BACKGROUND: Sears is a leading retailer of apparel, home and automotive products and services, and operates 850 department stores and 2,100 specialized retail locations nationwide.

PLATFORMS: Sears currently runs its statistical analysis software on a variety of platforms, which include UNIX (i.e., AIX RS/6000), mainframe MVS and NT workstations. Sears is consolidating processing that took place on four departmental IBM RS/6000 SP2 systems, an RS/6000 J50 system and outsourced mainframe environment onto a Sun Enterprise 10000 server (also known as Starfire) running the Solaris operating environment.

PROBLEM SOLVED: Throughout the years, multiple organizations within Sears invested heavily in a variety of hardware and software to generate profiles and statistical analyses of its customers. The complexity of managing these various systems began to affect business efficiencies and created barriers in planning for future implementations. Sears decided to consolidate its computing resources.

PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: Starfire from Sun Microsystems is designed to handle mission-critical data center applications including massive decision support systems (DSSs) and online transaction processing applications (OLTP). Its dynamic system domains (mainframe-style partitioning) enable Sears to partition the server into several smaller servers to run several applications on one system and dynamically add or reduce the amount of CPUs and memory allocated for each domain to accommodate low and peak production levels.

STRENGTHS: Performance: Sun's Starfire is a 64-way UNIX system that delivers over 3,000 mainframe MIPS. It has special design features for DSS and OLTP applications. Flexibility and agility: Starfire's dynamic system domains offer the unique ability to divide the server into domains that run several applications simultaneously without affecting each other. Dynamic system domains also create added flexibility to do tests or create another production environment that can be hosted on one server. The system also has interoperability features that allow it to operate in dynamic and mixed platforms. Availability: Starfire is designed for mission-critical applications that need to be accessible 7x24x365, while handling unpredictable levels of peak demand, constant changes and labor-intensive applications. Currently, a single Starfire system can be configured up to 99.95 percent uptime and up to 99.975 percent on a two-node clustered Starfire system. This is achieved through redundant components, alternate pathing and dynamic reconfiguration. Scalability: Sun's Starfire provides nearly linear scalability up to 64 processors in a single system with the ability to handle unpredictable levels of peak demand and constant changes.

WEAKNESSES: Sears would like the Starfire's dynamic system domains to have a finer level of granularity to allocate I/O independently of CPU and memory. Currently, Starfire's dynamic system domains are assigned resources on a system board basis, so the allocation of computing resources depends on the number of CPUs, I/O adapters and the amount of memory on the system board.

SELECTION CRITERIA: Sears' marketing and business departments had several criteria: 1) finding a system with the capacity to handle large volumes of data and labor-intensive computing applications, 2) selecting a system that leverages its existing mainframe and data center environments, 3) choosing a system that meets Sears' corporate goals, 4) selecting a system that enables Sears to employ more computing resources yet maintain a smaller footprint, and 5) finding a system that unifies, simplifies and manages the platform and operating environments.

DELIVERABLES: Sears now has the infrastructure in place to continue its corporate-wide initiative for customer data centralization. Sears' marketing and analyst departments can now run several resource-intensive applications simultaneously. These departments are moving toward a unified platform that can operate in a dynamic and mixed platform environment. Once completed, this unified environment will allow all departments to share data, which will further enable Sears to get to know its customers better, continue to meet its corporate objectives and reduce the cost of ownership. Sun's binary compatible hardware and software line will also make it easy for Sears to add or delete equipment without compatibility issues.

VENDOR SUPPORT: Sun's service staff consists of highly trained professionals that are on call 24 hours a day.

DOCUMENTATION: Sun offers comprehensive and easy-to-understand documentation on its Internet services site, www.sun.com/service.

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