Telstra lets fly with Linux data warehouse

Showing that Telstra Corp. Ltd. CIO Jeff Smith hasn’t lost his enthusiasm for Linux, the telco last week celebrated the launch of a new billing system codenamed Raptor-E.

The launch at a gala event in Melbourne came two months after Smith said Telstra had deployed a “data mart” as a “world-first solution using standard Intel servers and the Linux operating system”. Such was the significance of the occasion, attendees were bestowed with bottles of vintage red wine labelled “Raptor-E”.

A source close to Computerworld, who requested anonymity, said that the new data warehouse — provided by the increasingly familiar Oracle Corp., Red Hat Inc., and Dell Inc. trio — is a deviation by the company from the “incumbent” systems vendors — Hewlett-Packard Co. (HP) , IBM Corp., and Sun Microsystems Inc.

The source said the new data warehouse will also be used as a billing system.

“Raptor-E is a joint initiative between Telstra, Datum, Oracle, Dell and Network Appliance all done locally here in Melbourne and Sydney,” Smith said adding that Raptor-E was commissioned for Telstra’s business and government division.

The idea of clustering numbers of commodity Intel machines running Linux with the anticipation of achieving higher levels of reliability than single SMP Unix systems has been made famous by Oracle which enjoys being the most strategic part of the technology stack.

Meta Group Asia Pacific research director, Dr Kevin McIsaac, said although he’s not sure why Telstra would be implementing a core system like Raptor-E with Linux on Intel, data warehousing is different to transactional databases.

“Intel four- and eight-way systems are perfect for everything except large databases so I assume Telstra has done its homework with Raptor-E,” McIsaac said. “The only places you don’t see them is with large databases where you need a single image.”

McIsaac said Meta is starting to see Oracle RAC [Real Application Clusters] take off in the low-cost, high-availability market – comprised of “medium-sized” databases – rather than the large-scale database market.”

That said, McIsaac described Raptor-E as a “leading-edge project” by Telstra, which is “not bad”.

“It’s pushing the boundary of what people have done so far,” he said. “What’s the risk versus cost trade-off? The scale-out architecture is the way of the future and people should be looking at Intel.”

McIsaac believes that by 2007 there will be more new enterprise database implementations on Intel than on Unix which will become a legacy.

“Once a technology becomes a standard, like TCP/IP, you can’t get it out,” he said. “There is a continued and relentless drive to commoditization around Intel and whatever AMD does, Intel will respond.”

Regarding consolidation projects, McIsaac said Intel servers will also feature in that space as “the maturity of VMWare and Intel is improving over time”.

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