The plummeting interest rates over the past two years have meant a booming business for anyone in the mortgage industry, as people have rushed in droves to buy new homes or refinance.
It was no different for American Mortgage Network Inc. Though the company, also known as AmNet, has been originating loans for less than three years, it wrote $14 billion in mortgages last year alone, making it the 17th-largest wholesale loan mortgage company in the United States.
AmNet experienced such growth with a data center comprising a dozen Intel Corp.-based servers from various vendors, each running the San Diego-based companys proprietary loan origination and servicing applications.
“They were split up with different programs running on different servers, and we were trying to keep them communicating together and keeping them in sync,” said Randall Myres, AmNets senior vice president and CIO.
Such a hodgepodge resulted in serious growing pains for AmNet. The company suffered problems with scaling, processing bottlenecks and an increasingly unwieldy platform—a difficult scenario for a company doing three times the amount of business per month at the end of last year as it was at the beginning of it.
“We could always add more Intel servers, but that just added to the complexity,” Myres said.
In January of last year, Myres began looking for a solution. His initial thought was to go with a mainframe system, but he worried that it was taking the company in the wrong direction.
“The problem with that was that my idea was to get the data closer to the users rather than farther away,” he said. “A mainframe takes data away from the users.”
Instead, Myres decided to go with an iSeries system from IBM running the OS/400 operating system. The system, with its Capacity On Demand capabilities, enabled AmNet to buy an iSeries 825 server with three Power4 processors turned on and another three installed that could be switched on when business demanded it.
In addition, the system could scale like a mainframe and had the functionality of Intel-based servers but without the complexity.
When Myres told his IBM representatives he was interested in buying the system, they recommended he work with Advanced Systems Group—or ASG—a systems integrator and reseller based in Tustin, Calif.
“In looking at it, the solution that looked like the best fit was going to be the iSeries,” said Rod Davis, a solutions architect with ASG. “They wanted a single platform of hardware—they could partition it out and run various applications between the different partitions. … They wanted to consolidate everything down onto a single platform.”
AmNet agreed, and ASG representatives came to AmNets headquarters and helped the mortgage company figure out what specific system was needed, how it should be configured and how to go about putting it together.
ASG helped configure the logical partitions in the system and aided in porting AmNets applications off the Intel systems and onto the iSeries 825. It also helped determine the best way to operate the system, Myres said.
“We basically know how to do the data processing,” he said. “But we wanted to know the best way of doing that within this environment. … You can do data processing 14 different ways, but they gave us their experience in how to do it the best way.”
But key for pulling this all together, said ASGs Davis, was the integrators ability to deal with multiple environments, from the CICS applications AmNet was running on Intel-based systems to the new iSeries platform the company wanted to deploy.
The i825 system has been up and running since last July and has given AmNet—a wholly owned subsidiary of American Residential Investment Trust Inc.—the scalability and reliability it sought.
The company now has 26 offices and about 750 employees scattered around the country—and it has plans to add more.
In addition, the iSeries 825 system completely runs the companys loan origination application, which covers everything in the loan process from the initial contact with a customer or broker to the final payments.
“Its kind of soup-to-nuts,” Myres said.
In addition, AmNet is running its Domino and Lotus Notes applications, and Myres is looking to add an IBM portal into the mix, which will require activating a fourth processor.
The portal will enable AmNet employees in the branch offices to access software and data via a single Web-based site, and all Web-based applications also will be consolidated into the portal, Myres said.