AAA Carolinas Gains Greater i Visibility with Software from CCSS
May 6, 2008 Alex Woodie
Keeping an eye on the AS/400 was largely a manual task for operators at AAA Carolinas, a branch of the American Automobile Association that insures and supports drivers in North and South Carolina. As a result, the company’s reaction to unusual events wasn’t always as swift as it could have been. But now that it’s implemented the i (formerly i5/OS and OS/400)-based systems monitoring and management suite from CCSS, the company’s computer operators have become more proactive in identifying and resolving issues before they become problems.
AAA Carolinas started selling insurance only eight years ago, but it’s already the sixth largest automobile club in the United States with 1.7 million members, and with a 23 percent increase in premiums last year, it’s the fastest growing, too.
Backing up this business is an IBM System i Model 520, which runs a variety of insurance and membership applications that are accessed by 300 users. The server provides an exceptionally strong foundation for business applications, but without a well-defined system for monitoring the server’s message logs and its vital signs (disk, processor, I/O utilization, etc.), AAA Carolinas was running the risk of a critical message or abnormal state slipping past the operators and potentially hurting availability.
As a result of this reactive state of affairs in the IT department, AAA Carolina relied upon its users to notify the company’s helpdesk of any potential problems with the i OS business applications. The company realized this was not an ideal situation, so it sought to install a systems management package that could automate much of the work of monitoring the system logs and notifying the administrator before minor issues escalate into major problems.
AAA Carolina’s search led it to CCSS, an English developer of i OS systems management software that has its U.S. headquarters in North Carolina. AAA Carolina installed CCSS’ QMessage Monitor, which examines important logs and queues in the i OS and ensures that someone is notified of abnormal situations through its escalation procedures.
With QMessage Monitor in place, AAA Carolinas has a way of automatically filtering through the thousands of inconsequential log entries, and highlighting the few urgent messages that could impact availability if left untended. If an important message hits the system, QMessage Monitor initiates the escalation procedure corresponding to the day and time, which ensures that the message is brought to the attention of the administrator or operator on call at that particular time. If the administrator or operator fails to respond to the initial e-mail in a timely manner, QMessage Monitor will call the administrator’s cell phone or pager, or request assistance from a preselected backup.
With QMessage Monitor on the job, AAA Carolinas is enjoying greater accountability and ownership of its applications, says CIO Laura Fanning. “We are now consistently meeting or exceeding service level agreements for these critical applications,” she says. “We have a greater understanding of critical dependencies amongst Internet, data warehouse, and financial applications that reside on different platforms but require information from the membership and insurance operational systems. And finally, we have been able to be more proactive in identifying, responding to, and resolving issues before they become known to or communicated by our user community.”