With a network of thousands of independent insurance representatives throughout the U.S. and Canada selling term life insurance, Primerica’s corporate commitment to 24x7 processing with continuous availability and support goes without saying, as does its commitment to zEnterprise technology in its data centers. However, supporting and building upon a sound technology base also includes the ability to grow staff along with the technology and to implement more effective technology monitoring and problem diagnosis and resolution tools.
“One of the areas we had identified for improvement was DB2 problem resolution for our zEnterprise-resident data repositories,” says David Wade, Primerica’s CIO. “From a business standpoint, it’s absolutely vital to improve DB2 availability and performance because it means less DB2 downtime and faster transaction execution time. Every application we have either accesses or delivers data to the mainframe. The mainframe is the central data repository for everything we do, and it enables us to run a 24x7 data center operation with a small number of people.”
Mainframe Tools for a New Generation
The “people” side of DB2 support is what Primerica was most concerned with. As new employees and IT workers join Primerica, they’re familiar with Graphical User Interface (GUI) tools for running applications. If they’re IT workers, their experience level is also GUI-based when it comes to system monitoring, troubleshooting, and problem resolution. They have little or no understanding of traditional green-screen tools common in the mainframe environment.
“Understanding that we must prepare a new generation of employees, and also IT workers for our data centers, we wanted a GUI-based DB2 tool, which is easy to use and understand,” says Wade. “The goal was to introduce and train new users with these tools, and to also include new IT support staff for those who have less traditional mainframe skills.”
As part of the retooling effort, Wade and his staff decided to implement the CA Chorus Suite, a systems management offering from CA Technologies. The entire suite of Chorus software consists of eight components:
• CA Detector
• CA Plan Analyzer
• CA Subsystem Analyzer
• CA RC/Query
• CA RC/Update
• CA RC/Migrator
• CA Insight
• CA Mainframe Chorus for DB2 Database Management.
“We needed to address the challenge of introducing a new generation of IT workers to the mainframe environment and this suite of tools appeared to deliver some of the GUI-oriented navigation and functionality for system monitoring and troubleshooting that we were looking for,” says Wade. “But we still needed to implement the right combination of tools for our environment and perform proofs of concept to ensure we were on the right track.”
Primerica worked with account manager Alex Foti and his CA team on the evaluation leading to the installation and customization of the Chorus Suite for DB2, including the CA DB2 products.
Proof of Concept
“Our first objective was to evaluate CA Detector in a proof of concept,” says Wade.
CA Detector was considered a key tool for Primerica’s plan to ease new IT hires into the mainframe environment because of its promise to deliver intuitive, GUI-based navigation for DB2 problem identification, reporting, and problem resolution.