Age is only a number, especially for mainframes

    March 13, 2020

    The first commercial mainframe computer was introduced in 1951. That makes the mainframe roughly the same age as actor Mark Hamill, rock star Sting, Wonder Woman actress Linda Carter and astronaut Sally Ride. All things considered, each of these 68-year-olds – including the mainframe computer – are holding up well, despite their year.

    But mainframe computers are starting to show their age in other ways. Even though mainframes are still used in about 70 percent of businesses, the population of people who know how to program and maintain this technology is dwindling, causing many companies to re-evaluate their IT plans.

    For example, when an aging mainframe couldn't keep up with high transaction volumes and continued growth at Global Atlantic Financial Group, a simple "lift and shift" upgrade strategy wouldn't do. Sungard Availability Services (Sungard AS) provided a realistic roadmap to the near and far future, as well as the migration and hosting services to help this leading insurance provider get there without disruption and ahead of schedule.

    Through its subsidiaries, Global Atlantic offers a broad range of retirement, life insurance and reinsurance products. Founded by Goldman Sachs in 2004 and separated as an independent entity in 2013, the company combines its heritage with leading investment and risk management to help customers address their financial challenges with confidence.

    In the interaction-driven industries of finance and insurance, processing delays and downtime are not acceptable. Especially for Global Atlantic, where more than 8,000 users access policy administration software every day to process applications and claims.

    In addition to call center, operations, finance and reporting teams, agents in the field and external partners depend on the software, which drives the company's $75 billion in revenue.

    To manage the increasing transaction volumes the application creates, Global Atlantic depends on the muscle of a mainframe. But when nightly batch processing started running into office hours and degrading application performance, they knew it was time to replace the aging system and the off-site facility where it resided.

    "We pride ourselves in maintaining a current technology architecture, so the fact that the environment was old was a big flag for us," says Shawn Thomas, Solution Architect for Global Atlantic. "The mainframe was struggling to keep pace with our growth, which could impact our ability to take on large blocks of new business or to pursue large-scale partnerships. We were also limited in where and how we could effectively implement automation and other process improvements we needed to support the business."

    The first step was to have an implementation strategy in place that would work. Global Atlantic looked carefully at the challenges and pursued a migration solution that was not just the most viable, but also aligned strongly with their future roadmap and objectives.

    Sungard AS provided the most viable solution that solved for all of our problem areas and aligned best with our overall strategy. They developed a solution that showcased our environment and what the roadmap looked like to transform it into the solution we needed.

    -Assistant Vice President and Senior Solutions Architect, Global Atlantic

    Given the complexity and time involved in migrating applications, relocating equipment, bringing it live and supporting it over the long term, Thomas chose to outsource. Sungard AS already provided a disaster recovery (DR) site and services to other parts of Global Atlantic and emerged as the top choice.

    "Sungard AS provided the most viable solution that solved for all of our problem areas and aligned best with our overall strategy," he says. "They successfully captured our problem statement and developed a solution that showcased our environment and what the roadmap looked like to transform it into the solution we needed."

    Since application and dependency mapping is critical to migrating, managing and recovering a production environment, Sungard AS used its Automated Discovery and Dependency Mapping (ADDM) tool to understand and document the interdependencies of applications and their supporting infrastructures.

    This created a change management database to keep track of assets and configurations, as well as upstream and downstream network connections, during the transition and after. It was also essential to establishing the critical applications that would need to be recovered as a priority.

    Sungard AS teamed with its hybrid IT services partner Ensono on the project to build out a new production environment in an Ensono data center. Key milestones included consolidating and migrating the Ingenium insurance application onto Global Atlantic's mainframe, along with a major operating system upgrade and many application upgrades. All this work took place over just seven months.

    "It was a colossal effort, involving a lot of moving parts that required support from a wide range of different resources," Thomas says. "Although we worked within a very complex environment, where timing and sequence would determine the success or failure of our migration, we completed these tremendously difficult activities on time or ahead of schedule, and we did it without causing any disruptions or downtime for the business."

    To learn more about how Global Atlantic worked with Sungard AS to build the confidence needed to assure customers and partners that their data is safe, read our latest customer case study.

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