Warba Insurance wanted to support employees more effectively by updating the IT infrastructure. One of its goals was to roll out a new suite of FirstApex insurance applications. After detailed analysis, the company deployed a virtualized Microsoft environment—implementing Microsoft SQL Server 2008 to support its insurance solution. The move has saved the company around U.S.$3 million and helped increase employee productivity and IT efficiency across the organization.
Warba Insurance, headquartered in Kuwait City, is a public company listed on the Kuwait Stock Exchange. The company, which is well-known across the Middle East, has a presence in a wide range of industries. Launched in 1976, Warba Insurance offers insurance and reinsurance services to companies at home and abroad. It has grown significantly since its beginnings, and now operates from the 21-storey Warba Tower, situated close to the Kuwait Stock Exchange.
Warba Insurance regularly invests in IT to create a more productive environment for employees. This was the objective when it planned a new IT infrastructure to support its ISO 9001:2008 accreditation for quality management systems. The goal was to replace the existing IT environment—which featured text-based applications with no graphical user interfaces—with a new infrastructure, featuring the latest in insurance and business applications.
As part of the project, the company planned to roll out the FirstGen and FirstLife suite of insurance solutions from FirstApex. The products, which support policy administration, are built on the Java 2 Platform Enterprise Edition (J2EE), and are web based to deliver anytime, anywhere access. The manufacturer recommended an infrastructure featuring Oracle, but Warba Insurance wanted to take a different approach. Abdulraouf Alwazzan, IT Manager, at Warba Insurance says: “I liked what I saw from Microsoft. The technology offered the same level of performance, but more cost effectively. And the collaboration and line-of-business applications had a lot to offer us.”
Next, Alwazzan had to get the backing of the company. He says: “There had to be a strong business case for whichever technology we chose. We needed to demonstrate to the company that Microsoft provided the right option.”Solution
Warba Insurance engaged with Microsoft Services to design a Microsoft SQL Server 2008 database infrastructure that could support the FirstApex technology. Alwazzan visited the Microsoft Technology Centre in Dubai, where consultants undertook a proof of concept (POC) exercise to evaluate the database’s performance. Alwazzan says: “I was impressed with the quality of the consultancy and also the commitment of the Microsoft consultants. The POC showed that Microsoft SQL Server was a great choice for our FirstApex solution.”
At the same time, the company engaged with Microsoft Gold Certified Partner INC Technologies in Kuwait. The partner advised Warba Insurance on selecting a Microsoft Open Value License—which offers a cost-effective way to gain the latest Microsoft solutions—plus, it supported the company in creating a new, virtualized Microsoft infrastructure and a disaster recovery site. The work involved a number of POCs, featuring Windows Server 2008 R2 with Hyper-V and Microsoft System Center Virtual Machine Manager 2008, Microsoft Exchange Server 2010, and Microsoft Forefront. “Whenever we had a question for INC Technologies, we received a quick response,” says Alwazzan. “The project management was excellent and INC Technologies collaborated particularly well with Microsoft.”
Warba Insurance has now completed the deployment of SQL Server 2008 to support its FirstApex applications, and IT personnel are about to start moving the solution into the production environment. Once completed, the company also plans to roll out business intelligence tools such as Microsoft SQL Server 2008 Reporting Services and Microsoft SQL Server 2008 Analysis Services.
The company has already virtualized its main infrastructure using Microsoft technology and installed Exchange Server 2010 and Microsoft SharePoint Server 2010 for greater communication and collaboration. So far, around 230 employees have access to these solutions as part of a new desktop, which features Windows 7 and Microsoft Office 2010. They will soon have access to Microsoft Dynamics AX enterprise resource planning software.Benefits
By choosing Microsoft, Warba Insurance got the right infrastructure for its FirstApex applications, while saving approximately U.S.$3 million. “We calculated that we could deliver our Microsoft solution for the same cost as just the maintenance for an Oracle platform,” says Alwazzan. The virtualized Microsoft environment has also increased uptime and reduced IT management. Alwazzan adds: “With our Microsoft solution, it’s simpler for us to deliver the support that personnel need to maximize their productivity.”
Customer saves U.S.$3 million with Microsoft solution. Warba Insurance is getting the same level of performance with its SQL Server 2008 infrastructure as with competing solutions, but at significantly lower cost. “We gained an out-of-the-box solution using SQL Server that saved us around U.S.$3 million,” says Alwazzan. “The great thing is that it has freed up more capital to invest in other areas of the business.”
Firm boosts productivity with greater availability. The move to virtualization using Hyper-V has increased service availability, which in turn enhances employee productivity. “Thanks to the flexibility of virtualized environments, we can quickly move servers between physical machines if an issue occurs. Already, the availability of our email environment has increased from around 90 per cent to 99.9 per cent—which helps personnel work more effectively,” says Alwazzan.
IT increases responsiveness with virtualization. IT personnel can address challenges more easily with the new infrastructure. For example, when hardware didn’t arrive for a new project server, they quickly created a virtual image and ran it on a physical host until the hardware was delivered. “With a Microsoft virtualized environment, you can respond much quicker to new challenges,” says Alwazzan.
Employees improve performance with greater support. Because the IT team can launch virtual servers in minutes, it can provide new software to employees faster. “It’s easy for the team to launch test servers to trial software before moving it into the production environment,” says Alwazzan. “Personnel gain better support from IT, increasing their productivity.”This case study is for informational purposes only. MICROSOFT MAKES NO WARRANTIES, EXPRESS OR IMPLIED, IN THIS SUMMARY.