For the Australian and New Zealand arm of Tyco Electronics, a global US$12.8 billion dollar provider of engineered electronic components, the reliability of its IBM i-based ERP software is fundamental to business efficiency. The challenge, though, is for a relatively lean IBM i support team to provide around-the-clock support to ensure 24-hour uptime.
A Change to Proactive Systems Monitoring
A key member of that team is Abhay Kulkarni, Senior Systems Engineer. “Just as is the case with most businesses,” he says, “a fair amount of our IBM i processing is done after hours, with end-of-day and end-of-week batch processing and reporting. But the reality is that again, like most business, we don’t have the personnel resources available to have someone monitoring the system 24 hours a day.”
A direct result of that inability to provide 24-hour systems monitoring, if a problem occurred with any process, it was generally a case of the support team not knowing about it until a user contacted them with a query as to why their job was taking so long.
“Once we identified the problem, we generally found that a single problem had a cascading effect, holding up all the other jobs that were waiting in line,” Abhay says. “If it happened overnight, then we wouldn’t find out until the next morning when personnel, including senior management, were waiting to receive reports on the previous day’s activities.
“Essentially, it was a classic example of reactive systems management; and we realized fairly quickly that we needed a solution that would help us change this to proactive.”
A Clear Demonstration
Abhay and his colleagues had to conduct a thorough evaluation of all feasible alternatives in order to identify the most appropriate solution for the company’s IBM i monitoring needs. But it was a hands-on session that demonstrated clearly the perfect fit that was to be afforded by Halcyon’s Message Management Suite (Level 1).
For the purposes of the demonstration, Abhay and a colleague were located in a Sydney office along with a Halcyon engineer and a remote terminal connected to an IBM i server in Melbourne.
“The Halcyon engineer logged into the Message Management Suite running on IBM i, entered our mobile phone numbers and showed us how, with SMS messaging, we could receive system alerts from the server, then issue commands directly to the server, Abhay explains. “The level of control was such that we even had the ability to shut the server down with a simple SMS message. That gave us all the proof we needed that the Message Management Suite was the ideal solution to meet our needs.”
IT Maintenance on the Road
With the Message Management Suite, the IBM i support team at Tyco Electronics has been given a level of freedom in monitoring and management well beyond what they had expected initially. Now, an alert is generated immediately on IBM i—whether relating to hardware, operating system, or software—and an SMS is automatically sent to the support team’s mobile phones.
“When we receive the message,” Abhay continues, “we see a reference number and customized message that explains precisely the cause of the alert. From there, it’s a straightforward process of responding via SMS and issuing commands, such as retrying or cancelling a job.”
Where the flexibility of the solution adds particular value for Abhay and his colleagues is in the ability to customize virtually everything from the wording of alert messages right through to escalation lists and mobile phones to which messages are sent depending on the type of alert.
“The fact is that we’re able to customize the behavior of the system and ensure it contacts the right people whenever an alert is generated,” he says.
Business Continuity Guaranteed
“For the business itself, it’s resulted in a definite service improvement,” says Abhay. “Problems that previously might have resulted in extensive delays to job processing are now being addressed within minutes, and the number of calls we get from users about delays in their jobs being processed or reports not being received has almost totally dropped away.
“What it boils down to is our ability to provide a 24-hour IBM i support model without requiring additional staff or maintaining a constant on-site presence. That’s what we had set out to gain—and it’s precisely what we achieved.”
Taking It to the Next Level
Abhay continues, “When the solution was implemented, it was done without interruption to our business or people, and any time we need to speak to someone at Halcyon—regardless of the time or issue—we can!”
So, when it comes to voicing a recommendation to other IBM i administrators, Abhay is only too ready to put Halcyon’s Message Management Suite forward as a best-of-breed solution.
“The best recommendation I can give,” he says, “is that it’s a solution that works as promised, is easy to use and manage, is backed by people who know the products and are always available, and helps us guarantee our users the performance levels they expect from IBM i.”