The Stack Archive Article

IBM i – the story of how a good company becomes great

Tue 25 Jul 2017 | Malgorzata Zabieglinska–Lupa

Digital transformation is necessary for all businesses, from small ones to global corporations, but looks different to each of them. Organizations that undergo a real digital transformation will reevaluate the way business is being conducted today. Changes will touch every function of your business. The challenge for business is to figure out how fast and how far to go along the digital path.

I am not a fairy who fulfills any possible wish, but I would like to share my insights on how, in the era of digital transformation, a good company could become great together with an IBM i operating system working on IBM Power Systems servers.

Imagine an insurance and investment group with a leading position and a strong presence in a number of European markets. Imagine a global corporation with thousands of employees that offers retirement, insurance, investments and banking services to small and medium enterprises, global corporations and institutional customers. It’s still not everything!! Of course, each insurance company is under intense pressure to safeguard patient health information as well as internal enterprise data. Add key market regulations relating to personal data. Regulations that are heavily restricted by local law. Add IoT and Big Data trends that generate massive volumes of structured and unstructured data. This is just the tip of the iceberg. My job is not to list all the challenges that insurance companies face today, but to make you aware that even in the most complex environment you can lead a successful business.

The story is about one of the top insurance companies that Comarch has supported in its digital transformation. Our client is increasingly challenged to optimize costs, increase revenue and compete for customer loyalty, having in mind the organization’s values and social responsibility. Digitalization, cloud and achieving world-class operations are at the core of their growth strategy, and world-class IT infrastructure, technologies and services act as key enablers of it. To deal with upcoming challenges, the client decided to select a provider to make a transition of IT services from the current offshore provider to a nearshore location in Europe, and deliver the managed platform as a service and technical application management. When will you be, as the CIO of your company, convinced to undergo digital transformation? The next issue is how to start your digital journey. How can you search for a partner you can rely on? It should not be a surprise – a digital journey requires not only changes in company strategy but also adaptation of a firm’s culture, processes and technology to meet the needs of fast-changing customer requirements. In the case of technology and infrastructure, the client decided on an external provider it could rely on. The selection process was supported by an external consulting company, which ensured structure and governance for the process.

As part of the agreement, Comarch has built a completely separate and independent environment (also separate from the Comarch infrastructure) for production, disaster recovery and development environments for Western, Central and Eastern European countries. On physically independent Enterprise servers, located in two separate data centers in Warsaw and Krakow (more about Comarch data center solutions you can find on the Comarch ICT website), Comarch has provided and configured the required number of IBM i and AIX LPARS (virtual servers) in POWER8 technology and Flash System storage. Due to the nature of the project and best practices, production data is collected in one data center and the back-up systems and test environment are in the second data center. Our solution enables instantaneous replication of production data from the Primary Data Center to backup systems in the Secondary Data Center (located 300km from the Primary site). Such a solution guarantees the minimum impact on the critical business applications of our customer in the event of disaster, as well as allowing a switch from the Primary to the Secondary site to be conducted in minutes. Comarch offers fully managed services for the IBM Power Platform. These services allow our client to increase efficiency and reduce costs associated with operating IBM i and AIX systems – e.g. with the Flash Copy technology, we were able to automate most time-consuming backups which required attended operation in the past. Additionally, Comarch was responsible for migration of the business application (core insurance system) and data to state-of-the-art technology, which has helped to improve productivity with better performance and reliability.

Of course, the project was a huge challenge for our team. There were many business obstacles, as well as the following challenges related to the IT project. Starting from a tight schedule due to business restrictions, through the change of the infrastructure (from internal to external storage) and replication methods, ending up with an international team located in different locations spread around Europe. One of the most important key success factors was Comarch’s engagement and flexibility from the beginning of the sales process and commitment to finding the best solution with a competitive price/scope ratio. In addition, an agile approach during the implementation processes – not just a single application, but complete IT environments – have proved to be our strong advantage, helping the client to successfully complete this project, despite the tight schedule. In addition, another of Comarch’s advantages was the fact that we have a stable financial situation (20 years of annual revenue growth) and clear ownership status – one main strategic shareholder. It convinced the client that Comarch is a stable and trustworthy partner in the digital era.

Implementing the solution based on the IBM i operating system on IBM Power Platform servers helped the company to not only turn operational cost into an investment opportunity, but also improve the quality of customer service. The platform was upgraded, so the risk of unavailability was significantly reduced. With the current advanced technology, it helped us to lower the unavailability of the systems (SLA at 99.95%) and extend the core application availability by about 25%. With the IBM Power Platform, the client could also reduce IT complexity and gain more flexibility to support dynamic business changes. It is worth mentioning that benefits were obtained not only by the customer, but also by us. One of the main advantages was the opportunity to extend and develop a strong and experienced team skilled in IBM i and AIX technology. The experience gained during the project allows us to implement even the most complicated implementations for the most restrictive clients.

Our clients will not avoid the digital transformation. It has “attacked” each business process, activity, operation, and IT infrastructure. It had and still has a huge influence on the client’s strategy. The main tasks of a CIO are to optimize costs, improve productivity and efficiency, reach new markets and adapt processes and activities. The implemented solution has supported the achievement of these goals and new business requirements of our client.

Feeling interested? Let’s discuss the details and maybe Comarch will be your partner in the digital era.

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