Thyssen Informatik forges ahead in systems availability with Candle's solutions.
Thyssen AG is one of Germany's leading manufacturing and trading corporations, with sales approaching DM40 billion (around US$23 billion) and nearly 130,000 employees. It consists of over 320 companies across Germany, the rest of Europe, the USA, and the rest of the world. Thyssen manufactures over 2,500 varieties of steel, used in applications from scaffolding to railway tracks, and from car components to ship building.
The information technology systems within such a vast concern are of critical importance to the business - and the all-important high availability and performance of those systems can only be attained through high quality systems management within each of the group's divisions.
Indeed, such is the importance that, in 1995, Thyssen AG established its own systems house and systems management division, Thyssen Informatik GmbH (TIC). Today, this $80million-turnover company manages IT systems for 50 Thyssen AG companies across the world, as well as for 15 external companies in Germany, England, France, Belgium, The Netherlands, Austria, and Switzerland. The "internal" customers are not obliged to select TIC to manage their systems - indeed, TIC is often involved in competitive tenders for Thyssen AG business and, to win, has to prove the value of its systems management services and expertise.
TIC employs 350 people and offers a broad spectrum of IT services to its clients. The key business is in facilities management: outsourced mainframe systems management, network management and systems migration. Support of client-server systems, UNIX, and Windows NT, is also offered. IBM's MQSeries messaging middleware has also been embraced as the solution for enabling communication between different applications and computer platforms and is supported by a department of specialists, reflecting the complexity of operations involved.
The company's mainframe environment is quite diverse, making systems management a complex responsibility. The data centre is a very large 1500 MIPs on 4.5TB of disk (with more than 50TB on tape). MVS, Tandem and Siemens BS2000 systems are operated, and databases include DB2, IMS/DL1, and ADABAS. Transaction monitors include CICS and IMS. Host communications include SNA, VTAM, and TCP/IP.
Ensuring quality of service
Ezekiel Gbenoba is in charge of mainframe systems management, databases, transaction systems, host communication software and middleware. "My key responsibility is to ensure TIC's customers can rely on 24-hour, 7 days per week stable access to their systems and applications. I cannot stress enough how vital the systems we manage are to our customers. I absolutely have to have a systems management set-up in which I can entrust the nervous systems of their businesses and ensure very high availability", he explained.
The systems in Gbenoba's hands are all mission critical. Customers seek totally to offload systems management tasks, system upgrades and the like, enabling them to concentrate on their core business activities. "At the end of the day, TIC counts on its good reputation and I am totally focused on ensuring this is maintained and developed. I am very careful when using systems and solutions suppliers and have to be sure that they share my commitment to quality of service", added Gbenoba. Ensuring that reputation for TIC through strong systems management and systems availability for customers is something Gbenoba and the system control centre team is very good at. Gbenoba also gives credit to his close working relationship with Candle Corporation - "TIC's reputation and the businesses of our customers are entrusted in Candle's systems availability solutions and the results of this partnership are clearly represented in the number of new customers entrusting their systems to us", he enthused. Two new customers signed in December 1996 and more are expected in 1997.
Candle's Availability Command Center - vital to TIC's success
The challenge facing Obenoba and his team was: how could this complex environment involving many different systems and 70 or more geographically disparate businesses be managed effectively? His customer base was growing, existing customers were running ever-more applications and demanding ever greater systems availability.
The key lay in systems management software to monitor systems and alert the Thyssen Informatik systems control centre of any problems and, more importantly, flag up potential problems before they occurred.
After evaluating systems management solutions from three companies, Gbenoba and his team selected to enhance control of CICS systems via the Candle Command Center solution, a solution that includes the monitoring agent OMEGAMON II. He engaged Candle Consulting and Services to specify his requirements and customize and install the product to deliver a solution to his system management needs. A business solution Candle terms an 'Availability Command Center" (ACC).
TIC's ACC went live in mid-1996 to provide better control over all the company's VTAM, MVS, IMS, CICS, and DB2 systems. Gbenoba observed: "We are now in a position to foresee trouble spots before they occur and, in most cases, alleviate the cause, before there is any loss in systems availability. Before ACC we were aware of some problems, but mostly we learned through a telephone call from a user, by which point the damage had been done - to their business performance and to our reputation."
Gbenoba's faith in Candle has built over a number of years. He recalls a project back in 1994 when he implemented OMEGAMON to track down a worrying systems fault. Some Thyssen AG companies using CICS transaction processing software suffered several crashes per day. Despite the potential value of CICS to the group's IT operations, Thyssen companies considering the product were apt to reject it because of these experiences. Gbenoba, determined to understand and solve the problem, implemented OMEGAMON on the troublesome systems. He was able to establish the cause of CICS crashes and redress the problems so that the systems could run virtually trouble-free. "CICS now has a good reputation at Thyssen thanks to our ability to monitor more closely what is going on. OMEGAMON made a substantial contribution to our IT strategy in that respect and has successfully countered any reliability issues we had with CICS," added Gbenoba.
Solutions for networked businesses
Following the ACC, the next step at TIC was to attempt to bring all systems monitoring activity to a single focal point. So, in March 1996, OMEGAVIEW II was installed. OMEGAVIEW distills data from the OMEGAMON monitored systems in the ACC and presents a summarized version of systems' health. When any potential or current problem is detected that might threaten systems performance or availability, an alert is presented on the "focal point" OMEGAVIEW screen.
When alerted to a problem, an operator currently logs onto the troublesome server to identify and rectify the problem. This is hard work when you have hundreds of systems to keep a check on. It's a task that is getting harder with the continuing growth in new customers, systems, and applications.
The Candle Command Center suite offers the solution in the form of the OMEGACENTER Gateway[R]. Currently being implemented at Thyssen by Candle Consulting and Services, the OMEGACENTER Gateway automatically takes control of certain more typical critical situations. In response to a problem, it can send a suitable redress command to the server without an operator having to carry out any actions at all. For TIC, this module will also enable automatic monitoring of the 20,000 or so mainframe batch jobs that run per day.
Availability Command Center for MQSeries
As a separate project, Gbenoba is evaluating extending availability command and control to his MQSeries systems. Candle will be required to specify, design and install a complete business solution to extend Availability Command Center control to these systems, bringing improved availability and business benefits to the growing number of TIC customers who have MQSeries.
The MQSeries solution is planned to be up and running by the end of 1997, feeding data on the health of both MQSeries systems and those monitored in the existing CICS ACC solution into the same OMEGAVIEW screen, ensuring the all important single focal point is maintained. Armed with MQSeries control and command, an additional benefit to TIC clients is that Gbenoba will be able to more swiftly set up new implementations of MQSeries on customer platforms where desired.
Not only does TIC rely on Candle Consulting and Services to deliver Availability Command Center solutions (requiring in-depth knowledge and experience of a wide variety of platforms and operating systems), but it calls upon the Candle MQSeries Services team to handle complex MQSeries situations, such as problem determination in multiplatform, multi-application environments.
"I've been in IT since 1980 - I have worked with Candle's competitors in the past and I must say I am very impressed with Candle's products and Candle Consulting and Services. They react very quickly to any problems I might have, or to requirements for their services. Their technical skills on their own products and products like CICS and MQSeries are excellent."
Solutions for networked applications - MQSeries Services saves the day
Gbenoba recalls a situation where a Thyssen AG company needed key applications to communicate across HP, Tandem, DEC VAX/VMS, and UNIX platforms. MQSeries middleware was proposed. TIC was not selected initially to undertake the task but, as the "go live" date approached, severe problems were apparent. "The systems company involved found that although it could enable communications across the Tandem, DEC, and UNIX platforms, it didn't have the expertise to install MQSeries on HP. It was Candle's MQSeries Services which saved the day," said Gbenoba.
He concluded: "Candle's MQSeries Services were unbelievable. The Thyssen AG company called me to see if we could rescue the situation. We looked into it and I quickly decided to seek external expertise and approached Candle. Two days after I called them, MQSeries Services had a MQSeries expert onsite. The problem was a complex one, but Candle rescued the project and it went live in January 1997. The user company was very grateful to TIC and to Candle".
Having nerves of steel, and solutions and services equally as robust, obviously helps...
Candle Corporation, Camberley, Surrey, UK
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|Publication:||Industrial Management & Data Systems|
|Date:||Jul 1, 1997|
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