Japan's Tokio Marine & Fire Insures Its Future with HP's Encina/9000 and DCE/9000


  • Tokio Marine & Fire Insurance Company, Ltd., Tokyo, Japan


  • Improve business efficiency and build a more flexible IT infrastructure while preserving data integrity and security through open, distributed on-line transaction processing (OLTP) technologies.
  • Update inefficient, point-to-point network.
  • Improve 10-second response time typical of the mainframe system.
  • Reduce system operating costs.
  • Improve ease of use and user training by replacing complex, outmoded menu system.


  • Replace 72 obsolete IBM 8100 branch minicomputers with 60 HP 9000 Business Servers running the HP Encina/9000 transaction-processing monitor, HP DCE/9000, HP OpenView system and network management software, and HP SwitchOver/UX high-availability software.
  • Use HP Professional Services to manage the project, design and implement a private frame-relay network infrastructure, and develop custom middleware to enable Encina/9000 to handle the requirements of a large-scale, online system.


  • Business efficiency and individual productivity improved through reduction of online response time from 10 to 4.5 seconds
  • Ease of use and user training vastly improved through simplification of menu scheme and graphical user interface
  • Communication backbone that will enable Tokio Marine to meet future business requirements.

"We will use it (this solution) as our information infrastructure for the next two decades."

A Custom Approach to Distributed OLTP

Few companies in Japan have greater requirements for fast, reliable, and secure data processing than property and casualty insurance companies. Yet, because of concerns about the integrity and security of the large volumes of data they process, most of these non-life insurance companies have continued to rely on large, slow, centralized mainframe systems. Tokio Marine & Fire Insurance, Ltd. was among the first to risk the conversion to faster, more efficient UNIX(R) system-based distributed processing.

With 46 regional and 440 branch offices, 14,900 employees, and net 1993 premium revenues of 1.15 trillion yen ($11.5 billion US), Tokio Marine is Japan's largest - and oldest - non-life insurance company. Its old OLTP system, based on IBM and Fujitsu hosts at two processing centers and 72 IBM 8100 minicomputers and dedicated terminals at major offices, had been operating since 1982. With processing volume at more than 700,000 transactions per day, the system's 10-second inquiry response time had become unacceptable. And, with more than 700 applications, the system's on-line menu scheme had become cumbersome and difficult to learn. Once IBM announced that it would stop supporting the 8100 in 1995, Tokio Marine decided it was time to revamp the system.

Reengineering to benefit from open systems

The company's Information Systems Division team first considered replacing the old 8100 computers with a new, host- and terminal-based system, requesting proposals for new architectures from IBM and Fujitsu. But the architectures both companies proposed were expensive, proprietary, and inflexible. So the team asked Hewlett-Packard and IBM for proposals to replace its IBM 8100 minicomputers with UNIX servers and terminals with personal computers running graphical user interfaces (GUIs).

HP proposes unprecedented architecture

HP's Professional Service Consult ants explained to Tokio Marine's senior management that open HP 9000 Business Servers would enable the company to improve response time and ease of use while preserving data integrity and security. Knowing that the company wanted a distributed OLTP system, the HP consultants proposed a novel approach. They suggested using the Encina distributed transaction-processing monitor, which is based on the Open Software Foundation (OSF) Distributed Computing Environment (DCE) and ensures distributed transactional data integrity through its coordinating, scheduling, queuing, and logging capabilities. HP Encina/9000 and HP DCE/9000 would serve as the foundation for building the "middleware" on the HP 9000 Business Server that would enable communication between the branch office PCs and the mainframes.

Tokio Marine asked HP to develop the middleware as well as to assume the role of prime contractor, with responsibility for project management and oversight of third-party developers. Tokio Marine chose HP because the company had greater confidence in HP's understanding of distributed computing and felt that HP 9000 Business Servers offered better price/ performance. In addition, HP was willing to take complete ownership of the project from risk management through infrastructure development and third-party vendor management.

Customized middleware: the critical link

Under the new architecture, 60 HP 9000 Business Servers and 4,000 PCs running the Microsoft Windows GUI link all 440 of the company's branch offices nationwide. The branch servers enable application sharing, check numeric data fields, and store actuarial tables for trial premium calculations-saving the time of accessing the mainframe database for this frequently used application. Local Area Networks within each center connect the PCs, and two additional HP 9000 Business Servers perform as gateway servers at the two processing centers. The gate way servers communicate with mainframe CICS(TM), balance the processing load across the branches, and manage applications on the branch servers.

Encina/9000 routes transactions from the branch PCs to the mainframe via the HP 9000 Business Server gateways and enables users at each branch to share applications. But Encina/9000 alone wasn't capable of fully supporting the company's application requirements, which were to:

  • Serve a large online system running 700 applications and up to 8,000 simultaneous sessions.
  • Release application software from direct execution of such complicated functions as net work control.
  • Allow programmers to develop applications using an applications programming interface rather than Encina's complex coding conventions.
  • Provide an infrastructure for managing branch server applications from a central management console.

So HP proposed that Tokio Marine use Encina/9000 and DCE/9000 as the foundation for customized middleware that could meet all the above requirements. Although this would be the first time Encina would be incorporated into a large-scale, mission- critical OLTP system, Tokio Marine was willing to accept the risk of being first rather than take the financial risk of building the middle ware from scratch. "Encina/9000 plays an important role in our system's transaction scheduling, load distribution, and failure monitoring, and it was the only transaction processing monitor that is based on the OSF DCE," explains Hiroyuki Shibuya, Information Management Division Network Section chief and project manager. "But it is the execution middleware HP developed that enables us to operate Encina/9000 in this large scale online system."

Pioneering system: today's solution, tomorrow's foundation

Tokio Marine's new OLTP system a pioneering application of UNIX, Encina, and DCE as components of a core system-has been in production since July, 1994. Consisting of some 700 online subsystems ranging from contract inquiry and loss claim reporting to sales support and accounting, it is one of the largest open client/server systems in the world.

More importantly, the system is meeting Tokio Marine's objectives for improved response time and immediate ease of use. Online response time has been reduced from 10 to 4.5 seconds-significantly improving worker productivity. With GUIs on each user's desk, the 700-application menu scheme - simplified and reorganized by business function - and the ability for PCs to run two applications in parallel (thanks to the new middleware) the system is now dramatically easier to learn and use.

But perhaps the greatest impact is that the system's open, standards-based HP 9000 Business Servers and robust Encina/9000 software establish the communication backbone Tokio Marine will need to migrate data from its mainframes to more economical servers in the future. Says Tokio Marine Vice President Noboru Araki: "This system provides a base for further reinforcement of our corporate structure and enhancement of customer service and protects us from major changes expected to occur in our business environment.

"We will use it as our information infrastructure for the next two decades."

  1. Reference "Case Study, Tokio Marine and Fire Insurance," Nikkei Computer, p. 142, 151, June 27, 1994
  2. Nikkei Computer A comprehensive biweekly magazine on how to develop effective information systems, providing timely information including user case studies, industrial trends, the latest technologies/products and management. Circulation: 71, 063

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