Business challenge

Managing hundreds of construction projects each year, PennDOT wanted to modernize and automate underlying Db2 utility processes to help millions of people to get from A to B smoothly and safely.

Transformation

Working with IBM, PennDOT replaced time-consuming, inefficient manual processes with advanced autonomic maintenance – keeping its mission-critical database environment running smoothly.

Results

Up to 90%

reduction in scheduled maintenance windows

Cuts

system costs and improves Db2 application availability

Optimizes

database health, automatically fixing issues before they impact on performance

Business challenge story

Keeping Pennsylvania moving

Every time we travel, whether it’s for business or pleasure, we rely on a safe, well-maintained, network of roads, airports, and cycle routes. The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) works to ensure nearly 13 million citizens across the state enjoy smooth, trouble-free journeys every time they drive to work in a morning, fly off to an important meeting, or jump on the bus to meet up with friends.

Sam Scannella, Mainframe Database Administration Manager at PennDOT, takes up the story: “As a department, we manage two and a half billion dollars’ worth of new construction projects every year – double the amount we handled just a few years’ back. It’s our job to maintain nearly 40,000 miles of highway, the fifth most of any US state. On top of that, we administer 12 million vehicle registrations and 9 million drivers’ licenses.”

To underpin its core operations, PennDOT utilizes multiple IBM® Db2® databases running on the IBM z/OS® operating system. Users working within the department and out in the field need fast access to the data stored in Db2. For example, the department provides hundreds of inspectors working on road construction and maintenance projects with remote access to the databases through mobile tablet devices, who must be able to draw up and input project data in an instant.

Perry Shindle, Db2 for z/OS consultant at PennDOT, continues: “Our users depend on high performance from our database environment to execute everyday tasks. As we handled more and more projects each year, we were adding new workloads and increasing the burden on our databases. With data volumes expanding rapidly, the Db2 landscape was becoming increasingly complex, and the risk of slower performance greater.”

Previously, PennDOT relied on time-consuming manual processes for database maintenance. Each weekend, database administrators (DBAs) would have to set up REORG jobs for up to 1,000 database objects – a blanket approach that took up to ten hours to complete, and used large amounts of costly CPU resources.

Sam Scannella elaborates: “To ensure high performance in the future, we realized that we needed to find a smarter, more efficient approach to database management. We set out to find and implement modern best practices to support operations and reduce the maintenance window, even as our Db2 environment grew.”

Since introducing automation to our Db2 utility management processes, we have reduced the maintenance window by up to 90 percent.

—Sam Scannella ,Mainframe Database Administration Manager,Pennsylvania Department of Transportation

Transformation story

Unleashing self-managing Db2 utility maintenance

To transform its approach to utility maintenance, PennDOT selected the IBM Db2 Utilities Solution Pack for z/OS. The IBM solution combines technology to automate or enable self-management of Db2 utilities to help ensure high database performance.

Perry Shindle explains: “We could have introduced a greater level of precision into our existing manual processes by running queries throughout the week to pick out every database object in need of maintenance. But we knew this strategy would take up more and more of our DBAs’ time. When we first learned about the autonomics approach, we knew we had found the modern solution we were looking for.”

IBM Data Server Manager is the web-based console that pulls together the information from the Db2 Utility Solution. It provides PennDOT with a display of real-time and historical indicators of all symptoms and actions relative to its Db2 objects, in a single dashboard interface.

As an early adopter of autonomic maintenance, PennDOT took advantage of the built-in flexibility of the IBM Utilities Solution to carry out a step-by-step implementation. Initially, PennDOT used the passive autonomics function, setting the solution to identify those database objects that fail to meet pre-set policy configurations and require maintenance. Once comfortable with the solution’s recommendations, PennDOT moved to active autonomics, allowing the solution to perform the necessary maintenance during a pre-scheduled maintenance window.

Sam Scannella notes: “The move to autonomics was a very big step for us. We were moving from manual maintenance that we had relied on for many years, and we were really impressed that we could maintain such strong control over the process. As soon as we saw the results of the passive autonomics analysis, we were hooked, and it was an easy decision to flip the switch and move to active autonomics."

During the implementation, PennDOT also performed a thorough re-assessment of its policy on which database objects need maintenance and reorganization – a process it had not carried out for many years.

Perry Shindle adds: “Many of the utility jobs we were running were set up years, if not decades ago, and did not reflect our current workloads. The autonomics project prompted us to look again at our exception policies, and to re-focus them to reflect our current database environment and application landscape.”

He continues: “Working with IBM has been an excellent experience, and the support has been terrific. During the early stages of the implementation, we had bi-weekly conference calls with the IBM team to help us navigate the functionalities of the new solution, and where we could raise questions.

“As early adopters of the technology, we found IBM particularly receptive to our feedback and keen to build our suggestions into future releases. All in all, we believe the support we received from IBM has been instrumental in the success of our move to autonomic maintenance."

The transition to autonomic maintenance has been a game-changer for us, and we can’t ever imagine going back to slow, manual processes. The results of our work with IBM have been exceptional.

—Perry Shindle,Db2 Database Administrator,Pennsylvania Department of Transportation

Results story

Lifting database performance

PennDOT has significantly reduced its maintenance window and boosted overall operating efficiency – helping to keep its Db2 landscape in peak health as data volumes grow. As a result, the organization can keep billions of dollars’ worth of transport infrastructure projects running smoothly, making it possible for millions of people to get out and about every day.

The autonomics solution revealed that many REORG jobs that PennDOT performed were, in fact, unnecessary. In the case of REORG TABLESPACE utilities, for example, PennDOT found it only needs to complete 10 percent of the jobs it previously executed.

Sam Scannella explains: “We discovered that while we were originally maintaining 1,000 objects every weekend, we really only needed to maintain around 50. Now, we are running the right REORG jobs at the right time, and have massively reduced the number of scheduled maintenance jobs we perform. Our autonomics solution identifies only the objects that need attention – unlike our manual, catch-all strategy. And, as we are only running essential utility jobs, we have reduced our CPU usage and related costs.”

The move to autonomics has also resulted in major time savings for PennDOT, as Sam Scannella elaborates: “Since introducing automation to our utility management processes, we have slashed the maintenance window by up to 90 percent. Previously it took up to ten hours to perform maintenance over the weekend; we now complete it in easily less than one hour. Our DBAs no longer have to supervise the process and have much more time to devote to value-add tasks, which support us in the delivery of great projects that keep the state moving.”

The IBM solution also showed PennDOT that there were some database issues that it had been overlooking, risking slower access for its users. Perry Shindle notes: “We discovered some applications were not getting the attention they required to ensure high performance. In particular, our new mobile inspection apps needed additional maintenance to prevent performance degradation. Thanks to the autonomics solution, we can now catch issues before they start to impact on user experience.”

He concludes: “The transition to autonomic maintenance has been a game-changer for us, and we can’t ever imagine going back to slow, manual processes. The results of our work with IBM have been exceptional, and we are very confident that other organizations will gain significant benefits by moving to Db2 autonomics.”

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About Pennsylvania Department of Transportation

Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) oversees programs and policies affecting highways, urban and rural public transportation, airports, railroads, ports, and waterways. More than three-quarters of PennDOT's annual budget is invested in Pennsylvania's approximately 120,000 miles of state and local highways and 32,000 state and local bridges. PennDOT also administers the state's more than 12 million vehicle registrations and 8.8 million driver's licenses, and oversees safety and emission inspection programs.

Solution components

  • DB2 Utilities Solution Pack z/OS
  • DB2 for z/OS
  • T&T: Asset Management and Maintenance

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