LIC opts for Linux
India's biggest life insurer, the LIC, recently decided to
shift its IT requirements on to Linux. Rishiraj Verma spoke to all those
who were behind this landmark decision
D K Mehrotra
BFSI has long been among the biggest spenders on IT. Now its
the turn of Indias leading insurer, Life Insurance Corporation of India,
to join in by upgrading its IT infrastructure. To do this it plans to move to
a complete Linux base not only at the server level but also at the desktop.
Interestingly, all of LICs software has been developed
in-house at the Software Development Centre (SDC), starting from its back-end
processing systems in the 1970s. In the 90s, LIC felt the need to develop
a front-end package, which it named Front End Application Package (FEAP).
Serving concurrent requests
The problem started in 2001 when LIC networked its offices
and shifted to Red Hat Linux 8.0 for this. Once the centres were networked,
concurrent requests for customer data began to turn up the heat on its aging
systems. This led the company to re-examine its IT infrastructure. LIC decided
to migrate to Red Hat Enterprise Linux 2.1(RHEL).
D K Mehrotra, GM, LIC, explains: With Unix, it was
getting difficult to carry out other projects simultaneously.
LIC also considered the cost effectiveness of the migration,
which would help them migrate their mission-critical business applications to
the new system while the SDC continues to produce 99 percent of the software.
The companys primary application, FEAP, was also
experiencing problems, which made them look for a faster operating system,
and RHEL helped them in that
In addition, the companys primary application, FEAP,
was also experiencing problems, which made them look for a faster operating
system, and RHEL helped them in that. Unix, says Mehrotra, limited the number
of FEAP units in use and there was no third party support.
B Venugopal, Chief, Information Technology adds that server
emulation was a big problem with Unix whereas with RHEL, We can simply
convert a PC into a server by connecting terminals. So, the migration
seems to be a result of both business and technological needs.
The world's second largest and India's largest
life insurance provider insures more than 170
million individuals in India. LIC introduced
computers as early as 1964.
The reason for the shift
Finding the right solution
LIC wanted to be sure about the vendor they would work with.
Thus before finalising they tested both RHEL and SuSE. The former matched LICs
requirements for expansion. RHEL fitted well into the technical roadmap
and IT policy at LIC, and that was the only reason to choose it, says
The upgrade to Red Hat Enterprise Linux 2.1 is in its second
quarter, expected to be completed by the end of June 2006. Says Mehrotra, It
is only later that we will start looking at other issues such as security.
All of LICs 2,048 branches, 100 divisional offices,
seven zonal offices, head office and subsidiary offices will be covered by the
deployment. Along with this all of LICs desktops will also simultaneously
be converted to Linux. Approximately 60,000 users and five to six thousand servers
will migrate to RHEL.
With such a huge deployment, ensuring that theres no
downtime will be crucial. However, both Venugopal and Mehrotra are unfazed.
They believe that their 100 training centres across the country should ensure
that the project duration does not get extended and the migration is seamless.
As of now, LIC claims to be facing no problems in the migration
process. Says Venugopal, We dont see any problems arising in the
near future either. Talking about the existence of a mental block against
Linux systems, Mehrotra says that if LIC had functioned with blocks like that,
they would be lagging behind not only in IT investments but also in the business
The migration, according to Venugopal,
will enable LIC to use almost all software
and hardware available in the market. This is important as earlier the
was restricted to certain applications due to the proprietary platform
The migration, according to Venugopal, will enable LIC to
use almost all software and hardware available in the market. This is important
as earlier the organisation was restricted to certain applications due to the
proprietary platform. RHEL has also0 helped them to use applications such as
Micro Focus COBOL, which was difficult on the earlier Unix systems.
The major benefit according to Venugopal and Mehrotra is
the possibility of a larger number of concurrent users accessing the database.
Keeping its options open
The GM and IT Chief insist that they will have to wait
and watch for the results of this experience. They add that only two years
back, they shifted from Unix to the Linux platform and now they are in the middle
of migrating and if need be, they might shift to another platform in the future,
but it will depend on the results of the current migration.
Says Mehrotra, We do not see the need to invest in other
systems. But we intend to give our global customers the best possible experience
and therefore, we are open to make any changes, which might be inevitable in