One of the most important IT functions in any business is having a reliable backup and recovery system in place. That’s where Robot Save, the automated backup, recovery, and tape management package from HelpSystems, plays a vital role at Prime Therapeutics, the pharmacy benefits managers based in Eagan, MN.
From providing employers, unions, and health insurers with services from comprehensive pharmacy programs to claims processing, the company also relies on several other products from HelpSystems, including Robot Alert, Robot Console, Robot Network, and Robot Schedule. Combined, they automate a workload serving 7.5 million covered lives and an estimated 60 million claims per year.
Leigh Richardson, Senior Computer Operator, and a manager of production control are responsible for IBM i operations at Prime Therapeutics. Their primary production server is an iSeries Model 825 in Texas. A second Model 825 is a three-way LPAR system located in Eagan. In addition, they have another iSeries that’s used for system administration and several Windows and UNIX servers. They run Catamaran RXClaim software for claims processing.
We put together a project plan when we were going through the conversion, and someone from HelpSystems’ staff actually walked through our project plan to see if we were missing anything.
All daily, weekly, and monthly backups are run using Robot Save and two IBM 3494 automated media libraries (AMLs). One 3494 is located in its Irving, Texas office and the other, with two drives, in Eagan. The company mirrors most of its data from the production system in Texas to the secondary system in Eagan. Thus, the majority of its data is backed up in Eagan. Only non-mirrored data is backed up in Texas.
Daily and weekly backups consist of a SAVLIB of all libraries. According to the manager of production control, “We do a SAVLIB instead of a save object because, with the 3494, the 3592E tapes, and compression and compaction, we can hold about 700 gigabytes of data. So, it was to our advantage just to do a SAVLIB across the board.” The libraries included in the SAVLIB are defined to the backup.
Simplifying Remote Backups
The production system in Texas is backed up remotely. The manager of production control reported, “We only have two network staff down in Texas. The only thing they have to do is load and unload tapes on Fridays and send them to our storage facility. They don’t have to be familiar with the IBM i; all they have to know is how to move the tapes in and out of the AML.”
Added Leigh, “The 3494 has been a big life saver for us.”
The tapes in the 3494 are set up in a scratch pool so they are available for use after the data saved on them expires.
Leigh explained, “That’s a really nice feature because you’re not unloading tapes. The tapes that we don’t send off-site just physically stay in the AML until they expire and then Robot Save knows to use them again.”
The daily and weekly backups are scheduled in Robot Schedule job scheduling software. The first backup on the production system in Texas starts at 7 p.m. On the secondary system in Eagan, the company uses cross-system reactivity to back up the partitions to the AML.
“We share the tape drives on our secondary box in Eagan with our development partitions," continued the manager of production control. "We start our secondary box backup at 7 p.m. That’s split into two backups so that it runs on both drives. When one of them finishes, the drive is deallocated on the current partition and allocated on the development partition.”
Fast and Reliable Restoration
“We have 99.9 percent availability service-level agreements we need to meet, so we keep the system up and running all the time," said the manager of production control. "We only roll to our backup box if we’re doing something like an upgrade for our claims processing software. Our primary business is processing claims, so that application is replicated to our backup box. It only takes us about 10 minutes to role swap to the secondary box.”
Robot Save’s restoration reports are sent between the systems in Eagan and Texas following each backup session. “If we lost our Texas box, we’d have the information in Eagan as far as the tapes we’d need to restore the systems, and vice versa,” she continued.
Robot Save’s object archive also has come in handy when they’ve needed to restore data. “Recently a developer needed to recover a library that contained some programs from the development box," explained the manager of production control. "He gave me the name of the library and the last time it was on the system. I just went into the object archive and looked it up—you can look it up either by library or object—and it told me exactly which volume it was saved on and when it was saved. I can just select an option in Robot Save and it restores it for me. And, since we don’t have anybody down in Texas, it saves us a lot of time because we don’t have to wait for someone to load and unload a tape.”
Leigh continued, “Another thing that I like in Robot Save is the Add Undefined Libraries feature. Often new libraries are created—whether in production or development—that we’re not aware of. This feature ensures that we’re not missing any of them, because it automatically adds any undefined libraries to the backup set. You see that your backups are taking longer, and you can determine why from there.
“We also use Robot Save’s Alternate Backup Set feature, so we can append to the tapes. We’ve gone from twenty-three 3590 tapes per day to one 3592E tape. That’s been really helpful as far as the storage and cost of tapes.”
When they first began using Robot Save, the company used 3590 tape drives. When they decided to convert to the 3494 AMLs, they did a new installation of Robot Save on the Texas iSeries. For the backup box in Eagan, they didn’t want to start out with a clean system because they had a lot of archived tapes and history. Instead, they performed a conversion and found that the support staff at HelpSystems was very helpful in walking them through the challenges they faced.
“We put together a project plan when we were going through the conversion,” said Leigh, “and someone from HelpSystems actually walked through our project plan to see if we were missing anything.”
The combination of Robot Save and the IBM 3494 AML gives Prime Therapeutics the confidence that their important data will be available whenever it’s needed. And that, in turn, should make 7.5 million people feel confident that when they need medication, their claims will be processed quickly and reliably.