First State Bank had reached a crossroads. For about 18 years, the community bank, based in Waynesboro, Miss., had run core banking applications on an IBM mainframe running the VSE operating system.
But about 18 months ago, it became evident that the 7.5-mips P390 system was reaching capacity—First State needed a new infrastructure.
“We were out of cycles, basically,” said Don Story, executive vice president for operations at the bank. “It was maxed out.”
Working with Kirchman Corp., developer of the core software solution Kirchman Bankway, First State had three options to consider: moving to another IBM mainframe system; moving to IBMs iSeries servers running the OS/400 operating system or transitioning to Sun Microsystems Inc.s SPARC/Solaris architecture.
First State chose Sun, a move that officials estimate will save the bank $133,000 over five years. First State is running its core Kirchman applications—which handle everything from account updates to general ledger accounting—on Suns Sun Fire V880 server using Solaris 8, as well as Suns StorEdge 3310 storage system.
Nine months later, the move is paying off, Story said. “It runs, it runs really well and it runs all night,” he said.
The time it takes to run the nightly batch update was reduced from seven hours to 35 minutes, Story said.
First State is a $292 million bank with 11 branches and 120 employees spread throughout southeastern Mississippi. A subsidiary of First Bank Corp., also based in Waynesboro, the bank has been a Kirchman customer since 1986, and that was key when deciding on a partner, according to Story, who has been with the bank since the early 1970s.
“Its our core software for the bank,” Story said. “Its a total banking system. Kirchman is our core processor. We have a lot of confidence in them, and we felt they had our best interests.”
Trent Fleming, chief marketing officer at Kirchman, of Orlando, Fla., said the software developer and Sun systems integrator works closely with all its customers. Most of the 1,000 clients are in the United States, although some are in Eastern Europe and the Philippines, Fleming said.
“Ours is software they use every day,” he said. “The nature of our relationship with the customer is an ongoing one. Our contact with them is at least on a quarterly basis.”
When a customer finds itself in a situation similar to First States, Kirchman—a partner in Suns iForce alliance program—will work with the customer to find a solution and then resell the systems, Fleming said. Kirchmans goal is to take as much of the IT burden as possible off the customers shoulders, he said.
“Theyre looking to be in the banking business, not in the software business,” Fleming said. “A huge part of that is constantly working with them to ensure that their environment is where it should be.”
In First States case, its legacy system “was beginning to run out of room,” Fleming said. “When we notice that theyre running out of room, we focus on the critical points in the platform where they need to be upgraded.”
Story said the bank wanted to move away from the VSE operating system. While the primary engineers understood the system, many of the overnight technicians did not.
Given the other options, the SPARC/Solaris platform offered better application compatibility and better cost savings than OS/400 running on IBMs iSeries systems. Solaris Windows-like feel also made it easier to train the engineers, Story said.
First State executives decided in October 2002 that another platform was needed. A visit in January 2003 to another bank in Missouri running Suns SPARC/Solaris architecture convinced Story that that was the way to go, he said.
First State got its platform up and running by September 2003.
The bank is currently running two of the four available SPARC III processors in the V880, giving administrators room to scale the system as needed. That will enable First State to bring more applications in-house and to move its ATMs onto the system.
“It was a traumatic decision in the sense that we had been [an IBM shop] forever,” Story said. “All we had ever used was an IBM system since the early 1980s.”
But the cost savings by migrating to the SPARC/ Solaris platform were too good to pass up.
“That made the decision a lot easier,” Story said.