Robot and Medical Mutual: A Prescription for Success


Medical Mutual, the oldest and largest Ohio-based health insurance company, has capitalized on its expertise and sound management to grow into a $1 billion company. Underpinning that success is its sound IT infrastructure, automated by Robot products from Fortra.

Medical Mutual manages, schedules, administers and handles change management for data and programs on all major computer platforms, including IBM (mainframe and Power Systems running IBM i, Linux, and AIX), Windows, and SQL with Oracle databases. In addition, it uses the POWER9 architecture to run IBM i, Linux and UNIX.

HelpSystems, the leading provider of IBM i systems management and automation solutions, has been with Medical Mutual since 2001. Today the company uses a host of Robot products—Robot Alert, Robot Console, Robot Network, Robot Reports, Robot Schedule, and Robot Schedule Enterprise—to run its IBM i environment as well as its distributed Windows and UNIX servers.

Robot Network is an awesome product. Once we established the Status Center, I became aware of how powerful it really is.

Doug Powell, Infrastructure Engineer IV for Medical Mutual, describes the company’s setup: “We have a 24/7, 365 days-per-year operations staff monitoring IBM i and the other systems we cover. Because of all the other systems that must be coordinated, we will always have operators watching the shop. But we wanted all automated processes, which is why we chose Robot products. We’ve found that once you set things up, you’re pretty much good to go.”

One of the key pieces in Medical Mutual’s automation is Robot Network, the single-point IBM i network control package. Doug explains, “Robot Network is an awesome product. Once we established the Status Center, which notifies operators of system and application events, I became aware of how powerful it really is. The Status Center and Robot Network make things simple, automated, and foolproof. It’s the best of all worlds.”

Doug’s team uses Robot Network and Robot Console to monitor IBM i messages centrally. “Statuses are sent from our Robot products to Robot Network, which then displays them in the Status Center on the host,” Doug says. Then they put Robot Console master message in the Robot Console Product Master and use Robot Network to send them to partitions. “By combining Robot Console with the Robot Network Product Master, we can move jobs from one partition to another. We use the Product Master to set up new jobs by creating a job on one partition, then testing its reactivity, and finally moving it to another partition.” For specific messages, Doug says, “we use Robot Alert to notify our Tech Support group. For other messages, we email Operations to notify them there may be a problem.

Medical Mutual also takes advantage of Robot Network’s ability to span partitions and systems, as well as its cross-system reactivity. “Our programmers want to work with the most up-to-date data possible,” Doug says. “For a function like data refresh, we backup our application library during the nightly backup. Robot Schedule takes the data, sends it to the development system, then restores the data. Once the source system receives a completion code, everything is good to go.”

“One of our biggest uses of Robot,” Doug says, “is scheduling for distributed Windows and UNIX servers on Robot Schedule Enterprise,” with regular job scheduling and event-triggering across platforms. “We currently have 38 agents running on distributed systems,” he said, “and we’re planning for more.”

Doug also likes some of the powerful communication options Robot Network offers. “In the past, we’ve gotten burned when a system went down and we didn’t catch it,” Doug says. “We found out firsthand what that does to system reactivity. Now we use the graphical user interface to show if any node system is not available.”

Medical Mutual is currently planning to monitor enterprise-wide with Robot Network. “We run every job with Robot Schedule, and we will use Robot Console to monitor each message. If an error is detected, SMTP emails our incident management software to automatically create a ticket.” Then, using Robot Schedule’s Job Text option for documentation, the Medical Mutual system handles issues in an automatic three-step process: first, the system determines the name of the job; second, it is given a priority or severity level; and finally, it names the technical support group that will be handling the issue.

The technical staff at Medical Mutual took advantage of a variety of Robot product trainings both online and on-site at Fortra. But Doug says one of his greatest resources is available to him all the time. “I get great training just by talking to the Fortra support staff,” he says. “They are up on their game, they are fun to talk to, and when you need help, they’re available.”

“Robot products give us simplified, accurate, and dependable monitoring tailored to our business,” Doug says. “Knowing I have these automated systems working for us allows me to get more done and gives me great peace of mind.”

Next Steps

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