When it comes to transformational initiatives, how do you persuade the company to make the type of massive investment such changes often require? Is it always strictly a dollars-and-cents conversation?
Dollars and cents are always a good place to start. However, the strategic implication of these decisions helps drive a scalable and flexible architecture for growth. By focusing on the above-mentioned principles, the IT organization's ability to address future strategies and business requirements is more a function of virtual capacity and technology evolution than of physical capacity. Massive investment is no longer required.
Let's talk about the move to Linux. What type of Linux did you move to?
It was Red Hat Linux that we adopted. When [I] came to IHOP, we were actually doing kind of a greenfield data center construction project. We were really trying to develop a model by which we could drive very low cost of ownership plus give us long-term flexibility in terms of hardware and software purchases and to keep things as commoditized on the back end as possible. And a bunch of the guys we brought in, some of whom we had worked with in the past, had a good depth of understanding of the Linux environment.
This was about the time in 2003 when I think there was a lot of very positive press coming out in regard to the Linux environment. In addition to the data center construction initiative, we were looking into ERP [enterprise resource planning] vendors to fill a number of gaps in our application infrastructure, and we were working with Oracle at the time in addition to evaluating a couple other players.
As part of the value proposition, Oracle invited us to visit their on-demand data center in Austin, Texas. And when we traveled there, I thought it was very interesting when we looked out over ... this floor of Dell servers all running Linux. I think it became very evident to all of us at IHOP that Oracle looked like they were embracing this strategy.
It was really pretty funny because over in the corner was this one lone Sun E10K box that looked like it had been moved to the side just to continue to provide some level of support for one of the on-demand customers, who insisted on Sun Solaris. But the rest of the data center was all Linux-based, and that for us kind of sealed the deal.
I read that you experienced a 20 percent savings by moving from Unix to Linux.
I think [what you're referring to] was a comparison to the Red Linux support contract we were paying for, versus the Oracle Unbreakable Linux support that we ended up switching to about eight or nine months ago. So, the overall cost of ownership--Linux versus a traditional Unix-based solution--I don't think we've put pen to paper on that, although we have anecdotally looked at the cost of other data center construction projects that we had done in the past, and we believe that for this particular data center, for equivalent processing capacity, we probably ended up spending one-fifth of the cost of a traditional build-out of an equivalent Sun Solaris environment, and this was in 2003 dollars.