Published on 16-Mar-2012
"The z114 gave us the capacity, performance and flexibility we need for the migration and for expansion and further advancements in the coming years." - Dave Brokaw, IT Operations Director, Indiana Farm Bureau Insurance
Indiana Farm Bureau Insurance
Enabling Business Flexibility, Optimizing IT
IBM Business Partner:
PSR Information System Services
Indiana Farm Bureau is the state's largest general farm organization, founded in 1919 to solve the problems of low commodity prices and a diminished farm labor force. Its purpose today is to be an effective advocate for farmers, to promote agriculture and improve the economic and social welfare of member families. In 1934, the Bureau established Indiana Farm Bureau Insurance (IFBI), which is now the largest writer of farm insurance and the second-largest writer of personal lines insurance in Indiana.
IFBI needed an economical, robust and efficient platform to support the transformation of core insurance systems to a new browser-based environment, while meeting the need for improved response times.
Deployed an IBM® zEnterprise™ 114 system with a total of ten processors; IFBI currently uses three as standard engines for CICS® workload on z/OS®, two as zIIPs, and five in reserve for future growth.
With faster processors and advanced system design, the z114 offers significant price-performance benefits and ample capacity for expansion, plus new hybrid, multi-architecture computing capabilities.
Indiana Farm Bureau is the state's largest general farm organization, founded in 1919 to solve the problems of low commodity prices and a diminished farm labor force. Its purpose today is to be an effective advocate for farmers, to promote agriculture and improve the economic and social welfare of member families. In 1934, the Bureau established Indiana Farm Bureau Insurance (IFBI), which is now the largest writer of farm insurance and the second-largest writer of personal lines insurance in Indiana. IFBI has a network of more than 480 agents and 1,200 employees, and is an official sponsor of the Indianapolis Colts Football Center, making the company a highly visible presence in the state.
Like many other insurers, IFBI has long relied on the robust data-processing capabilities of the mainframe platform. Over the years, the organization has seen a steady move away from in-house software towards packaged software purchased from external vendors, and a corresponding increase in the demand for mainframe resources.
Dave Brokaw, IT Operations Director at Indiana Farm Bureau Insurance, explains: “We are steadily moving from assembler and COBOL code written specifically for our business to vendor packages that are more generic and based more on 'unit of work' coding. Re-engineering the core applications in this way inevitably places more demands on the hardware.”
IFBI was planning to move its personal auto lines of business from in-house code to the Exceed application from CSC. In preparation for this major migration, the organization joined the Early Support Program (ESP) for the new IBM zEnterprise 114, becoming one of the first companies worldwide to deploy the new system in production.
“The z114 gave us the capacity, performance and flexibility we need for the migration and expansion and further advancements for the coming years," says Brokaw. "IBM has priced both the hardware and the software more competitively than with the previous generation, so it also made financial sense to migrate. The ESP was a great way to get our hands on cutting-edge technology ahead of everyone else.”
The z114 at IFBI, which replaces an IBM System z10™, has a total of ten processors. Currently, IFBI is using three as standard engines for general z/OS workload (largely CICS), and two as specialty zIIP (System z Integrated Information Processor) engines for IBM DB2® and other workloads. The additional five processors can be instantly activated as standard or specialty engines at any time, giving IFBI non-disruptive upgradability for future growth requirements. New advantageous pricing for memory on the z114 made it highly economical for IFBI to configure the z114 with double the memory of its previous server, helping to boost its overall performance.
“The z114 is much faster across the board," says Mike Buchanan, Technical Support Manager at Indiana Farm Bureau Insurance. "Our auto insurance solution is moving from a green-screen environment to a browser-based environment, and our users are accustomed to extremely fast response times. The z114 gives us the power to maintain that performance even as we move to the more resource-intensive front-end.”
Moving personal auto to Exceed - which IFBI was already using for other lines of business - will remove the burden of developing new functionality from the in-house team. It will also enable greater flexibility for the future; one possibility would be to add a customer-facing front-end. Alongside the personal auto migration, IFBI is working to upgrade its life insurance system, in preparation for an eventual move to a fully browser-based version of the software.
The zIIPs are primarily used to run a tape encryption solution. Leveraging the zIIPs for this allows IFBI to avoid incremental MIPS-based software pricing, significantly reducing the cost of the solution. “The encryption solution would have been cost-prohibitive without zIIPs,” says Buchanan. The zIIPs also allow select DB2 workload to be run at a significantly lower cost than on the main processors.
IFBI worked with PSR, an IBM Premier Business Partner and dedicated mainframe specialist, to acquire and install the z114.
"This is the third mainframe that we've bought from PSR, and the relationship is going from strength to strength," says Brokaw. "They do an excellent job of understanding our needs and finding an appropriate solution that allows us to keep up and exploit the latest technology advancements with each new generation. When we started looking at the tape encryption software, PSR got us a z10 with zIIPs on a trial basis, and they've just helped us get the z114 ahead of the crowd!"
Strong support partnerships are a key element in the overall value of the mainframe to IFBI, and the organization also flags up IBM's contribution. "Exceptional levels of hardware support from IBM are something that we often take for granted in the mainframe world, providing a level of differentiation and value unmatched in the industry," says Buchanan. "Only when we see colleagues on other platforms struggling do we truly realize how great the support is from both the local IBM team and their backups."
Even as the maturity of other platforms grows, IFBI continues to rate the mainframe at the head of the pack. In particular, the organization values the platform's unmatched ability to efficiently handle large transactional volumes without skipping a beat—vital given that IFBI handles a constant stream of around 11 transactions a second from 7 am to 7 pm daily.
“Like all other organizations, we have pressure on IT budgets, and we've tried to stay as lean as we can over the past 20 years,” says Brokaw. “With zEnterprise, we believe that we can provide pretty much whatever internal clients need in the most cost-effective way possible. One intriguing possibility that the z114 provides is the ability to now bring Windows workload into the mainframe environment using the zEnterprise BladeCenter® Extension. That potentially gives us another option for integrating and managing Microsoft Windows systems with particularly high requirements for availability or affinity to the mainframe data. Likewise, we now have three or four different ways to run Java workload on the mainframe, so with the mainframe we can pick the optimal delivery method depending on the specific requirements.”
A key value proposition of the z114 for IFBI is the scalability and economics it provides - the ability to grow by more than 25 percent was included in the original purchase price, and the company can then make further investments to grow more than three-fold in the same footprint.
He concludes: “As our business continues to evolve, the z114 is ready to adapt to whatever the future holds. There are five engines ready to light up and run any kind of workload in an optimized manner, so we can respond instantly if demands rise.”
Products and services used
© Copyright IBM Corporation 2012 IBM Systems and Technology Group Route 100 Somers, New York 10589 U.S.A. Produced in the United States of America February 2012 IBM, the IBM logo, ibm.com, CICS, DB2, System z, z/OS, and zEnterprise are trademarks of International Business Machines Corporation in the United States, other countries or both. If these and other IBM trademarked terms are marked on their first occurrence in this information with a trademark symbol (® or ™), these symbols indicate U.S. registered or common law trademarks owned by IBM at the time this information was published. Such trademarks may also be registered or common law trademarks in other countries. A current list of IBM trademarks is available on the web at “Copyright and trademark information” at ibm/legal/copytrade.shtml Microsoft and Windows are trademarks of Microsoft Corporation in the United States, other countries, or both. This document is current as of the initial date of publication and may be changed by IBM at any time. Not all offerings are available in every country in which IBM operates. The client examples cited are presented for illustrative purposes only. Actual performance results may vary depending on specific configurations and operating conditions. It is the user’s responsibility to evaluate and verify the operation of any other products or programs with IBM products and programs. THE INFORMATION IN THIS DOCUMENT IS PROVIDED “AS IS” WITHOUT ANY WARRANTY, EXPRESS OR IMPLIED, INCLUDING WITHOUT ANY WARRANTIES OF MERCHANTABILITY, FITNESS FOR A PARTICULAR PURPOSE AND ANY WARRANTY OR CONDITION OF NON-INFRINGEMENT. IBM products are warranted according to the terms and conditions of the agreements under which they are provided. Exceed is not an IBM product or offering. Exceed is sold or licensed, as the case may be, to users under CSC’s terms and conditions, which are provided with the product or offering. Availability, and any and all warranties, services and support for Exceed is the direct responsibility of, and is provided directly to users by, CSC. Statements regarding IBM’s future direction and intent are subject to change or withdrawal without notice, and represent goals and objectives only. Actual available storage capacity may be reported for both uncompressed and compressed data and will vary and may be less than stated.