Motorists Insurance Group needed a more flexible IT infrastructure to provide Web-based applications to its independent agents. Estimated costs for upgrading its mainframe were more than $1 million. Instead, the company created an open enterprise with SUSE Linux Enterprise Server, reducing hardware and software costs by 50 percent.
The Motorists Insurance Group has assets of more than a billion dollars and markets competitive personal, commercial and life insurance products. Headquartered in Columbus, Ohio, the company has 1,200 employees and 2,800 independent agents.
In the past few years, Motorists Insurance Group has moved from a paper to a digital office, implementing Web applications that eliminate the need for agents to fax documents back and forth to the home office. In a competitive insurance market, the company's main concern is providing independent agents with fast access to Web-based tools to drive new business.
The company's mainframe environment was not providing the kind of flexibility required to keep pace with rapid growth. Setting up new applications and servers was costly and time-consuming. After learning that a mainframe upgrade would cost more than $1 million, the IT staff began evaluating the advantages of an open, distributed environment.
Motorists Insurance Group evaluated several options for a distributed environment, including Red Hat Linux. As an IBM customer, the company was impressed with the Novell/IBM partnership and decided to run its business on SUSE Linux Enterprise Server.
"We considered maintaining our z/OS mainframe environment, but SUSE Linux Enterprise Server gives us greater flexibility at a better price, as well as more development options," said Robert Becker, senior systems engineer at Motorists Insurance Group.
Motorists Insurance Group runs SUSE Linux Enterprise Server on IBM System p5 and p6 servers, as well as IBM BladeCenter servers. The company also uses VMware to make the most of its servers with virtualization, creating more computing power for a fraction of the cost of a mainframe upgrade.
"Running our business on Linux is a key part of our growth strategy," said Becker. "We can now distribute new applications or set up a new server in a matter of hours, rather than days or even months."
"Running our business on Linux is a key part of our growth strategy. We can now distribute new applications or set up a new server in a matter of hours, rather than days or even months."
Using JBoss as its application server, the company now runs most of its mission-critical applications on Linux, including all its insurance applications for claims, quotes and policies. The company also takes advantage of a variety of open source applications such as OpenLDAP, Open SSH and SSL for encryption, Samba for file sharing and Nagios for monitoring.
Working in an open environment, the IT staff can get bug fixes quickly and uses JBoss to update its applications at any time of day. This flexibility allows the company to keep its systems up to date without having to schedule updates during off hours.
"Our staff loves working in an open environment," said Becker. "With support from the open source community, we can fix many of our own problems. It is also easy to personalize our architecture to respond to new insurance policies or federal security requirements."
A centralized staff now manages its Linux servers across five locations using much less bandwidth than with its previous mainframe environment. The ability to remotely administer servers has greatly reduced travel to other locations, helping the IT staff make efficient use of its time. The company plans to implement ZENworks Linux Management to better manage its inventory and assets, as well as to automate application deployment.
Developers also benefit from an open environment because they can create virtualized test systems on a single machine, rather than purchase multiple servers. Virtualization also reduces the company's cooling costs, speeds the testing process and improves the quality of applications before implementation.
"SUSE Linux Enterprise Server paid for itself right away. We have a much more secure, reliable and flexible environment by spending a few thousand dollars for new servers, rather than a million dollars for a mainframe upgrade."
"We have practically eliminated all paperwork as insurance agents are no longer required to fax requests back and forth to headquarters," said Becker. "Better performance with SUSE Linux Enterprise Server gives agents Web-based access to the information they need in minutes, rather than days. Having an open and flexible platform allows us to generate more business and has a direct impact on our bottom line."
By moving its mainframe environment to SUSE Linux Enterprise Server, Motorists Insurance Group has reduced its hardware and software costs by 50 percent and reduced administration time and costs by 20 percent.
A Linux environment allows the company to deploy new applications and servers in hours, rather than days, to keep pace with rapid growth. Insurance agents now have access to the latest Web tools and receive insurance quotes 75 percent faster, allowing the company to increase its share of independent agent business.
"SUSE Linux Enterprise Server paid for itself right away," said Becker. "We have a much more secure, reliable and flexible environment by spending a few thousand dollars for new servers, rather than a million dollars for a mainframe upgrade."