How 1 Calif. CU Has Put Out Delayed Transaction Fires

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It's out with the old servers and computers, and in with new efficiencies at San Francisco Fire CU (SFFCU).

The result has been a drop in the number of delayed electronic transactions, according to Darren Herrmann, vice president of Information Systems.

A switch to an IBM UNIX pSeries box in July cut the number of delayed transactions at SFFCU to about 430 per month, or .44 %, Herrmann said. The $360-million CU currently processes an average of 150,000 ATM and debit card transactions per month.

"We will continue to strive to reduce the number of delayed transactions to zero," Herrmann added.

In 2002, 2.05% of San Francisco Fire's 123,000 average monthly ATM and debit card transactions were delayed due to host system outages.

Though SFFCU has a manual redundant server for emergency electronic transactions processing, "we don't see the value in the expense of automating that," said Herrmann.

SFFCU is already surprised by the current reduction in delayed transactions. "Our goal for the year was .6% delayed transactions," Herrmann explained.

Further reductions could be realized with "proactive monitoring and maintenance," he continued-also made possible by infrastructure upgrades.

IBM will be the standard across the CU's 80 desktops in the next couple years, Herrmann said. "The IBM desktops and laptops will deliver proactive alerts. For example, if there's a disk drive with a lot of read-errors indicating a possible failure, then IS will get an email alert.

"The tools put us in a position where we can get out to the user before there's any down time," he said. "We've definitely seen fewer calls from desktops where we have put in these proactive alerts."

Alerts are delivered as part of IBM's Director Agent, a web-based client management application for networked computers. Director Agent inventories computer profiles and monitors power and event logs.

Hermann is also happy about a new installation of IBM's ImageUltra technology, which allows him to deploy one image across all the CU's desktops instead of separately installing operating systems, settings and applications manually on each desktop.

"Rolling out a new PC is a piece of cake right now," said Herrmann. "If we get a new PC for a department, we can build that PC with an image without loading the software. We can have a basic image and then pick and choose by application."

Reduced Maintenance Costs

This fall, the CU rolled out about 15 new desktops with "no trouble," said Herrmann.

Director Agent and ImageUltra are components of IBM's ThinkVantage Technologies.

SFFCU has saved money because of the new IBM servers, said Herrmann. "Maintenance costs have become considerably less." Herrmann estimated that the CU would spend about $40,000 for maintenance three years out, whereas the new pSeries server and test server cost $55,000 including a three-year maintenance contract.

It was high time for a change, he said. "The previous Hewlett-Packard UNIX box was under-performing when I started at the credit union a year ago. We went with IBM because the support is exceptional, especially for an 18,000-member CU."

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