Business challenge

As requirements for transaction processing and availability grew, three Icelandic companies shared a need to upgrade their IBM Z® servers. How could they maximize the benefits while minimizing costs?


RB deployed two IBM z13s servers in an active-active cluster in two data centers. Logical partitions securely isolate workload for Advania and Valitor, which can choose to utilize clustering as needed.



capacity and performance for mission-critical workloads


availability and recoverability in the event of a disaster


software licensing fees, hardware and data-center costs

Business challenge story

Share and share alike

Jointly owned by several Icelandic banks, Reiknistofa Bankanna (RB) provides core banking systems on an outsourced basis to financial institutions. RB’s role is to increase efficiency by offering shared banking solutions that provide economies of scale to its clients. RB runs two modern data centers featuring redundant data connections, diesel generators for uninterrupted power, and 24/7/365 monitoring.

With the number of transactions rising, RB received approval from its clients to invest in increasing the capacity and performance of its IBM Z mainframes, which were a couple of generations behind the state of the art. By upgrading its servers, RB would also remain on the standard support path, providing the assurance of warrantied support from IBM.

At the same time, two other Icelandic enterprises using IBM Z were making similar plans to increase their IT capacity and modernize their infrastructure. Advania and Valitor, an IT service provider and a payment solutions company respectively, both wanted to remain on the mainframe, but had both relatively small requirements and low budgets. For Advania in particular, even the smallest new Z server would have provided far more capacity than required for its workload. Advania was also interested in running a second mainframe for high availability, but this was even further beyond its desired budget. In Valitor’s case, larger workloads meant that a single new IBM Z server would be economically viable, but it too wanted a second site in active-active mode.

Guðfinnur Guðnason, Project Manager at Reiknistofa Bankanna, comments: “We had talked on and off for a number of years about a possible joint consolidation project with Advania and Valitor. We finally sat down in a meeting room and asked, ‘Is our current approach the best use of our resources?’ Valitor was already using one of our two mainframes as a disaster-recovery option, so the idea of sharing a mainframe environment was nothing new. When we looked at the figures, we realized that we could configure two new servers to meet all of our needs, with Advania and Valitor paying their share of the costs.”

The maturity of LPAR technology on IBM Z gave us complete confidence that we could run our three environments in absolute isolation.

Guðfinnur Guðnason, Project Manager, Reiknistofa Bankanna

Transformation story

Three into one will go

RB initially considered an approach from a third-party service provider, which proposed to own the two new mainframes, and provide capacity to RB, Advania and Valitor on an infrastructure-as-a-service basis. However, the third-party’s need for profit made the deal financially untenable, so RB decided to create a business case predicated on buying the machines itself and having Advania and Valitor share the cost.

“The maturity of LPAR technology on IBM Z gave us complete confidence that we could run our three environments in absolute isolation, with no measurable additional risks around security or stability compared with running on separate physical machines,” comments Guðfinnur Guðnason. “RB did not propose to act as a service provider – rather, the approach was simply to split the purchase cost and monthly MSU costs according to our capacity requirements. Under this arrangement, each partner would be responsible for managing its own LPARs.”

RB worked with IBM Denmark to deploy two IBM z13s servers, each with three standard CP engines, one Integrated Facility for Linux (IFL) engine, and one zIIP (System z® Integrated Information Processor) engine offering lower fees for qualifying Java and IBM Db2® workloads. The new servers are housed in separate data centers and configured with IBM Geographically Dispersed Parallel Sysplex™ (GDPS®) technology to enable RB’s workloads to run in active-active clusters for ultra-high availability.

Data storage is provided by RB’s two existing IBM DS8870 solutions, which the organization upgraded for greater capacity. RB’s workloads are synchronously replicated using IBM Peer-to-Peer Remote Copy (PPRC), while data in the LPARs used by Advania and Valitor is replicated using IBM Metro Mirror. RB replaced its old physical tape libraries with two IBM TS7760 virtual tape libraries offering significant improvements in performance for the backup and recovery of data.

The disk and virtual tape data are safely isolated, so that the data of one company is invisible to the other companies, just as the mainframe LPARs are safely isolated.

“We followed our standard approach for upgrades, temporarily moving all workload to one machine in the GDPS cluster, then replacing the remaining machine with the new server,” says Guðfinnur Guðnason. “We then reinstated the cluster between the new z13s and the older server, and ran for one month to confirm that all was working as expected. Finally, we failed over to the new machine, and replaced the remaining old server with the second z13s.”

Once the z13s servers were in place, Advania and Valitor migrated their workloads to private LPARs – one on each of the new servers – while RB migrated its workload to run in the GDPS cluster that spans both servers. Each of the z13s servers can take over the full workload of the other in the unlikely event of a failure at one site, giving all three businesses additional protection.

“Our experience working with IBM on this upgrade project was very good as always,” says Guðfinnur Guðnason. “IBM Systems Lab Services helped with planning and executing the migrations, offering highly professional support.”

IBM bundled the new Integrated Facility for Linux (IFL) processors free-of-charge for three years with the new z13s servers, and has offered free training from IBM Lab Services to introduce the Icelandic companies to Linux on Z as a potential means of consolidating x86 workloads to the mainframe.

“While we don’t have concrete plans right now, we do plan to complete a workshop about Linux on Z when we have more time,” says Guðfinnur Guðnason. “One potential area of interest would be around consolidating Oracle database licenses for reduced costs.”

The new z13s servers give all three partners the transactional performance and capacity we need for the foreseeable future, backed by the quality of services that we have come to expect from IBM Z.

Guðfinnur Guðnason, Project Manager, Reiknistofa Bankanna

Results story

Lower costs, higher resilience

Since deploying the IBM z13s servers and upgrading their storage infrastructure, RB, Advania and Valitor have each significantly reduced their total cost of ownership, while acquiring a solution with greater availability and disaster recovery options than would otherwise have been economically viable.

Combining workloads has not only enabled the three partners to cut the number of data centers they use from four to two, it also allows them to take advantage of a lower Monthly License Charge (MLC). “The consolidated workload pushes us over a volume threshold, so the environment qualifies for lower transactional fees,” comments Guðfinnur Guðnason. “Individually, our workloads would not have qualified for this level of savings, so this is another advantage of joining forces.”

In the case of RB, the use of GDPS means that workload is balanced across an active-active cluster, such that the loss of one site would cause essentially no disruption. For Advania and Valitor, a complete failure at one site would require a recovery process to be triggered, but the use of IBM Metro Mirror to maintain a synchronous copy of data at the second site would ensure no loss of transactions. Currently, this approach gives Advania and Valitor the availability and disaster-recovery capabilities they need; should their requirements increase, they can participate in the GDPS solution.

“It almost goes without saying that IBM Z offers the highest levels of reliability and availability,” says Guðfinnur Guðnason. “In active-active configuration across two sites, you could almost blow up a site and no-one would notice. In our opinion, you can’t easily achieve that degree of robustness with any other platform, so we have been very satisfied for many years with Z from this perspective.”

He concludes: “The new z13s servers give all three partners the transactional performance and capacity we need for the foreseeable future, backed by the quality of services that we have come to expect from IBM Z.”

Reiknistofa Bankanna logo

Reiknistofa Bankanna

Reiknistofa Bankanna (RB) is an IT service provider for Icelandic financial institutions. Based in Reykjavík, RB offers a number of multi-tenant core banking solutions, used by many of Iceland’s major banks and payment card processors, as well as e-invoicing and e-payment services.

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