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GSIS explains IT systems crash

By Alexander Villafania
INQUIRER.net
First Posted 16:13:00 05/27/2009

Filed Under: Government offices & agencies, Technology (general), Computing & Information Technology

MANILA, Philippines--Technical details remain largely unknown about the IT systems crash that the Government Service Insurance System (GSIS) experienced.

The agency has blamed this incident on IBM?s DB2 database software.

Explaining the agency?s problematic use of the DB2 software, GSIS chief legal counsel Estrella Elamparo said the software handles tables of up to 250,000 transactions per day.

These transactions vary from membership loans, premium payments, and benefit remittances.

GSIS has a membership of over 1.5 million.

In 207, Elamparo said that the GSIS has gradually shifted to an open IT system.

Full swing implementation was in 2008 after GSIS tapped systems integrator Questronix Corporation.

Under the contract, Questronix would implement a full database package using DB2 version 8 and an SAP business application.

However, the agency started seeing problems with DB2 version 8, particularly ?bad pages? on the tables.

The agency later discovered that the DB2 tables could only handle 256 gigabytes of data, which was lower than what GSIS needed.

Elamparo said they inquired about the problem with IBM sometime in 2008. The database software was then upgraded to DB2 version 9.1, which could handle 512 exabytes of data, or one billion gigabytes.

?The upgrade was for free,? she said.

The first major crash of the GSIS IT system happened on March 30, 2009 when the agency failed to add new processes from their day?s transactions.

She explained their database table exceeded 2 terabytes (2,000 gigabytes) worth of transactions. ?We expected DB2 to keep running since it was only 2 terabytes.?

The system crashes persisted, requiring GSIS to put their extra man-hours to avoid daily backlogs. Saturdays and Sundays were also allocated to update the database.

The agency ordered Questronix to explain the problem and on May 15, the systems integrator said that IBM is working on a special build to permanently remove the persistent crashes.

?Since then, the system crashes we encountered became a daily occurrence. We had to move some of our work to our backup just to continue operating and it?s already frustrating,? Elamparo said.

The issue came to a head when the GSIS held a press conference last May 24, and then posted a full page open letter on a major newspaper on May 25.

Business software firm SAP and Questronix were also quoted to have affirmed IBM?s failure in the full page open letter. They have yet to release an official statement on the matter.

An earlier statement from IBM Philippines revealed their ?disappointment? with what the GSIS had taken to get their complaints across.

The company claimed that it did not directly deal with GSIS but rather provided hardware through its systems integrator, in this case, Questronix.

IBM stressed that it is still committed to resolving the issue with the GSIS.



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