Achmea: Modern Workload Automation Platform Powers the Move to a Hybrid IT Environment
With Universal Automation Center, the largest Dutch insurer consolidates multiple scheduling and file-transfer platforms, setting the stage for its integration-platform-as-a-service journey.
Founded in 1811, Achmea is the largest insurance provider in the Netherlands and the world’s eighth-largest cooperative insurer. With more than 16,000 employees worldwide, Achmea is active internationally in Turkey, Greece, Slovakia, Australia and Canada. Achmea’s core business lines are non-life, health, income protection (disability income insurance), pension services and asset management.
Befitting its origins and status as a mutual insurer, Achmea’s mission is “A healthy, safe and future-proof society.” Taking the long view and investing for the future also drives the Achmea IT team responsible for workload automation and IT infrastructure architecture.
As a financial services company, having full control over secure file transfer and job scheduling applications is critical for Achmea. One challenge standing in the way of full control was Achmea’s heterogeneous environment, consisting of a distributed side as well as a traditional IBM mainframe with its CA7 scheduler.
According to Achmea’s Gerlof Bril, Integration Infra Architect, “We saw the need for a single solution that could work with all the platforms in our company and perform file transfer as integrated tasks within a workflow. It also needed to work in a hybrid/multi-cloud environment.”
To begin with, however, Achmea needed to eliminate numerous point-to-point file transfer tools and replace platform specific job schedulers, which had accumulated through acquisition of insurers as part of the company’s growth strategy. The ultimate solution was to consolidate platforms into a single workload automation and orchestration solution that included an integrated, state-of- the-art file-transfer component.
“Our infrastructure is changing, from on-premises to a multi-cloud environment. That brought forth a lot of changes, like needing to transfer files in a seamless, transparent way from platform to platform. We wanted an umbrella over all of our file transfers and schedulers, and when we combined Stonebranch agents with Universal Controller we had an advanced solution to get the level of control we needed.”
Achmea’s first priority was getting in control of its applications and environments and consolidating multiple legacy solutions into a single workload automation and file transfer solution. Multiple tools had to be consolidated, from SAP Process Automation by Redwood to IBM Tivoli (aka, IBM IWS/TWS), from Unisys to Unix. And the volumes were quite large: over 4 million jobs run each month, consisting of about 30,000 workflows, tasks and trigger definitions.
According to Mr. Bril, “We wanted a single solution from which we could configure the complete workflow, from beginning to end. That was our first, big challenge.”
Mr. Bril, in his role as an architect, was responsible for the process of selecting a modern workload automation solution. Achmea looked closely at three solutions and chose Stonebranch’s Universal Automation Center (UAC) on the strength of its agent technology. “We wanted an umbrella over all of our file transfers and schedulers, and when we combined Stonebranch agents with Universal Controller we had an advanced solution to get the level of control we needed.”
UAC also provides Achmea the cloud workload automation solution it needs. “Our infrastructure is changing, from on-premises to a multi-cloud environment,” Mr. Bril notes. “That brought forth a lot of changes, like needing to transfer files in a seamless, transparent way from platform to platform.”
Achmea uses UAC to centralize the management of its multi-cloud workload automation environment from a single platform, across the boundaries of its on-premises environments. As its cloud strategy evolves, Achmea is considering a transition to the SaaS version of UAC, which will further support the move of on-premises data centers to cloud environments.
Consolidating systems and moving to a hybrid IT environment were just the start. Achmea has big plans for workload automation, including:
- Enhanced Self-Service through Stonebranch Universal Tasks. Mr. Bril says, “We’re planning to take advantage of more of the many pre-built Universal Tasks in the Stonebranch Integration Hub, which will enable us to integrate with more applications.”
- Using UAC to manage clusters. Achmea currently orchestrates workload automation and file transfer with containerized apps. The company sees the potential in using UAC for file exchange with and between Kubernetes clusters as well.
- Integration Platform as a Service (IPaaS) is a logical extension of UAC’s role. Achmea plans to create workflows that integrate with third-party solutions, thus connecting file transfer capabilities to API management and ETL (extract, transform and load) as part of data pipeline management.
“We are now in full control. We know where the file transfers are, we know their status and we know which jobs are attached to the files. Stonebranch UAC just works the way it’s supposed to, which for me is high praise for any workload automation platform.”
“The biggest advantage we’ve had from deploying UAC,” Mr. Bril says, “is that we are now in full control. We know where the file transfers are, we know their status and we know which jobs are attached to the files. Stonebranch UAC just works the way it’s supposed to, which for me is high praise for any workload automation platform.”
Consolidating numerous platforms has also significantly reduced the annual licensing costs Achmea had been paying for file transfer and scheduling tools. And with a single WLA solution, Achmea now manages this aspect of IT automation with a smaller staff that works more efficiently.
Mr. Bril also values the straightforward, productive working relationship with the Stonebranch team: “We communicate very effectively and productively. Whether it’s getting a problem resolved or talking about product enhancements, it’s always easy to get the right people on the line and get results. With other vendors, it’s often just the opposite, so we really appreciate the short lines of communication.”
With consolidation and control achieved, Achmea is positioned to meet changing IT automation needs and organizational priorities. Deploying an integration-platformas- a-service model is a top priority, Mr. Bril concludes: “With advanced technologies like the Stonebranch Universal Automation Center platform, we’re well positioned to create the right, cost-effective mix of tools to address Achmea’s integration needs in our IPaaS journey.”
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- Consolidation of multiple scheduling and filetransfer platforms
- Full control of and visibility into >4 million jobs run monthly, made up of ~30,000 workflows, tasks and trigger definitions
- Annual software licensing costs significantly reduced through consolidation
- Productive working relationship and short lines of communication with a single provider
- Solid foundation for taking workload automation in innovative directions