PURE Insurance is a property and casualty insurance company designed exclusively for successful, responsible families. Coverage includes high-value homeowners, automobiles, collections, watercraft, personal excess liability, fraud & cyber and flood. PURE Insurance opened for business more than 15 years ago with the goal of offering something different in the insurance space: a company focused on doing what’s right for its membership (policyholders), one that promotes transparency and alignment of interests, and delivers greater value. Since its inception, PURE Insurance has grown at least 15% each year and now serves over 100,000 members in the U.S.
“We chose to partner with Onica by Rackspace Technology because they offered the professional services, expertise and boutique service support that we needed to successfully complete our online migration.”
The obstacles they faced
From its early days, PURE Insurance recognized the potential of cloud technologies and promptly devised a technology strategy to leverage them. Due to legal requirements that require strict control over proprietary assets and data, the insurer made a deliberate choice to host core platforms either internally or within a private cloud. This approach allowed PURE Insurance to address its compliance requirements while still benefitting from the latest cloud advancements.
"As the cloud matured, we saw an opportunity for geographic redundancy and better pricing options for data storage, which motivated us to move from an on-premises environment," said Howard Muhlstein, VP of Infrastructure Services at PURE Insurance.
PURE Insurance made a strategic decision to migrate the core of its business—its flagship policy system—to Amazon Web Services (AWS). As with many insurance companies, maintaining pace with technological advancements and compliance standards often requires frequent upgrades to their technology and systems. These insurance systems can be complex and expensive, with client policy administration, claims handling and account transactions demanding not only robust technology but also comprehensive training. To handle the magnitude of its operations, PURE Insurance employs a sizable IT team of approximately 100 personnel.
The PURE Online system is utilized extensively both internally for quoting and binding new business and externally by thousands of broker partners within the insurance industry. This system serves as a crucial data hub, enabling the generation of downstream metrics, dashboards and interfacing with other systems for claims administration and member-facing portals.
The PURE Online tool has established high levels of reliability. Any potential instability or outage could have significant repercussions. Without this central portal's stability, customers would face hurdles in making policy requests, processing claims or receiving quotes. Similarly, customer service representatives and other personnel would lose the ability to access and manage customer account information or provide assistance.
“Onica by Rackspace Technology provided us with well-needed technical expertise on AWS. Without their support, we would have had a lot more challenges in the end.”
How we helped
For the migration of PURE Online to Amazon Web Services (AWS), PURE Insurance chose to collaborate with Onica by Rackspace Technology. The Onica team emphasized agility and a thorough understanding of the challenges, working closely with the PURE Insurance IT team to explore various options.
Utilizing services like Rackspace Elastic Engineering, Modern Operations and Professional Services, Onica offered customized support tailored to PURE Insurance’s needs. This support included hands-on guidance through project-based phases, such as acquainting PURE Insurance with AWS and its various features like landing zones, architecture and networks. From the transition's beginning, the Onica team provided resources and continued support until a successful cutover, a commitment that remains ongoing.
Special "program parties" were conducted, involving developers and infrastructure personnel to familiarize with the AWS platform. Muhlstein added, "By allowing our people to work in AWS while also receiving support, we made progress visible to all and eliminated much of the resistance and fear." A methodical approach in development and the incorporation of infrastructure as code with Terraform further eased the transition between environments.
Cloud migrations are inherently complex and require meticulous planning, leadership support and strong communication between IT and business stakeholders. Expertise in anticipating and resolving technical issues is crucial, as are robust planning skills to ensure the timely completion of project sprints.
“The Onica team provided exceptional knowledge and support throughout the process, allowing us to reach out with any difficulties we experienced,” said Volkan Durakci, Head of Enterprise Architecture at PURE Insurance. “We conducted multiple rehearsals and performance tests prior to go-live, which included a detailed cutover plan. All of this led to a successful and satisfying production weekend.”
The migration also involved the transition from WebSphere application servers to JBoss application servers, and technology enhancements such as implementation of application load balancing and auto scaling. PURE Insurance’s IT leadership emphasized the role of its quality assurance team as project gatekeepers, ensuring optimal functionality before proceeding.
Inevitably, there will be hiccups in such a complex process, but with the right support and preparation, it can be successful. The PURE Insurance and Onica teams worked together effectively to update the technology and resolve issues while project leaders also kept the business informed of the progress and the benefits of moving to the cloud.
PURE Insurance’s collaboration with the Rackspace Modern Ops team allowed consistent support in production environments. After building a successful dev environment using an auto-scaling group, the team earned the customer's trust. Muhlstein playfully wagered 100 push-ups if the team could maintain a successful running environment for three consecutive days. Both parties delivered.
“We installed AppDynamics to monitor performance metrics and Selenium Grid to construct a performance testing framework, giving us more visibility,” said Durakci. “Initially, response times were two seconds, but after examining the metrics, we decreased it to 500 milliseconds. We also implemented several cloud features such as high availability, disaster recovery, blue-green deployments and auto-scaling. Because of the cloud, we see numerous opportunities for continued development.”
What we achieved together
Now that it’s running on AWS, PURE Insurance has integrated several developer tools into its DevOps stack, including CodeCommit, CodeBuild and CodeDeploy. In addition, PURE Insurance implemented a serverless stack with AWS components such as API Gateway, Lambda functions and dynamic DB instances. With its flagship application on AWS, PURE Insurance has opened up numerous possibilities for growth and expansion through the diverse services AWS offers.
The migration led to significant improvements in performance, including the establishment of a performance monitoring and measurement framework. It also increased visibility and reduced response times. Notably, PURE Insurance realized substantial improvements in automating processes, reducing its database automation time on AWS from a range of 24–48 hours to just 25 minutes.
Muhlstein praised the Onica team, stating, "They supported our IT transformation by completing the requirements design and proof of concepts before implementation. Their quick responses and expert insights established trust. It was a fantastic experience overall."
Trust played a pivotal role in this IT transformation. Onica cultivated this trust by working closely with the team and providing immediate feedback on design considerations. Muhlstein also highlighted a memorable moment, "leveraging the cloud-native offering of AWS to solve log-capture issues," which created excitement and drew people toward the project's success.
The migration to the AWS platform has potential to profoundly enhance the user experience for thousands of PURE Online's business-to-business relationships. Improved performance, quicker response times and shorter software release times mean immediate increased availability for users. PURE Insurance's internal development teams can now shift focus from addressing performance issues to adding new functionalities.
Durakci expressed satisfaction with Onica, saying, "Their responsiveness, accurate answers and support—despite time zone differences—have been fantastic. They always listen to us and provide the right advice."
What does this mean for the user experience? "Without a doubt, the user experience is improved," explained Muhlstein. "The application performs quickly, allowing users to be more efficient. From the end user's perspective, the core system remains unchanged, but it's performing exceptionally well and is highly stable."
Looking to the future, PURE Insurance hopes to capitalize on the success of the migration and is considering a number of workloads for AWS, including its Claims Administration System. "We're interested in moving some of our integration orchestration workloads from a partner to AWS. Lambda and API Gateway also have potential for us to deliver new functionality," Muhlstein said.
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