Michigan Millers Insurance Re-Architects Its Mission-Critical System On JBoss Enterprise Middleware Increases Stability, Employee Productivity And Decreases Development Cost And Time

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March 29, 2010

Customer: Michigan Millers Mutual Insurance Company

Industry: Insurance
Geography: North America
Country: United States


Business Challenge:

Needed to integrate a new policy management system with back-end legacy applications

Solution:

JBoss Enterprise Application Platform, JBoss Rules, JBoss Seam, JBoss jBPM, JBoss Richfaces, Hibernate

Benefits:

Cut development costs in half, reduced development time, increased employee productivity, and achieved greater stability

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Background:

Michigan Millers Mutual Insurance Company is a regional carrier of personal, commercial, and agribusiness insurance. With more than 180 employees and more than 300 independent agents in North America, Michigan Millers registered $143 million in revenues in 2008. Committed to delivering a high level of customized and personal service, Michigan Millers makes continual investments in training, technology, and people in its quest to be its agentsand#x2019; favorite insurance company.

Business Challenge:

As a business that prides itself on customer service, Michigan Millers needed to give its agents and associates the right tools to ensure that they could service customers both quickly and efficiently. To better achieve this, the company decided it was necessary to replace its outdated, internal-only, mainframe-based policy administration system with an Internet-enabled system that could be used directly by agents.

The new system had to be thoroughly integrated with the company’s back-end systems, including third-party vendor services, existing mainframe-based policy administration systems, a data warehouse, and many other internal applications. To add to the complexity of the project, some of the applications were managed in-house, whereas others had been outsourced to third-party vendors.

Michigan Millers initially created this integration using a vendor product, but once the system was in production a host of scalability problems crept in. Unable to handle the production load, the system would continually fail during nightly batch processing, forcing developers to stay late to monitor the system and correct any errors. The business unit was also severely impacted. Real-time services were slow and error-prone, systems would be unavailable or contain out-of-date information, and corrupted business data would get sent to down-stream systems.

When it became clear that the existing integration could not be fixed and had to be replaced, the team pushed for developing an integration hub (IHub) based on Java EE technology. Matthew Cannata, a senior programmer/analyst for Michigan Millers who had previous experience with the JBoss, suggested using JBoss Enterprise Middleware as the foundation for the IHub due to its position in the marketplace as an enterprise-ready solution, and the cost effectiveness of open source software.

Solution:

Cannata spent the next two weeks developing a proof of concept for the IHub using the unsupported JBoss Application Server based on the JBoss open source community project.

“Our senior management was impressed and fully convinced that JBoss was the right way to go,” said Gary Smith, manager of application development for Michigan Millers.

After using the community version of JBoss, Michigan Millers clearly understood the need for enterprise level support, and quickly made the decision to purchase JBoss Enterprise Application Platform. Within six months, the team had fully developed and replaced the existing integration infrastructure. An additional benefit was realized shortly afterward when the IHub provided an easy and stable platform for the integration of a new billing system.

For the next three years, Michigan Millers used JBoss primarily for system integration. However, when it was decided that the new policy administration system now had to be replaced, JBoss Enterprise Middleware was the platform of choice for the development team on which to build the new system.

“The existing system simply wasn’t able to scale to meet our growing needs which made it difficult to manage for day-to-day production support, and for making functionality enhancements,” said Smith. “We decided to evaluate open source alternatives for reasons of time, money, and flexibility.”

With approval from upper management, the team set off on a 16-month project to build a new policy administration system from the ground up. The new system added additional JBoss Enterprise Middleware technologies to the Michigan Millers ecosystem, including JBoss Rules, JBoss jBPM, JBoss Seam, JBoss Richfaces, and Hibernate.

Benefits:

The company plans to roll out the new policy administration system for Michigan Millers’ auto insurance line of business in March 2010. However, migrating to JBoss Enterprise Application Platform has already improved the stability of the back-end system integration and Michigan Millers is already experiencing fewer errors, easier ongoing maintenance, and reduced support costs.

“Not only did JBoss Enterprise Middleware reduce the learning curve of my team members, but the maintenance and support costs have also been significantly reduced, which is paramount in this economic climate,” said Smith.

Smith managed to also keep his resource requirements down — another huge cost savings. “We would have needed four times as many developers, and twice the development time to migrate to anything other than JBoss Enterprise Application Platform,” said Smith.

The original integration infrastructure required individual interfaces between each of the 27 different back-end systems. However, with the JBoss Enterprise Application platform, the workload is significantly reduced. “The IHub has allowed us to consolidate our system integration into one central location and reuse integration between systems. Before, we were integrating each system with every other system individually,” said Greg Rochon, senior programmer/analyst.

Moreover, because the architecture of the new policy management system is based on open standards and a modular design, its frontend can be separated from the underlying rating and rules engines. “If we want to create a front-end for an iPhone, we can do that without having to rewrite anything,” said Smith. “With the old system, everything was so bundled together that we couldn’t easily replace components as needed.”

“We are totally committed to Red Hat and our JBoss Enterprise Middleware deployment and intend to use it for more and more strategic initiatives throughout our business,” said Smith.

“Today, given the successful proof of concept we did with the JBoss Community and how we’ve been able to resolve our development and production problems through open source middleware, as well as made our people more productive, senior management has begun to understand and support open source as a development concept for our strategic needs.”

“I put my job on the line that JBoss Enterprise Middleware would work, and I’ve actually benefited from that, given how many advantages we’ve gained from it,” said Smith. “We’ve now done more than a dozen code releases based on our JBoss Enterprise Middleware deployment and I’m very satisfied with my decision. Our JBoss Enterprise Application Platform deployment just keeps getting better, given the combination of community contributions and Red Hat’s own innovations and quality and security enhancements.”

And Cannata agrees, “I’ve personally been following JBoss as a company since 2002. Today JBoss Enterprise Application Platform is really one of the best application servers available.”

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