TRW Automotive Inc., which has been converting globally to Dell Inc. desktop computers since 1999, now is doing the same with Dell servers in four global data centers.
TRW is replacing its UNIX servers from IBM, Hewlett-Packard and others with Dell servers running the Linux operating system.
Servers running Linux software are cheaper and more flexible than the proprietary UNIX servers, says Joe Drouin, global chief information officer for TRW Automotive.
Other automotive suppliers and automakers will be watching the progress of TRW's Linux migration because servers running the UNIX operating system are used widely in the automotive industry.
A server typically encompasses the physical computer along with the software that runs on it. A server can manage multiple users on a network. Companies normally use numerous servers to support their computing needs.
"I'd say just about anybody who makes a UNIX server has been in our data centers," Drouin told Automotive News. "Our data centers have a lot of big, high-end, proprietary UNIX machines."
Companies making the switch to Linux have done so because of lower cost and a desire to reduce dependency on a single technology vendor, according to AMR Research of Boston.
AMR Research surveys found that the days of sustained growth for UNIX are over, and that new data center servers over the next 10 years will be dominated by Linux and Microsoft Windows operating systems.
TRW would not disclose the value of the three-year Dell contract.
TRW's automotive division, which is based in Livonia, Mich., generated $11.1 billion in global original-equipment sales during 2004. It makes steering, suspension, airbag, braking and occupant-restraint systems.
"By going to a Dell/Linux environment, we've been able to do things that we really just couldn't afford to do before," Drouin says.
For example, TRW was able to install redundant servers with production software at a second data center - insurance against a disaster.
"I could restore to that data center in minutes or hours, versus days," Drouin says. "We couldn't really afford that kind of insurance before."
In this Dell deal, TRW will purchase a mix of hardware and services, including 24,000 desktops, notebooks and work stations; hundreds of servers; and dozens of data storage systems.
Five years ago, TRW had about 15 data centers. Now it is consolidating all servers in four data centers servicing North America, South America, Europe and the Asia-Pacific region.