Microsoft provides a compelling and powerful overview of a leading insurance brand, Geico, and their success with Azure and a cloud migration.
Azure and Geico
By adopting a DevOps development strategy and transitioning development to Microsoft Azure, GEICO is working to engage customers more personally and dynamically. With the help of partner Applied Information Sciences, GEICO is moving to the cloud with a focus on increased efficiency, greater application availability, and lower costs.
GEICO, a direct auto insurer since 1936 and now the second-largest private-passenger auto insurer in the United States, is enhancing its digital presence to better connect with customers through multiple digital venues. With the assistance of trusted technology advisors including Applied Information Sciences, GEICO has adopted an aggressive hybrid-cloud course from legacy infrastructure to the cloud to thrive in the fast-moving digital insurance marketplace.
Deliver Superior Customer Experiences in a Complex Business
As the leading direct writer in the auto insurance industry, GEICO is always looking for innovative ways to reach and delight customers. However, as any online merchant can attest, there’s no standing still on the Internet.
“In the last five to eight years, the customer appetite for digital engagement has grown enormously,” says Fikri Larguet, Director of Cloud Services at GEICO, referring to the rise of the mobile Internet and the explosion in social media participation. “Customers are engaging with us much more frequently and in new and interesting ways. We want to be ahead of the curve when it comes to where the next digital engagement opportunities will occur.”
In today’s digital engagement model, the optimal experience for a customer includes 24/7 availability and a continuous release of capabilities that make transactions faster and easier. DevOps development methodology and moving to the cloud are helping GEICO make that happen.
Partner with Microsoft and AIS
GEICO chose to partner with Microsoft because “we see how aggressively Microsoft is moving into the cloud space and we’re impressed with how quickly the Microsoft Azure offering is maturing,” says Larguet. “The platform-as-a-service concept was really revolutionary with regard to what we wanted to achieve—a customization-free infrastructure that provides more agility in provisioning and operating our digital assets.”
According to Larguet, what was most important was that Microsoft extended a very welcome hand to GEICO. “Microsoft really listened and paid attention when we pointed out gaps in Azure and then it worked to fill them,” he says.
GEICO had previously worked with Applied Information Sciences (AIS), a software and systems services provider with expertise in the cloud, DevOps, and application modernization, and the insurer brought AIS in to help with its cloud applications. There was a great deal of work to be done, both in terms of rewriting software and eliminating inefficiencies
AIS worked with GEICO to eliminate roadblocks by helping to develop more streamlined and automated procedures around infrastructure and application deployment, lifecycle management, application monitoring, and high-availability testing. “Automation created an on-ramp to Azure for us and resulted in a great deal of increased productivity,” Larguet says.
Go Big: Move the First Production Application to Azure
In late 2014, Larguet’s boss asked him to build a cloud implementation of any GEICO business system he chose. “You probably want to start small, but you need to get it done in less than a year,” said his boss. Larguet’s team had been testing Azure platform-as-a-service (PaaS) tools, but the team had not made them enterprise-ready.
Larguet thought long and hard about the assignment, talked to his team, and came back to his boss with a higher-stakes counterproposal. “If we’re going to do this, let’s go big,” he said. “Let’s gradually move to the cloud in hybrid fashion so we can uncover anything and everything we’re going to encounter in moving big production applications to Azure. For all the effort this is going to take, let’s get big returns,” says Larguet.
With software development now happening in Azure, GEICO has seen a substantial speedup in its innovation cycle. “With DevOps and Azure, we’re able to reduce our new-feature release cycle down to one week, and we think we can even speed that up,” Larguet says.
That acceleration comes from faster provisioning of development resources and from reallocating engineers from standing up infrastructure to developing new customer engagement models. With its nimble cloud infrastructure, GEICO can test and refine ideas faster, which helps it improve the customer experience at a faster cadence.
Improve Availability, Reduce Costs
By moving its tier-1 business systems to Azure, GEICO has also eliminated much of the downtime that used to accompany new-feature rollouts, which could be devastating to an online business. Today, GEICO deploys and tests in one US Azure datacenter and runs production applications in another. Customers never see any downtime due to software updates.
The move to Azure also accelerated GEICO’s ability to execute its disaster recovery plan. Application development teams now have real-time data to support application monitoring, troubleshooting, and incident resolution.
“Since moving to Azure, service interruptions are fewer, which we consider critical in delivering a great online experience,” Larguet says. “We’re always working to have a business continuity architecture that delivers unprecedented stability and peace of mind.”
GEICO has also reduced costs with Azure by reducing the labor required to set up and manage infrastructure.
GEICO continues to work closely with Microsoft to optimize and accelerate its cloud capabilities to benefit policyholders. “By partnering with Microsoft, we have a seat at the table in determining how Microsoft helps us automate and build infrastructure in the cloud and how we pay for it,” Larguet says. “It’s very exciting to be part of this cloud revolution.”
Microsoft is the leading platform and productivity company for the mobile-first, cloud-first world, and its mission is to empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more. For more information, news and perspectives from Microsoft, please visit the Microsoft News Center at http://news.microsoft.com.
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