notion about how many servers we want to get down to," said Rod Carney, Huntington's assistant vice president of enterprise infrastructure.

Huntington CIO Joe Gottron said the bank needs the higher availability of a clustered Unix environment to support its growing online banking business. Last year at this time, Huntington had 54,000 active online banking users. That number has grown to 130,000.

Gottron credits much of that growth to Huntington's move to provide expanded banking services and real-time views of transactions.

As part of the infrastructure to enable an aggregated view of all transactions, Huntington may also roll out two high-end AIX servers to support middleware that knits together customer account information for real-time online services. The service, being provided in-house by e-Banc Inc., MaxiFI, a systems provider created by a collaboration among Huntington, Hewlett-Packard Co. (started by Compaq Computer Corp.), Corillian Corp. and Science Applications International Corp.

Columbus, Ohio-based e-Banc's middleware currently runs on Sun Solaris, Windows NT and Linux servers, and it integrates back-end databases supporting ATMs, teller systems and Web banking.

Carney said he believes the AIX-based system, which is currently in testing, will give Huntington better performance at a lower price. He hopes to have it live by the end of the year, using BEA WebLogic to create the customer-facing end.

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