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Lafayette Life Facilitated Browser-Based Delivery from the Mainframe with VM:Webgateway

Published
  • December 01 1998, 1:00am EST
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BACKGROUND: Lafayette Life Insurance Company was founded in 1905 in Lafayette, Indiana, with a mission to maintain itself as a financially sound, quality-driven, growth-oriented company, dedicated to exceeding its customers' requirements for life insurance and related financial services. With over $16 billion of insurance in force and assets in excess of $800 million, Lafayette Life is a premier provider of financial protection and security through customized use of life insurance and annuity products.

PLATFORMS: Lafayette Life Insurance Company is currently running VM:Webgateway on an IBM 9672-R24 mainframe computer running the VM/ESA operating system.

PROBLEM SOLVED: Lafayette Life facilitated browser-based delivery of NOLAS (New On-Line Administration System) with VM:Webgateway. Lafayette Life was in search of a quick and efficient method for bringing their 3270 green screens to field agents and group customers. The agents had been accessing individual policy information from Lafayette Life's mainframe using Advantis and PF-key driven screens. With our extensive group of field agents, the per-hour costs for Advantis added up fast. Lafayette Life already had the programs in place on the mainframe to add, modify and delete group employee information; but they were "tired, old" 3270 screens. We needed to deliver these programs to the outside world with a Windows-based look and without rewriting existing mainframe programs. The solution was to "screen scrape" our current applications to give them a new GUI look and make them accessible on the Internet. After evaluating several products, our choice was VM:Webgateway.

PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: VM:Webgateway's 3270-to-HTML conversion offering was used to provide browser-based access to our SNA/3270 NOLAS system. Not only were we able to provide a one-to-one relationship between 3270 screen and Web page, but a multi-to-multi type relationship between the two. Being able to capture data from multiple 3270 screens and to build one graphical Web page from it adds user friendliness that was not seen on our original applications.

STRENGTHS: VM:Webgateway allowed Lafayette Life to bring time-proven applications to the Internet in a short amount of time. Sterling's VM Services consultants came on site to help us capture the HTML of our 3270 screens and start working toward marking up our Web pages to include graphics.

WEAKNESSES: Debugging scripts are somewhat cumbersome in VM:Webgateway. There should be more information given on the Web-based error page. Currently, after a script fails, the error page on the Web gives sketchy error information. We then have to check the console file of the worker machine to determine the true error. (VM:Webgateway provides error information on the Web server console in real time. This provides programmers with the information they need, without overburdening end users with unnecessary messages. For more detailed information, programmers can use any REXX debugging tool with VM:Webgateway.)

SELECTION CRITERIA: Lafayette Life selected VM:Webgateway for several reasons. First, Lafayette Life has several of Sterling's products, and our technical staff has found a comfort level in dealing with Sterling. Second, other vendors' "screen scraping" products required us to install an NT or UNIX server. VM:Webgateway allows us to serve our applications and data from the mainframe where it already exists. Third, Lafayette Life did not have to modify its existing applications. VM:Webgateway allowed us to use simple CGI script to bring our applications to the Web.

DELIVERABLES: Lafayette Life uses VM:Webgateway to allow its field agents and group customers to access NOLAS on the Internet with an intuitive interface.

VENDOR SUPPORT: Sterling was helpful with quick responses to our questions and concerns. When necessary, we had conference calls, and from these calls came some product modifications that have helped Lafayette Life bring our product to market faster.

DOCUMENTATION: The documentation was satisfactory for getting Lafayette Life's two systems up and running. The documentation was easily accessible on the Web, being served from VM, and this saved a great deal of time in looking up information.

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