Wednesday, September 28, 2011

In life insurance I.T., does "Vantage rule the world", still?

I could say, “I remember Vantage” is a bit like “I remember Mama”.

When I was working for USLICO in the early 1990s (to become ReliaStar and then ING), I was working in a different area, salary deduction (called EPIX), and IDMS and COBOL system, and was a bit too lost in my own world to get into the idea of going onto the new Vantage team across the street.  At the time there were other legacy administrative systems, namely CFO, VLn (which faded but could have become the powerhouse instead of Vantage had it held together)  and a proprietary home-grown assembler system for USL.  A lot of smaller insurance companies had their own homemade applications at the time.

It seemed that Vantage took forever to run, too, for only 30000 policies at first.  The reserves job took all day to run on the mainframe with all the random VSAM access (slow in those days).  I remember even getting an angry SYSM (mainframe email) from someone who wondered why I was so nosey about how long it took to run.

But in time Vantage overcame its resource-consuming architecture, and by the late 90s was running smoothly, and had become the mainframe legacy system that every programmer in the life insurance business needed.  As they say, “Vantage rules the world”.

With systems like these, you had to understand the entire database-driven system, with so many record types and scheduling segments, as well as the calling architecture in the link decks.  People became gurus on the internals of Vantage.  They have remained in the mainframe world, in high demand, while the rest of the economy has its wild fluctuations, and while the old-fashioned mainframe culture (with its nightly batch cycles and S0C7's) declines, in a world where younger people don’t have the patience for it.    The mantra is no longer “IBM”.  But I don't think Facebook can replace legacy insurance systems.  

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