Put Your Head in the Cloud If You Have the Need for Speed

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A recent announcement from Liberty Mutual shared with the industry how they leveraged our EIS Suite™ software and the power of the AWS cloud to create a new, single cloud-based platform for their benefits business unit. The implementation timeline was very aggressive and called for an accelerated schedule of getting from scope to live in under seven months. The implementation team creditably accomplished the goal and they did so by following modern software delivery practices.

First, they maximized the use of the embedded functionality of the EIS Suite. Configuring and extending instead of customizing enabled them to deliver the needed functionality without compromising future upgradability.

Second, the team followed agile methods which created a very tight alignment between business and IT. The agile methods ensured they were delivering functionality early and often to the business users.

Lastly, the team leveraged the EIS cloud-based CI/CD (continuous integration/continuous delivery) environment which provided the automation necessary to support parallel work streams – there were nine at project peak - from distributed project members. Employing a CI/CD model resulted in early detection and resolution of defects, so when it came time to go live, the pre-production period was minimized. The on-demand nature of AWS infrastructure also contributed to a quick start-up of the production environment. 

Value in a Cloud Combo

This project is a great example of how combining modern software with modern software delivery techniques and then underpinning that with the power of the cloud can not only drive velocity, but can also maximize quality and minimize project risk and cost.    

Some key learnings from the project include:

  • Cost savings – Very significant savings in infrastructure costs can be achieved with core system deployment in the cloud. A benchmark for savings from “lift and shift” of core to the cloud is emerging at around 40%. But additional operational savings – in staffing and business efficiency – can be expected as the cloud delivery model for core matures and streamlines processes.
  • CI/CD speeds software delivery while improving quality – CI/CD enables IT shops to satisfy the customer through early and continuous delivery of valuable software. Treating every change to the software as a viable release candidate for production drives speed to value. Better quality applications are built in when code is logged in every day and integrated with other development streams.
  • Overall IT simplification – Achieving speed and agility via cloud deployment on the scale of Amazon or Netflix requires more than a change in system architecture. Service delivery models and organizational culture must also adapt to the need to push decision-making down the hierarchy and empower developers to own delivery of the capabilities without the typical hand-offs.
  • Scale up or down as needed – A future-ready enterprise platform must be poised for growth, able to scale and perform with little or no impact on service. Applications and infrastructure must conspire to deliver true scalability. EIS Suite delivered scalability through its component-based architecture and as a standard JEE application that leverages common vertical and horizontal scalability patterns using clustering and load-balancing. A high-performance cloud deployment of EIS Suite in which the development, test and production environments are synched offers true global scalability.
  • Top notch security – Security models are a major focus of cloud deployment and here are some highly-effective practices:
    • AWS itself has taken a smart community approach to security. They noticed that financial institutions are all asking the same questions about security. So they codified the PCI compliance rules and wrote a software service to run against infrastructure. It produces an audit report showing were an environment is not compliant. The service saves an enormous amount of test development resource and shortens test deployment time.
    • The biggest security risk for applications is manual processes. But human access to the cloud-deployed solution can be prevented. Every change can be version controlled and one person granted button control of go live. There is no password so there is no way to get into the box.
    • Cloud deployment is also an answer to patch vulnerability – the no. 2 way that hackers get into an application. To counter this, with each deployment, a server can be destroyed and a new instance of the EIS application at the latest patch level spun up – in a short 10-15 minute window.
  • Easy integration – Speedy delivery also owes much to good application design. Key enabling technologies are a web-enabled, services-based architecture with products, processes and workflows built at a granular-level so that the EIS applications and services can be easily exposed for integration with each other or with other enterprise or external environments. The EIS platform has a rich set of application and service programming interface (API/SPI) capabilities which reduce the time and cost to integrate.

The Scales Will Keep Tipping

Cloud deployment of core systems has past the tipping point. To support that claim, Novarica reports that 85% of insurers who have launched SaaS core applications reported a net positive impact, with better-than-expected results for service quality, response time, and availability post-deployment. The next step forward for the industry is the full alignment of cloud-based core software design, configuration, testing and deployment of the type that is being pioneered in the EIS/AWS/Liberty partnership.

Glenn Lim is SVP Cloud Strategy and Alliances at EIS Group.