For Westar Energy (formerly Western Resources), Inc., customer service is a priority, especially when it affects the quality of its customers' lives.
Westar Energy, which is headquartered in Topeka, Kan., is a consumer services company with interests in monitored services and energy. Its utilities, KPL and KGE, provide electric service to approximately 640,000 customers in Kansas. It owns approximately 45 percent of Tusla, Olka.-based ONEOK, Inc., one of the largest natural gas distribution companies in the nation, which serves more than 1.4 million customers. With about 85 percent ownership of Protection One, the second-largest security business in the United States, more than 900,000 customers rely on the Protection One for home or business security.
Westar Energy and ONEOK share electric and gas information very closely and messaging is a key application in their critical middleware infrastructure, which helps different kinds of platforms communicate. As the company grew and its IT infrastructure became more complex, managing this function became increasingly important.
"Westar Energy needed a middleware solution because the electric and gas information used for our mobile data system is on a mainframe frame DB2 application," said Steve Kersting, the company's senior manager of application development.
The mobile data system, also known as Computer Aided Dispatch or CAD, connects to terminals installed in field service trucks. Order information is sent directly to the trucks rather than having those employees report to the service center each morning.
With a path that runs from the mainframe through a radio network and ends on a terminal in the truck, a signal could get lost or data could be dropped in many places.
"That's where MQSeries came in," said Kersting. "We wanted to guarantee that a transaction that started on the mainframe went all the way to the truck, and that a reply from the truck made it all the way back to the mainframe without data being lost."
Rick Lovell, Westar Energy' MQ administrator, spoke with representatives from Best Buy as well as one of the largest PC builders in the world. "Those companies have hundreds of servers that are using MQSeries and are managing the system with Nastel's solutions. We may not have the multitude of servers that they have, but our applications that use MQSeries are very important and the information is vital," he said.
Westar Energy' situation is further complicated because its service area is largely rural. As workers drive into some of the remote areas of Kansas where radio coverage is poor, the potential to lose data increases.
"Much of this information is critical to our customers because it means getting their service connected or reconnected after a storm has passed," said Kersting. "It would be terrible to think our customers have service, when, in reality, they don't because the data has fallen off the edge of the Earth."
The in-truck project was the first application of MQSeries Middleware and Nastel's management solution. Four more projects have followed. With servers including OS/390 and NT, the MQ applications are growing, and the company must administer and monitor MQSeries across multiple platforms.
Westar Energy uses MQSeries in its mobile in-truck application to allow communications between its OS/390 queue managers to a queue manager on an NT server, which takes the information and transfers it to the truck.
For Westar Energy, Nastel's solution was easy to implement and easy to use.
"Our CAD vendor was really impressed with the ease with which the connection to the host was made," said Kersting. "They are recommending that their other clients use Nastel's solution."
Nastel Technologies is the leading supplier of distributed middleware management software systems helping to power the e-business enterprise application infrastructure. Nastel sells its products through an established network of direct sales force, domestic and international offices, and through distributors. For further information, contact Nastel Technologies, Inc., 48 South Service Road, Melville, New York 11747, (631) 761 9100 or visit their web site at www.nastel.com