Company: CybermationCustomer: WorldspanSubmitted by: MCC InternationalDate: Spring 2000WORLDSPAN has probably been involved in your travel plans without you even knowing. This information services company provides reservation, ticketing and office automation products for the global travel industry. Serving more than 15,000 travel agency customers in 42 countries, the company is jointly owned by affiliates of Delta Air Lines, Northwest Airlines, Trans World Airlines and Abacus Distribution Systems (the Asian/Pacific computer reservation system company based in Singapore).
WORLDSPAN’S purpose is to provide a real-time, on-line reservations system, and a range of travel information. It’s multitude of business applications related to baggage, meals, flight operations, ticket transactions, seat availability, flights, and fares must be operational 24 hours a day. The key to its success is speed and accuracy.
Automation is the only way that WORLDSPAN can provide information fast enough so that its owners can stay competitive. Reliable, 24-hour availability of the on-line reservation system must be guaranteed.
All travel-related information must also be processed accurately and be on-time to meet the service levels that the airlines demand.There is an extensive communications network, and travel agencies are LAN-connected to WORLDSPAN’S fast TPF (transaction processing facility) on-line reservation system. This runs on eight CPUs in a loosely coupled environment. Alongside TPF, its main platform is MVS, where they have just short of 400 MIPS on an IBM 9021-982.
“This is for all of our behind-the-scenes batch processing”, noted David Lauderdale, Director of Communications Software.WORLDSPAN also processes data on UNIX, NT and Tandem platforms, as well as VM.Its automation vision is to provide continuous system availability with cross-platform functionality. Cybermation’s ESP Workload Manager has played a valuable role, allowing them to completely automate TPF production utilities. They say that this is due to the built-in flexibility that ESP has, allowing them to establish reliable communication interfaces between various platforms and software tools.
“We don’t have a batch window. It’s 24 hours a day, and it never stops. We have service level file deliveries all day long, around the clock. Because of the success we have had in automating our production workload on the on-line reservation system, we are very confident in ESP,” said Terri Nichols, Manager of Production Control. “Now we use ESP as our only scheduler, regardless of what platform is used.”ORLDSPAN first encountered ESP in 1993, having acquired the rights to the license when they bought another company.
Not knowing ESP’s capabilities, they used it only to submit JES3 networks, relying on their existing scheduler to do the rest of the work. When a decision was made to migrate everything to JES2 from JES3, they had to evaluate and decide between the two systems. “We chose ESP because it could manage our workload with flexibility”, said Nichols. “It really was the key to the success of the whole migration, because of its cross-system communications and its resource management capabilities.”
Before implementing ESP, WORLDSPAN had 22 people operating TPF and executing production utilities.
That number has been reduced because they only need to focus on the operations. Because of ESP’s capabilities, they were able to absorb the production workload into a control group without increasing headcount. Three or four people per shift in the control group run about a quarter of a million batch jobs each month, and most of the workload is handling exceptions.Lauderdale commented on how they have “synchronized, with integrity, multiple platforms with critical data going back and forth between them – such as TPF, MVS, Tandem, and VM – using ESP to control, track and monitor all the functions”.ESP helps move large amounts of data back and forth between systems.
When processing has been done on TPF it is handed over to MVS. ESP watches for this, starts the batch process in motion, processes the data, posts the process, signals TPF that it’s time for the data to go back, and activates the console automation package to execute tape loading commands so that the process that updates databases can begin. This all happens automatically under ESP: there’s no manual intervention involved, and so no delays.Lauderdale explained how they can see significant paybacks from ESP. “Even in intangibles like the way we avoid re-runs. We save massive amounts of system resources because we run everything right the first time.
We don’t have to re-run work and then consume resources that we don’t really have.”
GUARANTEEING BETTER SERVICES
ESP has helped WORLDSPAN to improve services to its customers. “1995 we had difficulty meeting our service level agreements (SLA) in the areas of batch”, explained Nichols. “In the last few years with we’ve seen big improvements, and we were able to raise the bar delivering more valid files than ever before.”Before ESP was fully implemented, it used to take three or four days to build monthly reports on SLA performance.
The reports are now generated automatically, or can be provided easily on demand. WORLDSPAN can view all jobs for a customer on a single ESP screen to check out their service levels. They can tell by a quick glance if a job is going to be late. If a TPF job aborts, the operator can take action and resubmit it to a different processor to make sure the job completes on time. Timeliness is all-important for the on-line reservation system.
As Lauderdale explained, “We are transmitting and processing data for the airlines which they depend on for business validation, marketing, and revenue. If a network job abends and sits there for hours because we’ve missed it, they would have to reprocess the data and send it to us again. It’s really important for us to avoid delays in delivery.”WORLDSPAN has become increasingly pro-active in customer service. ESP provides real-time warnings to operations staff if they are getting close to missing an SLA, and there is an overdue start report that tracks all jobs not completed 30 minutes before their SLA deadline.
“We can address any jobs approaching the threshold and work with the developers before having to report to the customers. If we are unable to reduce the processing time due to changes made, we can then approach the customer, again before the files are actually late. The customers are very receptive to this pro-active approach”, said Nichols.ESP’s symbolic variables contain all SLA information for that customer. If a change is needed, this can be done quickly, in one place, and it is then accurately replicated in every job and application they run for the customer.
The ability to make a change once through ESP, compared to hundreds of instances of the same change they used to have to make, has freed up a lot of programmer time which can be diverted to developing new applications and improving services.
MORE, BETTER, FASTER
ESP has made WORLDSPAN more aware of what is happening in their extremely busy environment – at machine speed. They now have better monitoring capabilities, more flexibility, the ability to detect problems and know instantly when things are in an abend status, knowing the exact status of the job streams.They have eliminated redundancy by standardising complex processes through ESP procedures and templates. “Now we have one routine that’s used by hundreds of jobs.
One example is communicating with other software, like started tasks and file transfers”, said Eddie Colonna, Project Manager. “We can track the status of file transfers to our customers, manage output resources and the amount of output in the spool at any one time so we don’t overflow. We had to do all of this manually before, and now there’s no manual intervention.”According to Nichols. “We just burned our last lot of paperwork. The processes between MVS and TPF were manual, requiring sign-off to ensure the hand-off was completed successfully.
Previously we were shuffling paper back and forth. Now, by using ESP, we all see the tape information on-line and in real time. We’ve been able to eliminate the paper – it’s a big reduction. This also reduced errors related to manual interpretations.”ESP has provided a big advantage in being able to forecast accurately.
Changes typically come thick and fast, and at the last minute. Before ESP, they couldn’t tell for sure what was going to happen that night, and it meant that the availability of regions was often delayed to customers because the schedules were hung up. But, with ESP’s forecasting, they can avoid this kind of bottleneck completely.
TWA, Northwest and Delta have direct links allowing them to run their own jobs using ESP to start jobs on the TPF system. This gives them the fastest possible turnaround on their jobs, eliminates manual intervention, and allows each user to receive his or her own customised services.The product development group has seized an opportunity by learning to develop ESP applications.
They “love it because it’s so simple”, said Colonna. While providing flexibility and encouraging development of new services, no control is lost because movement into production is done in a centralised change control location. As well as giving the applications developers more flexibility, it has freed up their time for more development activities. WORLDSPAN can implement new customers as well as new applications for existing customers.
We implemented the interface between ESP and IBM’s Info/Man, and now we use ESP to open problem tickets automatically.
Before we knew the problems were out there, but we couldn’t put our hands on them. We were spending more time fighting fires and not getting all of the problems logged. This has improved problem logging to the point that we can now effectively see trends and address them accordingly, providing visibility and bringing in improvements to the way we are doing things”, states Colonna.According to Nichols, “There’s hardly a thing that we cannot automate with ESP – there’s always a way to get it done now.”