Moving to Linux, modernizing software helps USPS lower computing costs

GCN Awards The U.S. Postal Service upgraded its Product Tracking System in order to increase the number of packages the system could process, but information technology officials also had another goal: to reduce, by 50 percent, the cost per millions of instruction per second (MIPS).

The lower the rate of MIPS the mainframe has to run, the lower the operation costs, they figured. MIPS are the number of program instructions a computer can process while executing a standard program.

In upgrading the 15-year-old system, USPS migrating it to the portion of the agency’s IBM mainframe that runs the less expensive open-source Linux operating system. However, the officials found that they only achieved about a 20 percent reduction in cost per MIPS because an IBM middleware software program that was left on the proprietary side of the mainframe was using up MIPS to execute, said John Byrne, manager of application development and head of USPS’ Integrated Business Solutions Centers.

"IBM’s MQ Series is a store-and-forward guaranteed delivery system, meaning that when you put some data to be processed in a queue it is guaranteed to get there,” he said. So even if the network connection, server or services are down, MQ Series will hold the data until the ability to send it is restored.

This month, USPS began to move MQ Series middleware to the Linux portion of the mainframe. “Now, we’ve spent the last month changing code so MQ will work on Linux. That will get us up to 40 percent” reduction in MIPS.

Cutting the cost of running mainframes is important because USPS business units want to add more events to the PTS system to track packages as they move throughout the postal network, Byrne said.

About the Author

Rutrell Yasin is is a freelance technology writer for GCN.

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