At Baloise, provision is digital.
Supporting the business strategy "Simply Safe" through high availability and performance for operational IT and development
The Swiss Insurance Innovation Award was not granted to Baloise without reason. From the world of private insurance to the implementation of artificial intelligence in sales and marketing, the company leverages all available digital resources for the benefit of its customers. To ensure the best conditions for applications, users, and product development, the IT department relies on NetApp solutions.
The Baloise Group
With approximately 7,300 employees, the Baloise Group offers proactive security services that go beyond traditional insurance coverage and cater to the demands of the digital age. From requesting a quote to managing contracts, customers can conveniently complete every step online. The company has revolutionized the process with fully digital claim submissions, allowing customers to file claims via chat, photos, and voice recognition.
In line with their "Simply Safe" strategy, Baloise invests in facilitating seamless customer interactions, developing future-oriented products, and creating digital platforms. The pace of innovation continues to accelerate. Both operational IT and the development of new products and applications, ranging from asset management to trading software for Bank SoBa, are greatly impacted by the critical aspects of availability and performance.
Stefan Widmer, Head of Data Center Services at Baloise, emphasizes the importance of "delivering" promptly when new applications are scheduled to go live in the Group's private cloud. Out of approximately 280 employees in Corporate IT, 80 are dedicated members of Widmer's team, responsible for managing Baloise's three data centers in Basel and Rümlang, along with overseeing the group-wide infrastructure and web services.
Since 2010, NetApp solutions have played a pivotal role in supporting the business strategy. Back then, it became evident that the promised restore times specified in the service level agreements could no longer be met due to exponential data growth.
"NetApp was our salvation. With Snapshots and Cloning, we swiftly regained control over the service levels for the SAN databases," says Stefan Widmer, further emphasizing, "NetApp has consistently prioritized data, proving to be a genuine support for our IT operations."
AN INVESTMENT THAT PAYS OFF
The team increasingly utilized software and brought more workloads under the NetApp data management. Today, various NetApp ONTAP systems are in operation. The latest ones belong to the All-Flash FAS A700 series, configured as a MetroCluster to ensure the highest availability of production data. Backup and data replication between data centers are also handled by NetApp. Server, switches, and storage are comprehensively monitored using NetApp OnCommand Insight.
"For Baloise's insurance and banking operations, databases and file services are essential. We have had good experiences here with ONTAP systems for both SAN and NAS," says Stefan Widmer.
For instance, Oracle Database runs exclusively in NAS mode at Baloise, while IBM DB2 applications operate in SAN. Thanks to the unified architecture and ONTAP data management, adapting is straightforward. For instance, the file service was relocated from SAN to a cluster with new All-Flash and older disk storage. Existing resources are thus complemented with high-speed access capabilities and remain operational. Moreover, transitioning to NAS reduces server license costs and simplifies potential outsourcing. The performance and efficiency of the AFF A700 systems secure the investment for years to come.
"With the AFF A700, we gain significant performance both in SAN and NAS, allowing us to accelerate business processes considerably. Continuous storage reduction lowers capacity requirements by a factor of 25. As a result, we can effectively curb data growth and need only 700 terabytes for the production landscape," says Thomas Salvisberg, Storage Manager at Baloise.
"CLONING COULD BE DONE WITH DATABASE TOOLS, BUT NETAPP IS MORE EFFICIENT AND FLEXIBLE"
Digitalization is deeply ingrained in the DNA of Baloise. Development takes place in Switzerland, Belgium, Germany, and Luxembourg, with Stefan Widmer's team actively involved in the process. As operations and development move closer together, Baloise is embracing container technologies and DevOps processes as the next logical steps. NetApp's infrastructure offers numerous advantages, as data management seamlessly integrates into the development environment through interfaces, enabling easy application and automation.
NetApp's cloning technology has already proven itself as a pivotal factor in the development process. According to Salvisberg,
"Cloning could be done with database tools, but NetApp is more efficient and flexible. We can clone a 1.5-terabyte database with current data in just 15 minutes. It's an automated process that requires minimal storage space."
Developers can effortlessly order or create clones and volumes, and automatic updates of up-to-date database clones occur daily. The exceptional performance and availability of NetApp A700 ensure smooth operations, contributing significantly to a faster time-to-market.
The latest generation of ONTAP systems has received commendation, and the positive collaboration experience with NetApp as a partner adds to the success. Stefan Widmer sums it up:
"NetApp delivers what they promise, and we appreciate working with them."