National Life Group had a wealth of information, but it was locked up in mainframe computer systems and old applications. The company created a 10-terabyte master data management and business intelligence platform hosted on Microsoft SQL Server 2008 R2. Microsoft partner Attunity provided change data capture functionality for the solution, which has improved operational efficiency and insight into the business.Business Needs
National Life Group is a Fortune 1000 insurance company with more than 900 employees. It consists of several companies offering a comprehensive portfolio of life insurance, annuity, and investment products to help individuals, families, and businesses pursue their financial goals.
||With Attunity and SQL Server 2008 R2, we’re now able to work with high-value data that was previously trapped in mainframe applications beyond our analytical reach.
Enterprise Architect and 2nd Vice President
National Life Group
Founded in 1848, National Life continually looks toward the future. As the company sought to enhance service and product offerings for its more than 870,000 customers, it recognized the need to create an integrated enterprise data store. The task would be challenging. Much of the organization’s mission-critical business processing was hosted on mainframe computers, with information stored in IBM DB2 databases, virtual storage access memory (VSAM) files, and point solutions that were created over the years.
“The youngest of our mainframe applications was probably a decade old,” says Brahmaiah Jarugumilli, Enterprise Architect and 2nd Vice President for Data Management Services at National Life Group. “The mainframe is highly process-centric, and over the years the mainframe applications were modified numerous times. For the most part, those who created the applications have retired or moved on. Any attempt to extend the applications would be a Herculean task.”
National Life needed to find an efficient way to replicate data from its old systems onto a master data management (MDM) platform. The move required powerful extract, transform, and load (ETL) capabilities and a relational database management system that could host terabytes of information. The database also needed to support robust analytics for real-time business intelligence (BI) and a better view into the business.Solution
In mid-2009, the National Life IT group embarked on its Enterprise Data Initiative to create an MDM and BI solution on a three-year road map. The company had long used the Microsoft platform elsewhere in its operations. After determining that Microsoft SQL Server Integration Services provided the ETL tool set it required, National Life decided to create its solution using Microsoft SQL Server 2008 R2 Enterprise data management software running on the Windows Server 2008 R2 Enterprise operating system. In addition, the company chose Microsoft SQL Server 2008 R2 Analysis Services to create multidimensional data cubes to speed analytics.
To escape dependency on mainframe overnight batch runs, National Life turned to Microsoft partner Attunity, which deployed Attunity Stream for log-based change data capture (CDC) and its dedicated CDC Suite for SSIS [SQL Server Integration Services] to handle end-to-end data replication. With CDC, only changes made to the data are replicated, slashing transfer times and reducing the impact on the source mainframe system. The enterprise data store, originally envisioned as 5 terabytes, is 10 terabytes (and growing) because of enthusiasm for the project.
In addition to creating a real-time repository for data, National Life wants to use its new platform to support a service-oriented architecture and new applications and delivery modes. The IT group is creating middleware and web services–based solutions using the Microsoft Visual Studio 2010 Ultimate development system and the Microsoft .NET Framework 4. It is orchestrating web services interactions with Microsoft BizTalk Server 2009. The group also plans to create internally facing portals using Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007, and is building portals for its agents using Microsoft ASP.NET in a pilot release planned for mid-2011.
“The Attunity change data capture software, combined with the ETL of SQL Server 2008 R2 Integration Services and the rest of the Microsoft BI technology stack, has given us the real-time access we needed for information that is spread across our heterogeneous infrastructure,” Jarugumilli says. “Attunity software and the Microsoft stack work together perfectly.”Benefits
The MDM and BI platform has improved efficiency for National Life and modernized how the company delivers information to its agents. The company also has gained a better view into its business and expects to cut development costs.
Greater Operational Efficiency
National Life is enjoying greater operational efficiency by streaming data from its mainframe systems onto its MDM and BI platform, and by providing a wealth of information to managers and agents. “Questions that once required customer service representatives to open multiple screens on different applications can now be answered through unified MDM data delivered to an agent’s laptop or—in the future—to a smartphone,” says Dan Detterman, Information Architect at National Life Group. “We’ve also gained the ability to easily and efficiently integrate new solution offerings for agents and other users.”
Better View into the Business
Through complex coding and overnight batch runs, National Life was always able to extract critical reports covering basic operations. But the company wanted analytical information that it could use to go beyond the basics. “The amount of data visible outside the mainframe was limited because of the older systems,” Jarugumilli says. “With Attunity and SQL Server 2008 R2, we’re now able to work with high-value data that was previously trapped in mainframe applications beyond our analytical reach. Our agents gain a much clearer vision of customers and their needs, and National Life gains greater insights into agent performance.”
Lower Development Costs
National Life Group plans to lower development costs because the company finds it much easier to access and work with data after it has been moved from the mainframe to SQL Server. “Generally, any request for an application change in the mainframe world is prohibitively expensive because it is so labor-intensive, especially with old applications,” Jarugumilli says. “You could say it is much more expensive to develop for the mainframe, but that doesn’t capture the significance of our MDM and BI solution. There is so much that we can do now through BizTalk Server and web services that simply couldn’t have been done before.” This case study is for informational purposes only. MICROSOFT MAKES NO WARRANTIES, EXPRESS OR IMPLIED, IN THIS SUMMARY.