It is crucial for any financial institution to be able to count on the availability and reliability of data at all times. This is no different for Belgian bank and insurance company KBC Group NV. Marc Van Hoof, System Expert for Open Systems and Mainframe Storage at KBC, considers storage availability for KBC as important as electricity and running water: a basic necessity that should be available 24/7.
KBC Group serves over eleven million customers through its network of more than 1500 branches. KBC has three mainframes running at two locations. The second location is used mainly as the backup, but also plays an active-active role: the online transactions are distributed across the two locations.
The mainframes are connected to two pairs of Hitachi VSP storage systems. One pair contains the Db2 and IMS online databases on Flash Storage modules. The other pair runs the batch workloads and is equipped with large HDDs. All production and development data is replicated synchronously between the two locations across their 40 km distance.
The storage vendor has supplied a configuration that can perfectly handle the current workload with a response time of 2 to 3 milliseconds. However, it is always possible for things to go wrong beneath the surface. This is why KBC and Marc Van Hoof wanted to get deeper insight into the storage environment.
“They have thought of everything. You can see that IntelliMagic Vision incorporates many years of experience from specialists. Additionally, we can add our own guidelines, for instance set specific rules for certain time periods.”
A few years ago, KBC found that a non-critical batch job was experiencing delays. This incident occurred a few days after the implementation of new Fibre switches. Marc Van Hoof approached IntelliMagic and asked them if they could have predicted this beforehand.
He says, “We realized during this process that the required SMF records on link statistics were unfortunately not collected, but IntelliMagic was able to show that with these records IntelliMagic Vision would have warned beforehand that something was wrong with the replication: the workload between the two DS8000s was not well-balanced. This meant that the batch delay could have been prevented.” This business case was part of the reason to purchase IntelliMagic Vision.
When purchasing new storage, KBC discussed the response time requirements with the vendors. The response time for online transactions (Db2 and IMS) must not only remain well below 5 ms, but also be highly stable. Marc Van Hoof says, “KBC purchased IntelliMagic Vision to ensure that the mainframe storage is indeed performing well at all times. Using IntelliMagic Vision, we can also be assured that all important storage parameters are assessed.”
The support of HDS Mainframe Analytics Recorder (MAR) was another reason to acquire IntelliMagic software. Marc Van Hoof calls this “the icing on the cake”. HDS MAR collects additional data from the storage box that is not in standard SMF. With MAR statistics, IntelliMagic Vision can show whether the environment is well-balanced: whether the mainframe DASD volumes are properly distributed over the CPUs of the storage box. In case of high CPU utilization, KBC can use the charts from IntelliMagic Vision to ask Hitachi highly specific questions.
Marc Van Hoof sees the vendor-independence of IntelliMagic as an advantage, compared to storage vendors whose tools are targeted towards their own specific storage. In this context, Marc Van Hoof says, “If at any time in the future we would change vendor or storage boxes, we would not need to change our performance management process, because IntelliMagic Vision is already multi-vendor.”
The main components of the storage environment are analyzed in dashboards that are simple to understand. In only a few minutes, Marc van Hoof can see whether there are any issues: “A root cause analysis can be made quickly using the drill-down functionality. And if the IntelliMagic dashboards are green, we can rest assured that there are no issues.”
In addition, trending helps to assess whether everything will remain healthy in the long term. As Marc Van Hoof puts it, “Trending is one of IntelliMagic’s great strengths and it is available for all parameters. It is very easy to compare month-end processing.”
He speaks highly of how comprehensive the software is:
“They have thought of everything. You can see that the software incorporates many years of experience from specialists. And the product contains explanations for every parameter. When it really matters, IntelliMagic Vision provides us with a high level of assurance: we collect the right metrics, the values are automatically processed, analyzed and stored in the database, it is all fully automated.”
KBC is an integrated bank-insurance group, catering mainly for retail, private banking, SME and mid-cap clients. Geographically, their focus is on core markets Belgium, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Bulgaria and Ireland, with limited presence elsewhere to support corporate clients from their core markets.
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