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Posted: 4/17/2013
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Irish Life Insurance Firm Saves $2.5 Million Annually and Supports New Business Growth

Irish Life, based in Dublin, Ireland, offers life insurance and pension products to individuals and businesses throughout the country. To respond to a difficult economy, the company sought a more cost-effective environment to support its critical insurance administration application. Irish Life migrated the application to a new solution based on Microsoft database technology. As a result, the company will save US$2.5 million in annual operating costs and will be able to increase its business. The solution also lowers system runtimes by 75 percent, boosts application availability, and increases developer productivity.

Business Needs

Irish Life provides risk protection, pensions, savings, and investment products to customers across Ireland. The company’s retail division, Irish Life Financial Services, sells and distributes these products to more than 1 million people.

Because the Irish economy has been in recession for the past four years, the market for retail life insurance and pensions has fallen by more than 65 percent. To help compensate for this market trend, Irish Life wanted to find a more cost-effective technology to support CLOAS, its life insurance administration system. “This is our core system, on which all policies are administered, and it represents a significant element of the company’s total operating costs,” says Brendan Healy, CIO, Irish Life. “We were paying a premium for the IBM mainframe environment it was based on.”

To differentiate itself in a challenging business climate, Irish Life must also guarantee the highest availability for CLOAS, which is used internally to administer policies and externally by customers for self-service policy administration.

However, ensuring high availability had become difficult. For instance, the system’s underlying batch system architecture was not flexible or efficient, and nightly batch processing routinely took 8 hours or more to complete. “That meant the system was sometimes inaccessible by our internal and external customers in the morning,” Healy says. “This downtime was not acceptable to us, because our business goal is to provide market-leading service. Part of that is having our systems available at all times.”

In early 2009, Irish Life began the process of searching for a more cost-effective solution for CLOAS. This work was led by Denis McLoughlin, Head of Finance & IT, Retail Business, Irish Life.

* Running our mission-critical application on SQL Server 2008 R2 and Windows Server 2008 R2 will save us more than $2.5 million each year in licensing and hardware costs. *

Denis McLoughlin
Head of Finance & IT
Irish Life


Initially, Irish Life conducted a proof of concept to compare Oracle database technology with Microsoft SQL Server 2008 R2 Enterprise software. The company decided that SQL Server would deliver a long-term advantage in terms of cost and integrated technology. “We saw that SQL Server 2008 R2 would provide a much better value for the money,” says McLoughlin. “It also fit better with our plans to implement Microsoft Dynamics CRM and to develop other internal applications on the Microsoft ASP.NET web application framework.”

In 2010, Irish Life started the process of migrating its entire CLOAS database to SQL Server 2008 R2 Enterprise, running on the Windows Server 2008 R2 Enterprise operating system.

Irish Life redesigned the main part of CLOAS to take advantage of the Microsoft .NET Framework and reduce the batch- processing window. Although Irish Life managed much of the migration itself, the company also relied on Microsoft Services consultants to provide additional subject matter expertise and migration assistance.

The new CLOAS database is 40 gigabytes in size and contains 300 million rows of customer policy data. When the upgraded application goes live in early 2013, it will be used by 400 Irish Life administrators, 300 salespeople, 1,400 independent brokers, and 1.2 million customers.


Irish Life anticipates that with the new solution it will save $2.5 million annually and be able to expand its business. The company has also lowered batch processing times from 8 hours to 2, increasing availability for its critical life insurance administration application. Additionally, the firm’s developers will be more productive.

Saves $2.5 Million Annually and Supports New Business Growth

With CLOAS running on the new technology, Irish Life expects to reduce its operating costs by 80 percent. “Running our mission-critical application on SQL Server 2008 R2 and Windows Server 2008 R2 will save us more than $2.5 million each year in licensing and hardware costs,” says McLoughlin. “That doesn’t even count the increased productivity and other benefits we are expecting from moving to this environment.”

In addition to reducing the company’s overhead in a business environment where volumes and margins are shrinking, the solution will also help Irish Life expand its product offerings. “This technology interoperates better with our new Microsoft Dynamics CRM solution and also gives us the ability to more easily develop new applications,” McLoughlin says. “That will help us offer better services and increase our business.”

Reduces Runtimes by 75 Percent and Increases Application Availability

By re-architecting the underlying CLOAS technology, Irish Life has improved the application’s performance and reduced the system batch-processing time by 75 percent. “The nightly runtimes used to take 8 hours, but we can do it in 2 hours with the new solution,” says McLoughlin.

Now, CLOAS will be available for use whenever customers need to access it. “Our internal and external users can be confident that the system will be fully accessible each morning,” McLoughlin says. “And with a shorter runtime window, we can also expand application availability on weekends. This gives us more options around longer working days at peak business times, and it ensures solid self-service capabilities for all of our customers.”

Helps Developers Be More Productive

The new solution also gives Irish Life an improved development environment. “With the .NET Framework, our developers are going to be more productive,” says McLoughlin. “Everything from coding to testing will be more streamlined, and that will lead to shorter development timelines.”

With those capabilities, Irish Life can support a broader range of potential business solutions. McLoughlin says, “This technology positions CLOAS as our core customer offering into the future and supports key IT initiatives.”

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Solution Overview

Organization Size: 2000 employees

Organization Profile

Irish Life provides a range of life insurance and pension products to customers throughout Ireland. Founded in 1939, it is the country’s largest life insurance company.

Software and Services
  • Microsoft SQL Server 2008 R2
  • Microsoft .NET Framework
  • Windows Server 2008 R2 Enterprise
  • Microsoft Services

Vertical Industries


Business Need
Mission Critical

IT Issue
  • High Availability
  • Regulatory Compliance and Controls