IT Management

Brand and product loyalty are increasingly scarce in today’s fast-paced and often fickle culture. Even in industry and business, change is often inflicted for its own sake— sometimes at the encouragement of what’s disparaged as “management by airline magazine.” So, it’s noteworthy when a company builds a steadily growing business that provides innovative, cost-effective, rock-solid data processing on one technology platform for 40 years. Of course, that platform—IBM’s mainframe—has evolved a bit since Antares Management Solutions’ corporate parent adopted it in the ’60s.

Antares provides core insurance processing for its parent, Medical Mutual of Ohio, serving all claims, customer service, membership, care management, and related systems. A for-profit subsidiary, Antares also delivers business process outsourcing and insurance administration services to external payor organizations, self-funded groups, and hospitals. It supports information technology, outsourcing managed services and solutions for clients in various industries, including manufacturing, professional services, and insurance. Other server-based business intelligence applications, including predictive modeling applications, use the mainframe as a back-end.

Antares credits the mainframe’s applications and massive processing power for its ability to provide superior customer service, speed, and timeliness. The company processes more than 100,000 claims daily with 98 percent accuracy. The mainframe provides flexible data access and management, with most claims processed paperlessly. Sub-second mainframe response time is required and delivered using CICS and DB2 as the core architecture for claims processing and related systems.

Having used mainframes since the ’60s, Antares strongly believes that no other platform matches its core business needs. For example, mainframe architecture flexibility and scalability have allowed Antares to periodically enhance claims systems designed in the ’70s with new technologies— but without re-architecting—to exploit increased speed and processing power of successive system generations.

Business Applications and Outsourcing

While traditional applications have been core functions, such as claims processing, billing and finance, and membership, data analytics in the last 10 years has become critical for analysis of outcomes, provider efficiency, fraud detection, etc. In addition, managed care systems and wellness initiatives help reduce healthcare costs.

DB2, Antares’ processing foundation since its early adoption, is described as their data warehouse or linchpin, also feeding data analytic repository systems. Some applications are purely DB2-based, while others also use earlier access methods.

As a full-service outsourcing provider, Antares provides mainframe hosting, remote support, help desk services, and more. Partnering with its providers (hardware and software vendors) allows it to provide quality support to external customers and to its parent. Building such relationships slowly (with companies such as JD Edwards and SAP) based on business requirements and customer needs avoids investing money in areas that aren’t sustainable.

Andy Balazs, vice president of Enterprise Advancement, Infrastructure and Operations, believes the company fills a key IT niche for lesser workloads, because “nobody hosts small mainframes.” This supports businesses that lag behind current technologies, or that have older mainframes coming off maintenance, and are discovering that outsourcing their IT—and returning focus to their core missions—is both cost-effective and strategic.

Handling information for multiple internal and external customers requires robust, auditable security facilities; isolation is provided as needed by a combination of Logical Partitions (LPARs) and CA’s Top Secret. In addition, LPARs are dedicated to IBM’s Academic Initiative and to Linux on System z. In fact, Antares is the only private company serving as a regional System z hosting hub for the mainframe curriculum being promoted in colleges. The company provides a mainframe test lab used as part of classroom exercises, and supports the Academic Initiative in other ways, including:

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