Windows Nets 24 Percent Lower TCO over Linux for IBM Mainframe ...

flashyfarctateInternet and Web Development

Jul 30, 2012 (6 years and 8 months ago)


Microsoft Windows Server System

Customer Solution Case Study

Windows Nets 24 Percent Lower TCO over
Linux/IBM, With 14 Percent Greater



or Region

United States



Customer Profile

Atlanta, Georgia

based CheckFree is a
leader in financial electronic commerce,
including electronic billing and payment,
financial services software, and outsourced

investment services.

Business Situation

The company sought to develop new
financial services industry platforms that
would lower TCO and cost per transaction
without sacrificing performance, quality



After a comprehensive stud
y, CheckFree


over the IBM
supported Linux solution (Red Hat OS/IBM


24 percent lower TCO

14 percent faster transaction


Excellent reliability and avai

Faster time

Solid security and security ma

“The Microsoft solution was 24 percent better than
the IBM/Linux solution in terms of total cost of

Randy McCoy, Chief Technology Officer, CheckFree Corporation

CheckFree is known for its
quality electronic commerce
infrastructures used by financial institutions. The company seeks to
deliver innovation and quality while lowering TCO for customers. In
one of its core businesses, CheckFree uses IBM zSeries mainframe
computers, but it sou
ght to lower cost per transaction without
sacrificing performance or availability. It conducted a study of two
solution stacks: one using the Red Hat Linux 9.0 operating system,
IBM DB2 Universal Database, and IBM WebSphere; and the other
using Microsoft

Windows Server

2003, Microsoft SQL Server

2000, and the Microsoft .NET Framework. The result: CheckFree
chose the Microsoft solution for one of its next
platforms, finding that it delivered 14 percent faster performance
and an anticipated 24 p
ercent lower TCO while delivering levels of
system reliability that are the hallmark of its business.


CheckFree Corporation is a leading provider
of financial electronic commerce products
and services. CheckFree is probably b
known for its Electronic Commerce solutions
that enable thousands of financial services
providers and billers
to offer millions of
the convenience of receiving and
paying their household bills online or in
person through retail outlets. The i
end, electronic billing and payment
platform is deployed on IBM z
mainframes and represents the world’s third
largest IBM DB2 implementation.

As a technology leader that strives to define
and deliver the highest standards, Che
continually seeks to enhance innovation and
operational efficiency for the financial
services industry. At the same time,
CheckFree seeks to lo
wer TCO for its
customer base.
While maintaining an ongoing
Six Sigma quality and performance
program on the z
Series based
infrastructure, CheckFree began a TCO
project to stringently test the technologies
upon which its next
generation platforms
might be based. Initially, CheckFree began to
look for an Intel
based hardware platform
that would res
ult in lower costs for
operations, maintenance, and support. The
company also wanted to find a software stack
that could decrease cost without sacrificing

that is, a system that could
deliver service levels of 1,000 transactions
per second, the

amount necessary to handle
the traffic produced by 5,500 concurrent
users during peak hours. The company was
also running approximately 10,000 batch
jobs per day with steep peaks in batch traffic


Based upon size and number of
transactions per second, according to
Corporation, experts in database scalability.
For more information, see

on the mainframe during the busiest times of
each month. Ch
eckFree wanted to identify a
technology solution that would meet its high
volume and stringent quality demands with
processing power to spare.

Considering the Possibilities

The CheckFree Applied Research and
Technology (ART) Center of Excellence is a
porate resource that conducts technology
research and testing for the company’s
corporate IT function and supports its three
divisions. Headed by CheckFree Chief
Technology Officer, Randy McCoy, the group
is both a center of software development and
ering excellence. The ART group stays
abreast of new technologies and vendors,
large and small, conducts quality testing on
the company’s own software, and evaluates
vendors that are being considered for
becoming a part of the company’s complex
rked infrastructures.

The company’s initial interest for the TCO
study was in Linux/Apache/MySQL/Java
targeted at information
only (non
transactional) queries. “While we planned to
conduct an unbiased exercise, we were
admittedly intrigued by the concept

of zero
software acquisition costs,” says David
Odom, Senior Vice President of CheckFree
ART. “We initially rejected high
end UNIX
stacks such as Sun Solaris/WebLogic/Oracle,
and Linux/WebSphere/UDB, as too
expensive, and we initially rejected the


.NET Framework, assuming it was
too immature.”

CheckFree has a data
driven culture and
therefore decided to use its ART Center of
Excellence to perform an objective and
exhaustive comparison of solution stacks
before deciding which platforms to consi
for future processing environments.

After testing the Linux based configuration
and developing some monitoring and

management tools, CheckFree saw how
much work it would take to knit together the
various components and stay current with all
of the li
censes, upgrades, and updates. “We
would have needed a cadre of in
experts to constantly adjust the open
system,” says Odom.

CheckFree also discovered that the licensing
of MySQL with production
level support was
not as low cost as anticipa
ted and that
support tools were not up to the level of
commercial databases. Benchmark tests
revealed that the Linux stack performed
poorly when compared to the .NET
Framework. “The differences in initial
performance results were stark between the
rce and Microsoft numbers. After
combining the performance results with what
it would take to turn the open
source stack
into a comprehensive solution suitable to our
purposes, we decided not to pursue an all
source solution any further,” says

The company was concerned about the
external ramifications of its eventual decision
as well. “Our customers are financial
institutions; they want us to use stable, well
received, fully supported software,” says
Odom. “We determined that the complexity,
riety, and lack of end
end vendor
support of an all open
source solution
created more risk than we were willing to
take on. And the internal resources required
to manage open source could actually offset
other TCO gains.”

Narrowing the Field


opted to move ahead with a
comprehensive vendor supported J2EE
platform; Linux, DB2 UDB, WebSphere, and
Java. CheckFree also decided to reconsider
the .NET Framework because a parallel
shadow effort on the Microsoft.NET
based stack with

2000 had produced eye
results. “The Microsoft solution performed so
much better than the open source stack that
it was hard to ignore,” says Odom. “Given this
new data, we felt we would be negligent if we
proceeded with the TCO study

considering Microsoft.”

CheckFree was further convinced to include
Microsoft in the next phase of its TCO study
after speaking with credible references from
similar enterprise organizations that were
successfully developing and running critical
applications with the Microsoft .NET
Framework and SQL Server.

Establishing Criteria

With its two finalists selected for the TCO
study, CheckFree instituted some guiding
principles to aid in the clear evaluation of the
two solutions. The company elected t
o weight
its constraints in favor of quality, low risk, and
proven suppliers, while still looking for
competitive performance and overall cost.

In order to reduce integration risks, simplify
support, and improve vendor leverage,
CheckFree wanted a soluti
on that, wherever
possible, included interoperable products
supported by a single vendor. “When we have
a problem, I want to be able to make one call
and not have to endure a multi
vendor finger
pointing exercise,” says Odom.

Examining the risk of vendor
CheckFree took into account application
portability on each stack. The company
concluded that vendor lock
in protection was
more practically insured by competition than
by portability, both in terms of price and

In addition to its dec
ision to use Intel
hardware, CheckFree sought a solution that
used a service
oriented architecture, which is
a growing requirement across the financial
services industry. CheckFree also wanted to
take advantage of web services, the standard
“The T
CO study tests
ultimately resulted in a
difference of 14 percent
better performance in
terms of transaction
rates, in favor of the SQL
based Microsoft
solution over J2EE with
DB2 and WebSphere.”

David Odom, Senior Vice President of the
CheckFree App
lied Research and Technology
Center for Excellence, CheckFree Corporation

tion of application interfaces for a
oriented architecture. The company
considered web services
support and
performance to be fundamental selection
criteria for its new solution stack.

Evaluating the Microsoft Solution Stack

To get a thorough ass
essment of its two
finalists, CheckFree spent time at the
Microsoft SQL Server Customer Lab in
Redmond, Washington and at IBM’s Silicon
Valley Lab. What began as a 60
day trial of
the two platforms in June 2003 continued
through the rest of the year.

rosoft Services dedicated the equivalent
of one full
time consultant to make sure that
CheckFree received consistent day
support. Together with various subject matter
experts from within Microsoft, Microsoft
Services helped CheckFree tune the
mance of the benchmark application.

After initial testing at CheckFree, members of
the CheckFree evaluation team traveled to
Microsoft’s headquarters in Redmond.
Microsoft Services consultants worked with
the Microsoft SQL Server team to benchmark
the com
pany’s proof
concept metrics in the
SQL Server Customer Lab.

While in Redmond, CheckFree interviewed
individual development teams responsible for
key functions in SQL Server, and Microsoft
hosted sessions regarding strategy, support,
scalability, and v
ision. The Microsoft SQL
Server team of experts also held a question
answer session to address configuration
and architecture issues at CheckFree.

At the SQL Server Customer Lab, the
Microsoft solution stack reached numbers
that were greater than 3,5
00 requests per
second. “We definitely saw performance
potential in the SQL Server scalability lab that
we didn’t see with the SQL Server 2000 tests
that we ran in our internal lab,” says Marc
Castel, Consulting Software Engineer for
CheckFree Applied Rese
arch and Technology
Center for Excellence. “It was great to see the
performance system the Microsoft team
put together. While we could not use the
Microsoft performance lab results in our head
to head comparison, we saw the performance
potential for f
uture production

Evaluating the IBM/Linux Solution Stack

Just as Microsoft helped CheckFree test the
Microsoft solution stack, IBM also worked
with CheckFree to assess the performance of
the IBM/Linux stack. CheckFree wrote XML
web services

applications in both Java and
C# for the different platforms. The company
gave IBM all of its .NET Framework

code and SQL Server 2000 schema so that
IBM could use it to match the performance of
the Microsoft solution. “We were completely
open, shari
ng our code so that the IBM
developers could translate it to Java and
compete to the best of their ability,” says
Castel. “We also gave them the Java code
we’d already written for our initial tests of the
open source stack.”

IBM spent five weeks optimizin
g its solution
stack at the CheckFree lab. The effort
demonstrated that getting an IBM/Linux
solution up and running required a great deal
more time and effort than implementing one
from Microsoft. “Despite a productive effort
from an excellent IBM staff,
we got the
impression that it took a complex
combination of skills to stabilize and maintain
the IBM/Linux system,” says Odom. “During
the testing, there were three experts working
on the IBM/Linux stack

one for Linux, one
for DB2, and one for WebSphere Ap
Server. The Microsoft solution was handled
by two half
time people who were able to
address all aspects of the stack, such as
coding techniques, management techniques,
and the operating system. We figured that
this alone was an indication of lowe
r TCO in
“Part of the reason we
selected the Microsoft
solution is its unified
stack. The stack that
used Linux and IBM
technologies had lots of
pieces and parts, which
equates to time an
money in terms of
integration and

Randy McCoy, Chief Technology Officer,
CheckFree Corporation

terms of resources required for integration
and maintenance.”


After considering all elements of its testing,
the CheckFree ART Center of Excellence
decided on the Microsoft
based solution
made up of the Windows Server 2003
operating sy
stem, SQL Server 2000, and the
Microsoft .NET Framework.

Implementing the Microsoft Platform at
CheckFree Investment Services (CIS)

The first opportunity to use the new platform
was within the CheckFree Investment
Services (CIS) division. The CIS division

currently developing CheckFree EPL the
company’s next
generation system for the
Separately Managed Accounts (SMA) and the
investment management industry.

CheckFree Investment Services (CIS) is the
leader in the SMA industry, which is expected
to be on
e of the most rapidly growing spaces
in the financial industry in the next decade.
Today, nearly 1.8 million portfolios, totaling
more than U.S.$1 trillion in assets at
hundreds of companies, are managed with
the CheckFree SMA system.

The goal of CheckFre
e EPL is to lower CIS
clients’ overall operating costs by 50 percent
for the company’s SMA customers. “We have
an aggressive business goal for CheckFree
EPL, and we look to technology to help us
reach it,” says Cheryl Nash, Vice President of
Strategic Mark
eting and Business
Development for CheckFree Investment
Services. In order to gain competitive agility,
CIS needed to determine the technology upon
which this growing segment of the market
would be based and establish an aggressive
timetable for its delive

CheckFree Investment Services was leaning
strongly toward implementing a Java
solution for CheckFree EPL. Upon reviewing
the findings of the ART Center of Excellence,
however, the decision was made to switch to
a solution based on SQL Server 20
00 and the
.NET Framework and to work with a Microsoft
development partner to bring the solution to
market to meet the demands of the rapidly
growing SMA marketplace. “We were platform
neutral,” says Nash. “We wanted to use
whatever solution was the best f
or meeting
our business goals. For us, Microsoft simply
was the best solution.”

The Microsoft platform will help lower TCO for
CheckFree and its customers because the
interoperability inherent in the solution will
result in a lower cost of integrations. “
customers have a variety of platforms, and
we need a solution that can interoperate with
all platforms, as well as speed development
to get to market more quickly,” says Nash.
“The Microsoft platform will be the IT
strategic asset to help us meet our b
goal of lowering our customers’ TCO by 50


The CheckFree ART Center for Excellence TCO
study results demonstrated to the company
that a Microsoft solution stack would provide
the cost savings, performance, and reliability
that it

wanted to reach its long
term business


Percent Lower TCO

The evaluation revealed that for the
company’s anticipated needs, the Microsoft
solution cost less per server than the
IBM/Linux solution. “Lower per
server costs
combined with higher per
formance per server
amplified the overall advantage of the
Microsoft stack, based on CheckFree
requirements for its different processing
environments,” says McCoy. “After
conducting a comprehensive six
evaluation, we found that the Microsoft

was 24 percent better than the
“We were platform
neutral. We wanted to
use whatever solution
was the best for meeting
our business goals. For
us, Microsoft simply was
the best solution.”

Cheryl Nash, Vice President of Stra
Marketing and Business Development,
CheckFree Investment Services

IBM/Linux solution in terms of total cost of

Superior Performance with 14 Percent
Faster Transaction Rates

Throughput levels achieved in the
performance testing of the Microsoft stack
were consistently and sig
nificantly greater
than those generated using the IBM/Linux

“The TCO study tests ultimately resulted in a
difference of 14 percent better performance
in terms of transaction rates in favor of the
SQL Server
based Microsoft solution over
J2EE with D
B2 and WebSphere,” says Odom.
CheckFree conducted the comparison using
the same layers of hardware for both
potential solution stacks.

For a company that serves the financial
services industry, reliability, security and swift
recovery in the event of a d
isaster also are
crucial. In simple failure recovery tests on the
same configurations used for performance
testing, the Microsoft solution recovered far
better than the J2EE stack. “While we expect
that the recovery performance of the J2EE
stack could be s
ignificantly improved, the
tests we ran again indicated that the J2EE
stack was more difficult to configure and
more sensitive to change,” says Odom.

Excellent System Reliability and

Although it goes without saying that any
solution needs to

be reliable, CheckFree has
found the Microsoft solution to be
dependable and available to meet its large
scale transaction processing. “With so much
data to handle, we needed a reliable, resilient
solution that will help us meet our own
business goals and

the goals of our
customers,” says Odom. “The SQL Server
based Microsoft solution will do just that.
Having that level of mission
critical reliability
is a given for our business

without it, the
project never would have gotten off the

CheckFree i
s looking forward to a system that
will require low maintenance because the
system itself is less complex than its previous
environment. The solution will require less
maintenance time from the IT department for
troubleshooting, fixing drivers, applying
tches, updating software, and resolving
compatibility issues. Additionally, the
Microsoft solution provides the resilience to
maintain service in the face of internal or
external disruptions. If a disruption is too
great and affects the environment, the
crosoft solution is designed to be quickly
and easily restored.

Flexibility and Interoperability for

For CheckFree Investment Services, building
the EPL solution using the .NET Framework
fostered flexibility, which is important when
trying to me
et the needs of more than 300
customer organizations. “As we write
requirements for the EPL solution, we look at
ways to help streamline client processes to
drive down costs,” says Nash. “At the same
time, we need to help clients be ready for an
market. Software development
using the .NET Framework gives us the right
technology to help our clients stay flexible
and scalable to conserve resources while
maintaining the capacity for exponential

CheckFree credits Microsoft Web services

playing a significant role in the
company’s ability to offer the flexibility and
interoperability that customers need. “Web
services are a huge piece of the cost
puzzle because they can make for faster,
time transactions, which will help
omers move away from a model that
relies on overnight processing,” says Nash.
“Additionally, they save us integration time,
so we can develop and deploy modules for
“We take security
seriously, and we
needed a solution from
a company that takes it
seriously, too. We have
full confidence in the
security of the Microsoft

Randy McCoy, Chief Technolo
gy Officer,
CheckFree Corporation

specific customers more quickly, and less
time for integration reduces TCO.”

Solid Securit
y and Security

As a player in the financial services industry,
CheckFree has a vested interest in
maintaining a protected network. “We take
security seriously, and we needed a solution
from a company that takes it seriously, too,”
says McCoy. “
We have full confidence in the
security of the Microsoft platform.”

CheckFree has completed substantial
research on the best way to manage the
security of the new solution. Based on
research outside of the TCO study, the
company plans to use a range of to
including Microsoft Systems Management
Server, for the entire management spectrum
of the network. “For CheckFree, security is a
holistic practice, from our network to our
data,” says Odom. “Prescribed maintenance
and management of the Microsoft soluti
fits well into our comprehensive security

Increased Developer Productivity for
Faster Time

The TCO study led the Applied Research and
Technology group to believe that software
developers would be able to bring
applications to market m
ore quickly using the
Microsoft .NET Framework and SQL Server
than with J2EE and DB2. It took five
engineers a period of five months to develop
the test application using J2EE and DB2,
while it took two people just three weeks to
complete the same applicat
ion using the
.NET Framework and SQL Server. With the
aggressive timetable planned for CheckFree
EPL and the complexity of its scope as a
platform, this time savings got the group’s

CheckFree software engineers, who had
extensive experience wi
th Java and C#
development, were brought in to give their
impression of the .NET Framework. The
consensus was that development of browser
based user interfaces, distributed
applications, Web services standards, data
access processes, instrumentation, loggi
and operations management and deployment
was much easier with the .NET Framework.
The transition from Java to .NET Framework
development was similarly easy. “Reception
of the .NET environment among our most
experienced software engineers has been
rsally positive,” says Odom.

In fact, a small group within CheckFree
(separate from the TCO study) recently used
the .NET Framework to build an application
for one of its large customers. “Our
developers had to build it on a very short
timeline, and they

indicated that they could
not have gotten the product to market on
time had they not made the decision to build
the application in .NET,” says Odom.

“IBM closed the performance gap
significantly over the course of the project
and IBM tools are steadily i
mproving,” adds
Odom. “However, .NET provided a complete
package that won the evaluation and
demonstrated a roadmap to continuing

Term Stability for Confident Long
Range Decisions

One of the intangible factors that CheckFree
during its decision
process was the long
term vision of both
Microsoft and IBM and their continued ability
to execute on that architectural vision. “In
many respects, Microsoft has an advantage
with Windows and the .NET Framework in
that it can unil
aterally set the direction of its
architecture and the timing of its delivery,”
says Odom. “IBM is somewhat constrained in
direction and timing by the Linux community
and by Linux support vendors such as Red
Hat. Also, IBM does not have proprietary
to the J2EE specification and therefore
“In the final analysis of
test results against our
initial requirements,
Microsoft’s three
year vision was simply

Randy McCoy, Chief Technology Officer,
CheckFree Corporation

is somewhat constrained in its ability to set
direction and execute to its timetable.”

In reviewing test results and the assessment
of the ART Center of Excellence, McCoy says,
“In the final analysis of test result
s against
our initial requirements, Microsoft’s three
year vision was simply better. IBM is
somewhat vulnerable in that it doesn’t own
the operating system. Part of the reason we
selected the Microsoft solution is its unified
stack. The stack that
used Linux and IBM
technologies had lots of pieces and parts,
which equates to time and money in terms of
integration and maintenance.” In making
decisions on long
term platform
development, time
market and potential
TCO for CheckFree and its customers,

we had
to take all of these factors into

CheckFree plans to put this long
range vision
to the test. After CheckFree EPL is
successfully brought to market, the
company’s goal is to examine opportunities to
introduce .NET to other aspects
of its
operations to enhance TCO.

Concludes McCoy, “I anticipate that our TCO
study results will generate momentum within
CheckFree to switch to more Microsoft
technology because of the proven
performance results and high quality


Windows Server System

Microsoft Windows Server System integrated
server infrastructure software is designed to
support end
end solutions built on the
Windows Server operating system. Windows
Server System creates an infrastructure
based on integrated i
nnovation, Microsoft's
holistic approach to building products and
solutions that are intrinsically designed to
work together and interact seamlessly with
other data and applications across your IT
environment. This helps you reduce the costs
of ongoing ope
rations, deliver a more secure
and reliable IT infrastructure, and drive
valuable new capabilities for the future
growth of your business.

For more information about Windows Server
System, go to:

For More


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© 2005 Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved. This case
study is for informational purposes only. MICROSOFT MAKES NO
Microsoft, Windows, the Windows logo, Windows
Server, and
Windows Server System are either registered trademarks or
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respective owners.

Document published
March 2005

Software and Services

Microsoft Windows Server System

Microsoft Windows Server 2003
Enterprise Edition

Microsoft SQL Server 2000



Microsoft .NET Framework



IBM eServer zSeries 900 mainfr