IBM i In The Middle Of Infrastructure Overhaul
December 16, 2013 Dan Burger
Emerging markets are the accelerator and brakes on the IT spending bus. Countries in Latin America, India, Russia, and particularly in Asia have are expected to drive IT growth to a much greater degree than the mature markets, where businesses are advancing with one foot on the brake pedal. IBM, like any other multinational organization knows where the treasure is hidden. And the IBM i benefits from globalization just like everything else.
Asia has mature markets–Japan and Hong Kong being the prime examples–where the economy is more in line with the United States, Canada, and Western Europe, which have been slower to recover from the recent recession. But it also has emerging markets such as China, India, and Vietnam, which are the targets for many of the most aggressive IT vendors.
IT infrastructure improvements are an easier decision in markets where above average growth is predicted. For instance, Vietnam is one of the Asian countries that is undergoing rapid economic change. Phu Hung Life, a newly established joint-stock life insurer in Vietnam, is preparing for growth by investing in Power Systems running IBM i. That decision takes into account that systems, applications, and new technology are business advantages when it comes to delivering services to clients.
A quick overview of Vietnam reveals a populace minimally affected by the insurance business, but with significant growth potential based on the growing middle class, promising demographics, and favorable regulation. According to the Association of Vietnamese Insurers, life insurance in Vietnam is a growth market with anticipated gains of 15 percent to 20 percent year over year. Individual and supplementary life insurance products, according to the Ministry of Finance, are owned by only 5 percent of the 89 million people in the country.
Phu Hung Life considers IT infrastructure the key to its business strategy, which emphasizes highly effective core operations, cost controls, and products that are affordable, tailored, and more comprehensive than its competitors can offer the 85 million potential clients.
“As we are preparing to launch our first offerings early next year, our strategy is to establish an operating model in which technology is accessed as a flexible, variable cost service as opposed to the traditional fixed cost approach,” said Bimal Balasingham, the director and a board member of Phu Hung Life Insurance in a prepared statement. “We needed an IT infrastructure that would give us enough flexibility and choice on how to reach our clients–via traditional ways or over the cloud, for example. In addition, we have to rely on the IT platform to leverage the big data we operate with in order to gain more insights into our clients’ needs.”
The infrastructure put in place consists of two IBM Power Systems 720+ running IBM i, five IBM System x servers, and Tivoli Storage Manager. It is a system that IBM says integrates core and non-core applications and manages diverse workloads. One Power 720+ is used in a production environment and the second is used for development and testing. Both boxes are four-core machines with two cores active. They are configured with 64 GB of main memory and eight 283 GB disks spinning at 15K RPM.
“Phu Hung Life now has a system that supports and integrates existing and new insurance applications,” according to a statement by IBM sales executive Crispin Bui. “Once the new offerings launch next year, Phu Hung Life will be able to provide reliable and timely services with superior service-level agreements for its clients. In addition, the company will be able to manage its future growth and reduce its total cost of ownership, while gaining high reliability, availability, and scalability.”
Several applications were evaluated before a decision was made to run the core business on software by CSC, a software company based in Falls Church, Virginia, with offices in Asia, Australia, and Europe. CSC recommended Phu Hung Life run the software on IBM i based on its proven resiliency, security, and scalability. Tivoli Storage Manager is used to back up data from IBM System x servers onto tape. Five System x servers are divided into 10 virtual machines using VMware vSphere 5. Phu Hung Life uses IBM System Director software to manage the Power Systems servers and the System x servers from a single interface.
The new infrastructure runs completely on premise, but is considered cloud-ready in that it was designed to scale and transition to a hybrid cloud environment, if that proves to be a desirable option in the future.