Article

Behind the Glitz: How Casinos Depend on IBM i

IBM i
Posted:
August 16, 2016

As makers of systems monitoring software for the IBM i platform, the team at CCSS supports a healthy cross-section of the economy. Whether it is trucking companies, finance and insurance providers, hospitals, or the food industry, organizations in any industry rely on the i for processing and storing their most important data. It’s a platform that allows them to offer their customers, internal and external, the highest degrees of service availability.

Over the past decade, CCSS has been fortunate to gain a growing number of customers in the gaming and hospitality industry or, as it is more widely known, casinos. If you’re not part of that industry, be aware that the majority of them have completely based their business around IBM i. You may be surprised. At first glance it may seem an odd pairing—after all, the whole notion of casinos as glamorous, showy, spectacularly designed places seems to be such a stark contrast to the down-to-earth, “let’s get the work done”, “humming quietly in the data center”, un-rock-star image of IBM i.

But don’t let looks deceive you! Below the surface, they are the perfect pair.

Fierce Competition

Competition in the casino business is fierce. There are always other casinos trying to draw customers away from your own, in many cases they are just a few minutes’ walk away. This has driven the industry toward using a wide set of technologies to get the edge, including the use of business intelligence tools, where casinos were early adopters. What does it take to survive in such an environment? Yes, nice restaurants, beautiful buildings, many card tables, and slot machines. But you also need rock-solid IT systems that you can trust, machines that can keep running for months, even for years. You need this to keep track of your customers, the money you earn, and the money you pay out. You need it to keep track of the beds in your hotels, the food your kitchens serve, and records of people who passed through which electronically secured door, and when. Does that sound more like the IBM i you know? It sure does.

Small Staff

A knock-on effect of that industry competitiveness is that staffing numbers are usually low, including in the IT departments. IT teams are very small—even understaffed—yet it’s not uncommon that they are responsible for keeping applications available for tens of thousands of customers. Tens of thousands per day, that is. So, if you have an IT department that you want to run with a minimum number of people, it helps if you have an IBM i.

Regulatory Compliance

These days, the casino industry is a far cry from the “a Smith & Wesson beats your four aces” gambling days of yore. Gaming is one of the most regulated industries in the world. As a casino operator, your business is subject to numerous rules and regulations. Fortunately, IBM i is a platform that already has a security audit journal built in, which is very useful when the local casino authority wants to run an audit. And they do.

Thanks to these benefits (and doubtlessly some clever marketing by Big Blue), the IBM i platform is a mainstay with casino operators the world over. To put it into casino terms: in order for “front-of-the-house” operations (i.e., that showy part of the business where the actual gambling takes place) to generate money, it must be based on rock-solid, cost-efficient “back-of-the-house” operations.

CCSS for Service Stability

While IBM i is a super platform, you can be sure there will be problems when you throw in applications, hardware issues, and volume of users, plus internet connectivity. Platform stability is one thing and service stability is another—and one does not necessarily lead to the other. Like any other business, casino operators know that reducing problems means better service availability. That’s where CCSS comes into play. A casino that is maxing out their IBM i is typically using it to run the following:

  • Lodging Management System (e.g., Agilysys)
  • Materials Management System (i.e., procurement & inventory)
  • Casino Management System (e.g., Bally Technologies)
  • Slots Management System (i.e., the closest to actual gameplay that IBM i will get)
  • Finance and HR (e.g., Infor)
  • High availability software (e.g., MIMIX)

In addition, numerous servers and devices running other platforms are also connecting to IBM i, mainly to write data to or read data from DB2, including:

  • Physical access control (doors)
  • Business Intelligence (BI)
  • “Human Capital Management”

Now, from a systems management perspective, this translates into the following:

  • Are my application (LMS, MMS, CMS, etc.) subsystems up and running?
  • Are my application jobs up and running?
  • What’s the Disk Busy value?
  • Are all my network interfaces up?
  • Is the remote journaling to the DR system working?
  • Are there any warning messages from my applications?
  • How full is my disk? Why is it so full?

From a security angle (regulations!), a casino also wants to know:

  • Are users doing funny security-relevant things like tinkering with databases or using special-authority commands?
  • Is the number of failed logons above the normal steady trickle?
  • Are users uploading or downloading files they should not?

And of course, these concerns translate into QSystem Monitor, QMessage Monitor, and QRemote Control functionality in the following ways:

Tell me... Product Functionality
Are my application (LMS, MMS, CMS, etc.) subsystems up and running? QSystem Monitor, QMessage Monitor Check subsystem status and automatically start subsystems that are not active
Are my application jobs up and running? QSystem Monitor, QMessage Monitor Check number of jobs, job status (including job in Message Wait) and automatically start jobs that are not active
What’s the Disk Busy value? QSystem Monitor Monitor Disk Busy value
Are all my network interfaces up? QSystem Monitor Check Line Status for any line and run TCP Ping checks against internal and external addresses
Is the remote journaling to the DR system working? QSystem Monitor Monitor remote journal lag
How full is my disk? Why is it so full? QSystem Monitor Monitor auxiliary storage, QTEMP object size, and temporary storage; analyse disk usage with Disk Summary and Disk Inquiry
Are there any warning messages from my applications? QMessage Monitor Check QSYSOPR, QSYSMSG, and application message queues for warnings and highlight any found; remove irrelevant message clutter
Are users doing funny security-relevant things like tinkering with databases or using special-authority commands? QMessage Monitor Monitor the security audit journal, warn in real time, and monitor accesses to sensitive files
Is the number of failed logons above the normal steady trickle? QMessage Monitor Audit journal monitoring
Are users uploading or downloading files they should not? QMessage Monitor FTP monitoring
Can I send out notifications for any of the above via email or text message? QRemote Control Send out notifications via email or SMS

That’s quite a list, and it’s why CCSS products continue to gain popularity in the gaming industry. Whether it’s one of the classic casinos on the Vegas “strip”, a casino in a Native American reservation, one of the mega-casinos in Singapore or Macau, or one of the future casinos that we hear will be erected in Japan in the next few years, any casino that is using the IBM i platform has made a bet on stability. No matter the size, CCSS solutions translate that platform stability into continuous application stability, enabling small IT teams to manage business-critical IBM i environments and to keep wheels spinning.

Get a closer look at CCSS solutions by requesting a free trial today.

 

Related Solutions