Digital start-up raises the bar for insurance innovation with dynamic CI/CD pipelines

CASE STUDY - Insurance innovation case study

Insurance Company Icon

One of the world’s leading providers of reinsurance and insurance has launched a new business offering property and casualty insurance in a white-label B2B2C manner. The model enables distributors to source high-integrity products geared towards today’s changing protection needs, then offer them to consumers. With DevOpsGroup’s support, this innovative concept quickly became a fully functioning business with its digital platform playing a central role as a business differentiator.


Industry:

Insurance

Organisation Type:

Scale-Up

Service:

Continuous Delivery


Integrating a legacy Java stack with DevOps

Responsiveness and stability were core requirements. To facilitate continual adaptation without compromising performance, the parent company determined that the business would be hosted on AWS, adopting cloud-native and DevOps principles from the outset.

While this was a new implementation on a greenfield platform, it needed to leverage as much functionality as possible from Fadata’s insurance process platform, INSIS. This Java/Oracle stack is a central component, handling distribution, underwriting, marketing and claims. Combining it with DevOps principles of automation, flow, safety and security was a highly complex undertaking.

To overcome these challenges, DevOpsGroup was enlisted as an external partner to design and implement Continuous Integration / Continuous Delivery (CI/CD) pipelines for the platform team and five development squads. The work encompassed business-led data changes, business-led workflow and UI changes, developer-led schema changes and developer-led extensions.

In addition to the technical challenges, there was a time pressure to contend with – the business had to be operational within a 12-month timeframe. This was no mean feat considering the strict regulatory environment.

Furthermore, there were cultural factors to consider. The third-party teams deployed to develop INSIS had never previously worked on a fully cloud-native platform using DevOps principles.

A robust, highly-engineered CI/CD pipeline

DevOpsGroup’s brief was to devise an architecture hosted on AWS using CI/CD to ensure software delivery was fast, stable and sustainable.

At the outset, we produced a high-level diagram proposing how both code and configuration could be pushed through the system in a safe, reliable, repeatable way. Then we suggested practical measures to enhance and optimise the development cycle.

This was quickly developed into a proof of concept using automation, then deployed into a test environment verifying that it worked as intended.

Throughout the process, our engineers carefully selected the most appropriate AWS and open source tools to optimise software delivery capability. This was a critical factor, enabling the business to respond quickly to market demands without compromising product integrity or platform stability.

Key elements of the implementation include:

Multi-account AWS structure

Allowing developers greater autonomy, while providing guardrails to minimise the blast radius of any performance and security issues, is central to the DevOps ethos. The implementation facilitates this via the AWS multi-account model. It has dedicated accounts for ten specific environments and tasks, including Shared Services, Development Environments, Production Environments and Datalake Services. This provides tighter controls around user access while allowing teams to work flexibly in the development of their infrastructure with reduced risk. It also helps to manage the permissions available to pipelines, limiting what can be built where. Grouping business functions and services around AWS accounts also improves visibility of spend, especially for consumables, such as bandwidth costs.

Jenkins CI/CD

A critical component of the infrastructure is Jenkins, a powerful open-source automation software for CI/CD pipelines. We used it to build out components and individual environments, and to manage code, configuration and data generated by developers. Configurations for all jobs are stored within the platform’s 45 code repositories using declarative Jenkinsfiles. This provides version control to build tasks as well as an audit trail for changes to development and deployment processes. It enables developers to control how their pipeline operates without needing administrative approval and enables pipeline changes to be tested through branching structures.

Containers, service discovery and pipelines

Dedicated Amazon Elastic Container Service (ECS) clusters have been built for each environment where frontend website applications can be deployed. Alongside this is a Jenkins pipeline for building and deploying the containers, as well as integrating with Amazon Route53 Service Discovery for dynamic lookups of containers and services.

Compliance and automation

A robust suite of AWS tools has been deployed to monitor and manage compliance of resources and instances of Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2). These include CloudTrail, AWS Config and AWS EC2 Systems Manager.

The system has been entirely automated, using Hashicorp’s Terraform for the 603 AWS resources per environment and Packer/Ansible for IaaS components. Building it in this way was more time-consuming upfront than using point and click processes, but it has underpinned better speed, efficiency and stability for the long term.

Overall, DevOpsGroup’s engineers completed 3,400 commits (with 105,983 lines added and 38,685 removed), 14,900 builds – of which 1,797 were full production rebuilds, and 142million API calls were reported by CloudTrail and Athena. All of this was achieved within a nine-month window.

Strong foundations enable rapid and reliable software delivery

DevOpsGroup held an initial pipeline workshop in June 2018. By April 2019, the start-up was a working entity and had sold its first insurance policy. And by June 2019 it had achieved the milestone target of securing its first distribution partner.

This velocity from concept-to-launch is ground-breaking in a sector that is strictly governed by regulations and where new products are scrutinised for their integrity.

Leveraging the capabilities of the AWS environment with modern, DevOps ways of working played a central role in this achievement. The IT team responded well to the higher levels of autonomy, with Developers and Operations staff empowered and energised by the work environment.

From a technical perspective, noteworthy outcomes include:

  • An ability to build new developer environments, comprising over 600 resources, from scratch in 12 minutes.
  • Full automation, even for notoriously problematic areas such as systems testing.
  • Code is produced and tested in short cycles, facilitating frequent product and service updates to satisfy evolving customer demands.
  • Instances – and whole environments – are treated as cattle, not pets, enabling rapid iteration of application environments.

A new breed of insurance company, at the forefront of transformation

Building an entirely new insurance business from the ground up within 12 months is a significant achievement. What’s more, it takes full advantage of cloud-native and DevOps principles, continually adapting to changing customer demands without compromising overall performance and stability.

This success firmly positions the parent company as a trailblazer in insurance innovation. It spotlights how the sector can pivot and adapt to meet evolving customer demands in the digital economy, paving the way for further exciting business models.

About Insurance innovation case study

A world-leading provider of reinsurance and insurance who has launched a new business offering property and casualty insurance in a white-label B2B2C manner.

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