With 17 percent year-on-year growth in transaction processing ahead, and with new harmonization initiatives on the horizon, CTIE sought to modernize its applications to enable greater flexibility.
CTIE became one of the first to implement IBM z13s servers and recently upgraded to IBM z14® servers. Both refreshes brought new increases in performance and efficiency.
25%boost in Java performance, through increase in zIIP capacity
Increasedflexibility through new application modernization capabilities
Rapidnon-disruptive implementation with zero downtime and headroom for growth
Business challenge story
Luxembourg is one of the world’s smallest sovereign states, with just 560,000 inhabitants, but also one of its richest, with per capita GDP of more than USD100,000 in 2015. In recent years, the country moved to align its banking secrecy laws with those prevalent elsewhere in the EU and to adopt Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) standards in a number of areas, including tax, justice and visas. This shift in policy sparked a number of major business transformation projects within the government and its shared IT services center: the Centre des Technologies de l'Information de l'Etat (CTIE).
Marc Theis, DP Manager at CTIE, comments: “Over the past decade, the environment we manage has been highly dynamic. To cope with new business requirements, the ministries have tasked us with several major projects, including complete rewrites of the core systems for justice, finance and other departments.”
The majority of critical government systems in Luxembourg—and especially those that rely on large databases—continue to run on the IBM z Systems® platform with IBM DB2®, IBM WebSphere® Application Server and IBM CICS®. Over the years, CTIE has continually developed its systems to take advantage of the latest technologies. For example, the early 2000s saw the introduction of J2EE to web-enable the existing CICS transaction processing systems. More recently, the organization has been building out a componentized architecture with IBM WebSphere software, enabling the rapid assembly of new capabilities from “building blocks” in a service-oriented architecture. In addition to powering fast, low-cost responses to emerging business requirements, this initiative enables the number of supported applications to rise without a corresponding increase in headcount.
Guy Scheck, IT Specialist at CTIE, says: “We run more than 70 major applications on the z Systems platform, including the state register of companies, the national identity register, tax collection and administration systems, and VAT refund operations. These services must be available 24/7 and with the highest levels of security, so z Systems remains the natural choice. Of course, scalability is another priority: the demand for services is always rising, and new government policies are driving increased emphasis on exchanging information electronically with other EU governments.”
With application growth estimated at more than 17 percent year on year, and major new cross-border harmonization initiatives on the horizon, CTIE needed to expand its existing transaction processing capabilities. Against a backdrop of budgetary pressure, the organization considered all options to find a solution that would meet its requirements in terms of availability, ease of maintenance, security and performance.
Available, scalable, manageable
CTIE decided to become an early adopter of the IBM z13s server when it was first released. The server provided unprecedented scale in terms of memory, I/O and processing power within a single frame footprint. Recently, CTIE upgraded to the next generation IBM z14 servers, unlocking even greater performance and efficiency.
“IBM Z is a strategic platform for CTIE and the government of Luxembourg, but we still needed to build a viable business case for the z13s,” says Marc Theis. “IBM proposed both an IBM Z Solution Edition for WebSphere and an Application Development Solution Edition, enabling us to make significant savings and giving us known software costs over four years. This helped us to justify the investment in the increased performance and scalability of the z13s.”
CTIE participated in IBM’s Early Support Program (ESP) for the IBM z13s hardware, and went live on the new platform very rapidly, replacing the older of two IBM Z platforms in its existing Geographically Dispersed Parallel Sysplex™ (GDPS®) cluster. Participating in the ESP enabled CTIE immediately to leverage new functions such as Shared Memory Communications Direct Memory Access (SMC-D) and simultaneous multi-threading (SMT). Similarly, the migration to the IBM z14 servers was completed smoothly and without disruption.
By deploying the IBM Z servers in an active/active cluster for continuous availability, CTIE can tolerate the failure of an entire data center without loss of data or interruption to processing. The two data centers, which are 40 kilometers apart, offer a combined 6,000 Central Processor (CP) MIPS and 8,500 IBM Z Integrated Information Processor (zIIP) MIPS.
Mike Schmitz, IT Analyst, comments: “As we rely mainly on web services for sharing data both between departments and with external organizations and governments, the Java-optimized processor in the z13s is a great help. Equally, we have expanded our CP capacity by 16 percent and our zIIP capacity by 41 percent by deploying the z13s. The combination of increased memory, cache enhancements and improved I/O bandwidth is helping us to support fast growth in transaction volumes.”
With features such as simultaneous multithreading (SMT) and improved CP Assist for Cryptographic Function (CPACF), the IBM z13s and IBM z14 servers each offered significant enhancements in throughput-per-core performance for security-enabled applications, while new Crypto Express encryption cards doubled the raw performance of the previous generation of crypto cards. In a country where online transactions for both enterprises and citizens are being encouraged, the ability to provide secure connections at high speed is a significant benefit. Additionally, CTIE uses IBM Public Key Infrastructure Services for z/OS® to create and manage trusted digital certificates for internal services helping to ensure data protection and privacy.
IBM Z provides an extremely dynamic platform for CTIE, with continuous development to numerous applications. More than 100 Java applications are hosted in a cloud-like environment, covering everything from universal taxation to departmental administration, and from farming subsidies to driving license applications. Although this application landscape is large and complex, the manageability of the IBM Z platform enables CTIE to offer reliable services without requiring large numbers of system administrators. Patrick Nosbaum, IT Specialist, says: “The tools on the IBM Z platform help us to provide efficient services. For example, we use the zAware capability of IBM Z Operations Analytics to monitor our z/OS logs and automatically flag abnormal behavior in our production environment, helping us to maintain high availability.”
Ready for the future
The deployment of the z13s at CTIE increased the organization’s zIIP capacity by 41 percent, delivering more than a 25 percent improvement in Java performance, with further gains expected from the activation of the new SMT feature. The upgrade to IBM z14 is anticipated to boost these benefits even further. Although response times were already very good for users, the performance gains are important because they put CTIE in a strong position to handle its fast-growing workload and the ongoing changes in the EU regulatory and tax frameworks.
Patrick Nosbaum comments: “Both online and batch performance have certainly improved, but the bigger benefit of the z13s is that it gives us the headroom to support upcoming growth in Java processing, which is very demanding on processing resources.”
“The z13s gave us assurance that we are ready for whatever the future is likely to bring,” says Marc Theis. “Our contract with IBM was for four years rather than two, which was a vote of confidence in how long we believe this new generation of server will be at the cutting edge. We feel the same way about the IBM z14 servers.”
Mike Schmitz adds: “One of the benefits of the Solution Edition is that we have full visibility of the costs of the hardware, software and support over the lifetime of the contract. Having predictable costs for our projected workload is a great advantage as we plan our ongoing modernization.”
As the government of Luxembourg continues along the road towards EU harmonization and full e-government, the importance of the IBM Z platform will only increase. As the focal point for all large databases and for an increasing number of web applications, the new IBM z14 servers will play a key role in providing more convenient services to citizens and businesses, at lower cost to the taxpayer.
Marc Theis concludes: “We continue to value the IBM Z platform for the high availability and the performance it offers. We run a huge number and variety of applications on IBM Z, including the single sign-on government portal that gives every citizen and enterprise access to e-services. If we can ensure that services are always up and running, those people can transact their business at their own convenience on the web. And that means high satisfaction and reduced costs for providing government services. Of course, moving to e-services means we can’t afford downtime or poor performance—and this is why we choose to run our most important applications and databases on the IBM Z platform.”
The Centre des Technologies de l'Information de l'Etat (CTIE) is the public body in Luxembourg responsible for commissioning and running centralized IT services for the state. Supporting a broad range of functions and web applications for civil servants, businesses and citizens, CTIE supports more than three billion transactions and 500 million web accesses each year.