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Issue of February 2007

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LIC opts for Linux

D K Mehrotra

BFSI has long been among the biggest spenders on IT. Now it’s the turn of India’s leading insurer, Life Insurance Corporation of India, to join in by upgrading its IT infrastructure. To do this it plans to move to Linux not only at the server level, but also on the desktop.

LIC’s software has been developed in-house at its Software Development Centre (SDC), with a back-end processing systems in the 1970s. In the 1990s, LIC felt the need to develop a front-end package, 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. 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: “It was becoming difficult to carry out other projects simultaneously with Unix.”

LIC also considered the cost effectiveness of the migration, which would help it migrate its mission-critical business applications to the new system while the SDC continues to produce 99 percent of its software.

In addition, the company’s primary application, FEAP, was also experiencing problems, which made it look for a faster operating system, and RHEL helped it in this endeavour. Unix, says Mehrotra, limited the number of FEAP units in use besides there was hardly any third party support for the OS.

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.” The migration was a result of both business and technological needs.

Current Status

All of LIC’s 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 LIC’s desktops will also be converted to Linux. Approximately 60,000 users and five to six thousand servers will eventually migrate to RHEL.

With such a huge deployment, ensuring that there’s 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’s duration does not get extended and that migration is seamless.

As of now, LIC claims to be facing no problems in the migration process. Says Venugopal, “We don’t 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 that they run.

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 its proprietary platform. RHEL supports applications such as Micro Focus COBOL, which were difficult to run on Unix.

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

Two years back, LIC shifted from SCO-Unix to the Linux and if needed it might shift to another platform in the future.

Says Mehrotra, “We do not see the need to invest in other systems. That said, we intend to give our global customers the best possible experience and therefore, we are open to make any changes.

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Indian Express - Business Publications Division

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