kubus IT improves data processing in the healthcare industry

Published on 07-Aug-2013

"The IBM zEnterprise platform offers excellent reliability, availability and performance. We run our IBM zEnterprise servers at up to 90 percent capacity: the system can handle this high demand effortlessly, and offers complete stability even when running demanding workloads." - Jörg Witzgall, Head of Applications and Processes, kubus IT

kubus IT

Computer Services, Healthcare, Insurance

Deployment country:

System z Software

IBM Business Partner:


Founded in 2008, kubus IT specializes in providing IT services to the health insurance industry, including AOK Bayern and AOK PLUS, two of Germany’s largest health insurers. The company employs around 700 people at its offices in the German federal states of Bavaria, Saxony and Thuringia. kubus IT aims to exploit the capabilities of IT for its customers. To achieve this goal, kubus IT relies on oscare, a solution based on SAP that was developed by AOK Systems GmbH.

Business need:
kubus IT, an IT service provider in the healthcare industry, wanted to modernize the services it provides to medical insurers. The goal was to optimize the company’s business processes.

kubus IT consolidated disparate applications on the industry solution for statutory health insurance oscare®, developed by AOK Systems and based on SAP software and IBM infrastructure.

The AOK Systems software combines IBM infrastructure with integrated SAP solutions to streamline business processes, optimize customer-oriented processes, and improve competitiveness.

Case Study

To read a German version of this case study, click here

Founded in 2008, kubus IT specializes in providing IT services to the health insurance industry, including AOK Bayern and AOK PLUS, two of Germany’s largest health insurers. The company employs around 700 people at its offices in the German federal states of Bavaria, Saxony and Thuringia. kubus IT aims to exploit the capabilities of IT for its customers. To achieve this goal, kubus IT relies on oscare, a solution based on SAP that was developed by AOK Systems GmbH.

The AOK Group had been using a range of legacy, database and custom applications to manage its business processes. As reporting requirements and new demands emerged, it became more and more difficult to manage diverse systems.

Because the new initiatives increasingly depend on the ability to manage and analyze large amounts of data, AOK realized that it needed a more-integrated solution, better customized to the needs of the health insurance industry.

Moving to integrated SAP solutions
AOK kicked off an ambitious business transformation project by developing its own solution based on a comprehensive portfolio of SAP software tailored to the specific standards and processes of the healthcare industry. The solution combines SAP ERP applications, SAP Customer Relationship Management, and SAP for Healthcare – including SAP ERP Human Capital Management and SAP Supplier Relationship Management Enterprise Buyer Portal. Business data is integrated with SAP NetWeaver Business Warehouse, and provided to business intelligence applications. Using SAP NetWeaver Process Integration, the company connects its application to the electronic healthcare card infrastructure. For enterprise content management, kubus IT relies on IBM® Content Manager software.

The company has consolidated information held in different systems to the oscare application, and standardized many of its business processes within the single environment. For example, changes in customer core data are reflected continuously throughout the system, to ensure that the company is working with a ‘single version of the truth’ at all times.

Jörg Witzgall, Head of Applications and Processes at kubus IT, states, “While our previous applications only processed new data overnight, and therefore always displayed data from the previous day, the oscare system updates information in real time. This allows us to provide accurate data to our customers quickly, enabling them to respond to new developments more flexibly.”

Creating efficient systems
Jörg Witzgall explains: “We were planning to make major changes to our applications environment, and wanted to be sure that we had a solid hardware backbone in place, which would offer excellent performance and availability. We also needed a solution that would be easy for us to manage. Flexibility was another key concern for us: we experience significant cyclical variations in our workload, so we need to be able to scale our capacity up and down very quickly as demand fluctuates.

“To meet our growing requirements, we knew that our existing IT infrastructure would need to be extended. We operated data centers at four different locations. We wanted to consolidate these locations and move to a leaner, more manageable infrastructure model, while boosting performance levels for our new SAP solution.”

Improved information capabilities
To support the new oscare application with 85 SAP systems and 17,000 users, kubus IT completed a large-scale infrastructure renewal effort, deploying a robust infrastructure platform and consolidated its many data centers to only two, delivering immediate savings in infrastructure, software license fees, energy, cooling and real estate.

kubus IT introduced a server landscape including two IBM zEnterprise® 196 servers, each with 12 central processors, nine System z® Integrated Information Processors (zIIPs) and four integrated coupling facilities. The advanced resiliency and virtualization capabilities of the IBM zEnterprise servers enable kubus IT to operate three instances of IBM Geographically Dispersed Parallel Sysplex™ (GDPS®) and 24 logical partitions.

To ensure business continuity, the company relies on IBM GDPS technology to provide high availability for its crucial SAP databases. IBM GDPS enables kubus IT to operate its mission-critical systems on a cluster of two IBM zEnterprise 196 servers located at geographically remote locations. IBM GDPS boosts availability by taking advantage of proven clustering technology to provide automated failover in case of system outage.

IBM Tivoli® System Automation for z/OS® software provides the toolset to manage and automate the IBM GDPS configuration from a central point.

IBM Tivoli System Automation for z/OS is a policy-based, self-healing, high-availability solution designed to maximize efficiency and availability of critical systems and applications. The software helps to reduce administrative and operational tasks, customization and programming effort, automation implementation time and costs with Parallel Sysplex® management. Automation capabilities include operational administration tasks and also backup and recovery processes, making the IBM zEnterprise solution a highly automated powerhouse with near-zero downtime.

kubus IT uses IBM Tivoli System Automation for z/OS to support both SAP and non-SAP applications in a hugely stable environment. The software provides automated alerts if applications fail, with configurable automatic starts and restarts, and multiple automated monitoring and reporting capabilities that enable kubus IT to run a very lean staffing ratio. kubus IT gave a presentation on its experiences at Pulse 2012, an annual infrastructure and service conference held in Las Vegas.

Using z/OS Workload Management (WLM), kubus IT allocates system capacity to each application, scaling it up or down as required, to meet the specific workload demand as it varies without incurring downtime. As the total workload increases, kubus IT takes advantage of the almost limitless scalability of the IBM zEnterprise platform to increase capacity, providing a long-term solution as the business grows.

Jörg Witzgall explains, “The IBM zEnterprise platform offers excellent reliability, availability and performance. We run our IBM zEnterprise servers at up to 90 percent capacity: the system can handle this high demand effortlessly, and offers complete stability even when running demanding workloads.

“Running our database on two IBM zEnterprise 196 servers provides simplified system administration in a very manageable environment.”

Transforming data storage
Expanding storage capabilities to support the SAP solution, kubus IT chose to reinforce its storage infrastructure by deploying IBM System Storage® DS8800 and DS8700 disk storage arrays. These systems store approximately 2 PB of data from its oscare application and other systems.

The storage devices are connected to the IBM zEnterprise servers. For kubus IT’s other server environments including SAP application servers on IBM Power Systems™ servers running the IBM AIX® operating system and IBM PowerVM® virtualization technology, storage is controlled using IBM System Storage SAN Volume Controller (SVC). By managing the entire storage capacity through IBM SVC, which presents storage as a single virtualized resource, kubus IT gains greater flexibility in provisioning and greater efficiency in capacity utilization. kubus IT is able to move data from one storage device to another without interrupting applications, and maximize its usage of available capacity.

kubus IT implemented IBM SAN Volume Controller in a stretched cluster configuration with eight nodes using IBM SVC Metro Mirror, deploying a single cluster solution to support storage and servers at both of its data centers. This configuration enables high availability for company data, and ensures that critical business information is kept secure, even in the event of a hardware failure or the loss of power in one data center.

For backup and archiving, kubus IT deploys three IBM System Storage TS7740 Virtualization Engine systems and one IBM System Storage TS3500 Tape Library at both data center locations. This solution enables backups to be completed very rapidly by transferring the data to the virtualization engines, which then independently handle the transfer to physical tape. The IBM System Storage TS7740 reduces backup time and cuts the service interruption to production systems to near-zero.

To gain an overview to manage its IT solutions and its own internal business processes efficiently, kubus IT implemented IBM Tivoli Asset Management for IT, IBM Tivoli Release Process Manager, IBM Tivoli Service Request Manager, as well as IBM Tivoli Change and Configuration Management as a central tool for its IT services.

Selecting IBM DB2 10 for z/OS
During the infrastructure refresh, kubus IT evaluated the IBM DB2® for z/OS database system. Looking at the performance and capabilities, the company chose to implement IBM DB2 version 10, running on IBM z/OS on the IBM zEnterprise servers. “The IBM solution helped us to achieve a year-on-year double-digit increase in performance, even though there was little variation in the annual IT budget,” says Jörg Witzgall.

kubus IT was the first IT service provider in the AOK group to implement this version of IBM DB2 for z/OS. Joining the Early Support Program supported by IBM Global Business Services® helped to ensure that the implementation phase went smoothly. “We migrated our SAP databases including the largest one of more than 20 TB, to IBM DB2 10 for z/OS with negligible effects on our SAP production systems,” says Jörg Witzgall. “After the migration, we noticed substantial performance improvements, providing a solid foundation for future growth.”

kubus IT is highly satisfied with the new version of IBM DB2 for z/OS, which has cut response times by up to 25 percent. With a larger number of SAP processes on a single IBM DB2 database, kubus IT can utilize its resources more efficiently and improve the performance of the business applications.

Looking ahead
With the new solution, kubus IT is able to grow cost-effectively, and spend a lower proportion of its IT budget on software license fees because it operates fewer processor cores. Consolidating the IT infrastructure has also cut lower maintenance costs. The standardized solution makes it much easier to exchange data with industry partners, helping it to take advantage of new business opportunities. The insurance applications were recently integrated with the electronic healthcare card. The cards make patients’ insurance status accessible to healthcare providers, and in future will also store medical data, essential during an emergency. The card data is automatically synchronized with the central oscare application, and the confirmed validity of the data makes a direct contribution to improving patient outcomes.

Jörg Witzgall concludes: “With our new oscare application supported by reliable IBM systems, we have a strong platform for delivering timelier, accurate information to our clients in the health insurance industry.”

Products and services used

IBM products and services that were used in this case study.

Power Systems, Storage, Storage: DS8700, Storage: DS8800, Storage: TS3500 Tape Library, Storage: TS7740 Virtualization Engine, System z, System z: zEnterprise 196 (z196)

DB2 for z/OS, Tivoli System Automation for z/OS, Tivoli Release Process Manager, System Storage SAN Volume Controller, Tivoli Change and Configuration Management Database, PowerVM, Tivoli Asset Management, Tivoli Service Request Manager, z/OS

Operating system:
AIX, z/OS and OS/390

GBS ISV Community: SAP, IBM-SAP Alliance

Legal Information

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