Getting Down To The Core

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OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla.-Look for smaller credit unions to move to faster, cheaper core processing now that Tinker Federal Credit Union here and Symitar have proven an $18,000 server does the job just as well as a $1-million standard option.

Steve Mooney, TFCU's VP of information-systems operations, now responds with a resounding "yes" every time his CU asks him to add new application software to improve member experience.

"A year ago it was a real concern to me that adding applications would tax my architecture," Mooney related. "Today, the sky's the limit."

Getting there was tricky, initially because IBM balked when Tinker began upgrading in 2007 to the less expensive JS43 BladeCenter server instead of the pricey Power 575 server, Mooney said. "Their marketing people made a fuss over lost revenue." Since the time Tinker began migrating to small-footprint blade servers, IBM has taken the Power off the market.

The $2.4-billion Tinker has been running Symitar's Episys on blade servers at its headquarters and recovery site for four months, Mooney said. Episys is the company's most powerful, customizable core, which has traditionally made sense only for larger credit unions. Symitar now gives all in-house CUs the option to run Episys on IBM BladeCenter JS43 and JS23.

Symitar credit unions evidently have taken to the benefits of blade architecture. "BladeCenter, now in its fifth month of availability from Symitar, has had the fastest adoption rate of any new core hardware technology offering in the past four years," said Scott Sipe, director, network and hardware services, Symitar.

"With the smaller profile blade, even a small CU can run Episys," suggested Mooney. The blade server cuts $47,000 per year from Tinker's energy and maintenance costs, and cuts down on server-room sprawl, he added.

Blade servers are "significantly" less expensive than standalone servers," said Sipe. "Even assuming the cost of the chassis infrastructure, we have seen credit unions recognize at least 20% improvement in TCO."

CUs running on the Symitar Cruise core solution will probably forego BladeCenter, said Symitar Marketing Manager John San Filippo. "Due to cost of BladeCenter versus the typically smaller size of Cruise credit unions, this probably wouldn't be the best fit."

Credit unions can add software applications and servers to blade products without the major changes required from stand-alone servers, said Sipe. Those changes can include redesigning the network; redesigning or reassigning network IP; adding Ethernet switches; and modifying Access Control Lists.

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