Virtualization in Insurance

The Power of a Desktop in the Palm of Your Hand

Is Desktop-as-a-Service a Subset of IT-as-a-Service?

I read this blog recently, and it prompted some reflection on the possible applications for time- and cost-saving benefits in the insurance industry.

There are two basic types of insurance carriers from an IT perspective

  1. Carriers that sell insurance and use IT to support their business goals
  2. Carriers that are an IT shop that also sell insurance.

Though these types of carriers are very different, virtualization is a concept that benefits both.  Virtualization enables carriers with smaller IT shops to effectively leverage improved support efficiencies and more flexibility and allows larger IT organizations to redeploy resources for bigger projects like core system upgrades.

“Virtual desktops,” the keystone of visualization, free a user from hardware burdens by introducing “greater synergy, efficiency, and agility.” This allows users to embrace a mobile and more flexible work style.  This versatile technology applies to a variety of scenarios. With the help of an iPad or Galaxy tablet connected via WiFi to the local area network (LAN) and radio-frequency identification (RFID) tags, doctors have all of their patients’ records at their fingertips. A similar approach benefits insurance agents when visiting customers. With mobile desktop in tow, Claims Adjusters carry their office with them, and Underwriters spend more time in the field reviewing referrals with Agents.

Desktop-as-a-Service as a Subset of IT-as-a-Service has its own benefits. With virtual desktops, new users easily and quickly enter an established network with their own legacy systems already on their desktop.  It becomes easier for an agent to catch a plane to another office, log in, and there’s his desktop, ready to provide personal office functionality.

Lastly, as a part of efficiency improvements, virtualization minimizes the cost of hardware upgrades not only for those of whom work remotely, but for all users in an office.  Because all applications run on servers, users operate smaller systems without a large hard drive and processor.  In addition, any application and operating system problems users experience are addressed without requiring IT to visit the remote machine.

Sorry, Nick Burns the computer guy! You’ll be out of a job.

Best Practice: Cloud Computing

Red sky at morning, sailor take warning.redsky

Here’s a forecast: clouds are rolling in. Architecting for cloud computing will, very soon, become a conscious best practice.

There are lots of handy objections to Cloud Computing: Regulatory compliance, geographic containment requirements, taxes, liability, vendor lock-ins and lack of standards. Many are brushing off cloud technologies as a result, and maybe rightly so… for about another minute, anyway.

Last year, I was involved in a client’s effort to re-provision an application from an in-house infrastructure to a SaaS vendor. All told, the effort was risky and enormous. The administration of it took a year. It took a team of talented engineers from several different companies over six months to implement the transfer. When it was done, everyone breathed a sigh of relief.

The amazing part was that it wasn’t about changing applications. It was just changing who hosted the application. Simply put, no one had the fore-sight to architect for a transition of this nature, and so the ROI was heavily diluted.

Market fluctuations, re-focused specialization, business units changing hands, economic right-sizing, disaster recovery; there are many reasons agile infrastructures can be useful. Cloud computing technology is evolving quickly and has the very real potential to offer agility at a dramatically lower cost, if you’re prepared to leverage it. You don’t have to go in to the cloud to see what you might gain from it. The important part is preparing for it so you can use it when it makes sense for you. And, you could even go green at the same time.

I won’t try to predict what your organization has to gain by architecting around cloud technology. It’s more about what your organization is at risk of losing if you don’t.