AAA Life Leverages Robot for IT Efficiency


Part of the American Automobile Association (AAA) family, AAA Life Insurance Company offers a variety of competitive life insurance, annuity, and travel accident products. With over one million policies, many people rely on AAA Life to help provide protection for their loved ones.

As Senior Systems Engineer at AAA Life, Randy Wittner is in charge of their IBM i environment, overseeing two S824 POWER8 servers. AAA Life uses IBM i to host three partitions. IBM i also runs some web services, their life insurance product (which includes a general ledger and claims module), and Robot systems management solutions. 

Flexible Scheduling

“We have three operators for three shifts and 15 RPG developers,” says Wittner. “Everything on the IBM i platform that’s not development falls on me. The rest of our environment is made up of Windows servers running one application/function each, and most of them connect to IBM i to get data, so it’s the backbone of almost everything—the main system at AAA Life.”

Robot solutions were already in place when Wittner joined the team in 2002, but he has over 25 years of experience on IBM i, and AAA Life was not the first place he encountered Robot. “I’ve worked at many companies that have had Robot Schedule, so good market share,” says Wittner. “It’s very reliable, easy to upgrade. It automates a lot for us in our process.”

Robot Schedule has automated between 500 and 700 jobs for AAA Life. Over the years, Wittner has redesigned things in Robot to make their schedule more efficient. He explains, “We didn’t have the groups or jobs we have now. We have jobs that run every hour during the day, certain hours, weekly, daily. We have reactive jobs for dependencies. We have a nightly process that runs five nights a week using group jobs. We use OPAL code, date objects, the calendar, command variables; we use almost everything you can use on it.”

“It’s basically a one-stop shop. The products have always worked great; product support is friendly and willing to help. I consider [HelpSystems] one of the leaders in IBM i vendors and tools.”

Wittner especially enjoys the flexibility of Robot Schedule. Using the built-in scripting language called OPAL (OPerator Assistance Language), he was able to create jobs that monitor to see if messages are building up in IBM MQ or whether a certain subsystem or job is running.

Important Notifications

Before Wittner started, AAA Life did not check to see if subsystems were up. “It was basically if they noticed or when they noticed,” he explains. “Now, I get a page if web service isn’t up or if the MQ message depth is too high—I set up things like that which didn’t exist before.”

To send these notifications, Wittner uses Robot Console and Robot Alert. Here again, OPAL allows him the flexibility to notify different devices. “It works great to our BlackBerrys, through email, and all that,” he says. “The escalation is a good way to go with the acknowledgement requirement.”

The team customizes their message responses, and many are set up to use the two-way feature of Robot Alert so on-call staff can send replies back to QSYSOPR directly from their device.

“It’s basically a one-stop shop,” says Wittner. “The products have always worked great; product support is friendly and willing to help. I consider them one of the leaders in IBM i vendors and tools.”