Engineering giant in £3bn IT overhaul

United Technologies (UTC) the giant US industrial conglomerate, is embarking on a complete IT infrastructure overhaul and...

United Technologies (UTC) the giant US industrial conglomerate, is embarking on a complete IT infrastructure overhaul and consolidation that will cost £3bn but will save the company £700m through efficiencies during the next 15 years.

The project, which UTC has outsourced to Computer Sciences Corporation, includes replacing 45,000 PCs, standardising on a single backup-and-recovery platform and consolidating the business-critical workloads in 20 major data centres into three. The majority of the work should be completed by the end of this year.

CSC recently helped UTC to standardise its US data centres on Veritas Software's NetBackup storage software utility. The suite gives UTC auto discovery features and centralised and remote management capabilities. The company had been using a variety of point products for backup and management services that have occasionally lost mission-critical data.

"Before, we were dealing with backups occurring haphazardly, depending upon where a device was. Now every critical system will have a disaster recovery plan," said UTC chief information officer John Doucette.

Bob Zimmerman, an analyst at Giga Information Group, said that many companies that are consolidating IT systems are discovering that their old backup systems don't work.

Zimmerman noted that Veritas' NetBackup product tends to be the most expensive among those in its class, but is also the easiest to configure.

UTC's companies, which include Pratt & Whitney, Hamilton Sundstrand, Sikorsky Aircraft, Carrier, Otis Elevators and UTC Fuel Cells, had been operating out of data centres running on proprietary platforms.

After decades of growth, the £19bn company was running eight mainframes, 11 IBM AS/400 servers and 2,950 other servers at data centres and server farms dispersed throughout the US.

It consolidated them into a mirrored data centre on its Pratt & Whitney campus and two other data centres owned by CSC and now needs only two mainframes and two AS/400 systems. It expects to drop some 350 servers by the end of the year.

"We identified 160,000 pieces of software and probably ended up putting 5,000 pieces of software back," Doucette said. "The other thing we did with our PCs was to lock them down. People can't go out on the Internet and download software on to them. There's just tons of inefficiencies with that."

UTC is creating two storage-area networks that will run off of Hitachi Data Systems Freedom Storage 9900 and EMC Symmetrix RAID boxes.

The company is also standardising its network on Computer Associate's Unicenter TNG management tool. UTC has also consolidated 15 helpdesks running nine applications into one centre running one system.

Henning Kerger, director of transformation for CSC's UTC account, said a CSC site would be used for UTC's Web hosting facility.

"The biggest challenge was to get away from a disparate situation, where every business unit was unique and had its own standards and quality of people varying from unit to unit," Kerger said.

For example, UTC found itself with multiple PC platforms. While it had considered changing 20% of its workstations and platforms each year, Doucette said that would have made it more difficult to standardise.

The company has completed 95% of a changeover to Dell PCs running Windows 2000 and Office 2000. Doucette said this, along with the remote control of systems, was "the biggest part of reducing cost".

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