Faced with rising data centre costs and complexity, EUROCONTROL Maastricht Upper Area Control Centre (MUAC) deployed SUSE Linux Enterprise Server for z Systems and LinuxONE, which enables it to maintain superb availability and performance for mission-critical business support applications and guarantee the highest levels of safety for European air traffic.

The Challenge

EUROCONTROL Maastricht Upper Area Control Centre (MUAC) is responsible for providing safe and efficient air traffic control services for a vast amount of airspace, which means it needs an accurate picture of the air traffic situation at all times. To achieve this, MUAC relies on a large number of applications, which produce vast amounts of data that need to be processed quickly and efficiently.

As MUAC handles more and more air traffic each year, it must continually invest in more computing power to sustain its operations. However, it found that adding new physical servers to keep up with increased workloads was driving up costs and impacting the manageability and efficiency of IT systems.

SUSE Solution

The only way for MUAC to continue expanding its computing capacity while keeping costs and complexity low was to consolidate its existing IT systems into a virtual environment on a minimal amount of physical servers.

"When we began our virtualisation project, we engaged the Netherlands Organisation for Applied Scientific Research to conduct an in-depth study, which concluded that a complete virtual Linux environment running on IBM z Systems and Intel-based x86 servers would best fit our needs," said Huub Meertens Head of IT Support Services at EUROCONTROL MUAC.

"The heterogeneous virtual environment gave us the highest levels of reliability, flexibility and stability at the most competitive price. Given the complexities of our IT environment and strict safety requirements, the study judged that a combination of IBM z Systems with Intel servers was the best option for modernising our IT infrastructure."

Additionally, SUSE Linux Enterprise Server combines the flexibility of Linux with the long-term technology and business expertise of SUSE. The open source Linux operating system helps to ensure that MUAC is less dependent on individual hardware and software suppliers.

In 2010, IBM introduced a new platform for hybrid computing, the IBM zEnterprise System (zEnterprise), which offers a revolutionary "System of Systems" design that embraces multiple technology platforms to improve datacentre productivity. It is comprised of the zEnterprise 196 or zEnterprise 114, the IBM zEnterprise Unified Resource Manager, and the IBM zEnterprise BladeCenter Extension (zBX), which allows IBM POWER7 and System x blade servers to be integrated with and managed from the IBM mainframe.

As the zBX supports multiple operating environments, the entire zEnterprise System perfectly matches MUAC's ultimate objective of establishing a single private cloud in which all applications can run with a guaranteed service level for computing capacity and availability at the lowest TCO.

In support of this hybrid computing approach, SUSE announced a special IBM zBX Entitlement Offer, which makes the new system even more attractive. The offer provided MUAC with a free basic subscription of SUSE Linux Enterprise Server for x86 for unlimited use with all of its zBX hardware attached to the z196 IFLs running SUSE Linux Enterprise Server for z Systems and LinuxONE.

Currently, MUAC has installed five x86 blade servers, of which two are actively in operation. It has also activated two Integrated Facility for Linux (IFL) engines on the IBM z196, and plans to increase this number in order to support growing numbers of virtual guests. Advanced IBM z/VM virtualisation technology on z Systems enables the consolidation of many virtual Linux environments onto a single IFL. MUAC is running approximately 50 virtual SUSE Linux Enterprise servers on the z196, and it expects this number to double when it migrates its legacy Linux systems.

The Results

MUAC has been able to dramatically reduce data centre costs and complexity thanks to SUSE Linux Enterprise Server for z Systems and LinuxONE.

"The introduction of the zEnterprise 196 ensemble has significantly reduced our floorspace and power requirements, and we still have room to massively grow our entire mainframe environment with SUSE Linux Enterprise Server on z Systems," said Huub Meertens. "We ultimately expect to see a 20% reduction in our electricity usage, and to cut CO2 emissions generated in running our business support applications by more than 50%."

Running SUSE Linux Enterprise Server on the IBM zEnterprise System also offers straightforward management for MUAC's complex IT environment. "The solution's single set of management tools is a crucial benefit for us, and we expect it to substantially reduce monitoring effort, time and cost," said Huub Meertens.

MUAC's new environment offers the combined resiliency of z Systems servers, the power of SUSE Linux Enterprise Server and the openness of Linux. This guarantees that it can maintain high performance and availability for mission-critical applications, and react quickly to changing needs without dependencies on third parties.

Making use of hybrid computing with the IBM zEnterprise System gives MUAC even more flexibility as a business. "If, in the future, we need to run applications that require IBM AIX or even Windows, we can do so with the zBX, and we will be able to simply and securely manage everything from the mainframe," said Huub Meertens.

At a Glance

Intergovernmental air traffic management organisation





  • Delivered more than a 20% cost advantage over alternative configurations
  • Increased flexibility and met all the business requirements for safety, performance and availability using virtualisation
  • Simplified management for a complex environment by using the IBM zEnterprise Unified Resource Manager and Linux on the hybrid IBM zEnterprise System, helping to significantly reduce administrative effort, time and costs
"Being able to run SUSE Linux Enterprise Server on the IBM z196 and the zEnterprise BladeCenter Extension gives us the chance to reduce complexity and respond quickly to business needs, from a platform that meets customer expectations for performance and stability. The fact that we can use SUSE Linux Enterprise Server on the IBM zBX at no additional cost makes this even better."

EUROCONTROL, the European Organisation for the Safety of Air Navigation, is an intergovernmental body made up of 39 member states. Its activities include operating the Maastricht Upper Area Control Centre, which provides air traffic services for Belgium, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and the north west of Germany.