November 29, 2004

Trucker Eyes Lower IT Costs

LISTED transport company Mainfreight expects to slice $500,000 a year off its IT costs by embracing the commodity economics of Microsoft and Intel.

Chief information officer Kevin Drinkwater says Mainfreight has ditched its Sun Solaris servers and Informix database and ported its core Maintrack freight management system to a dozen IBM blade servers running Microsoft's SQL Server database.

Mr Drinkwater says combining Sun hardware and Informix had become "an expensive package".

The transition cost more than $1 million and necessitated a "big redevelopment" of Maintrack, which was handled by long-standing Auckland contractor Sandfield Associates. "We had to go through and check everything."

Maintrack is used by 1000 staff.

The new IT infrastructure is now live and the migration is expected to pay for itself within two years simply through lower hardware and licensing costs, says Mr Drinkwater.

Mainfreight has retired its SunFire, E4500 and E4000 servers and bought a Fast T700 Storage Area Network (SAN) from IBM to store data used by Maintrack. The SAN comprises 70 hard disks each with a capacity of 140 gigabytes.

Mr Drinkwater says Mainfreight considered open source software, but only briefly.

"We wanted to go with something proven and widely used. All our production applications are now Microsoft-centric, all running on SQL Server. It's a big shift from being a Pick house five years ago."

The Pick operating system was a direct rival to Unix in the 1980s but lost traction during the decade that followed.