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LV 1871: Taking Virtualization to the Next Level

German insurance Firm LV 1871 boosted its data center, IT and storage capabilities through the use of "next gen" virtualization, which goes beyond servers and works to eliminate costly NAS storage by creating a virtualized storage SAN backbone.

Specializing in life insurance, annuities and disability income protection products, LV 1871 (Die Lebensversicherung von 1871 a. G. Munchen) is a mid-sized, Munich-based insurer with over 8,500 independent agents throughout Germany. Fitch Ratings gives the company an A+ rating, and agents have given top marks to the quality of the company’s products. Nevertheless, LV 1871 competes with many large players in its industry and also understands that the quality of what it does must go well beyond its products.

“Ninety-eight percent of our business processes are built on IT processes,” said Alexander Triebs, LV 1871 Infrastructure Project Manager. “Processes for business and infrastructure for IT must be fast, reliable, flexible, robust, cost effective and efficient.”

That wasn’t the case seven years ago, when LV 1871 had a mix of hardware and systems in its data center, that included a classic inventory management system running on legacy hardware, a mix of Unix, Linux and Windows systems running front-end and back-end operations, and physical storage where an average of 600 new insurance policies per day were added to its existing repositories. “We wanted to grow and to separate ourselves from our competitors in our market,” said Triebs. “We also recognized that we wouldn’t be able to grow the way we wanted to if we tried to implement new sophisticated products in COBOL and ASSEMBLER, and running our systems the way we had always run them.”

Triebs and his team began talking about implementing other programming languages like Small Talk, Java and Delphi—and about a first-stage virtualization plan for the data center that would migrate LV 1871’s legacy system to an IBM System P AIX (Unix) platform, where additional data center system consolidations (through virtualization) could be performed with the System P as a target platform. At the same time, many of the data center’s services were being outsourced to contract IT providers. LV 1871 wanted to regain control over its IT processes by in-sourcing them, which would give it greater ability to reduce its IT costs.

“Moving our set of programming languages to more flexible languages was a major effort for us that took nearly seven or eight years,” said Triebs, “But we recognized that undertaking it was the only way that would assure us an IT infrastructure that would support the growth we wanted and expected in future years. We had internal expertise in Unix systems, and we knew that with rapidly changing markets with changing products and regulatory requirements, that the old code would not provide the agility. We also knew that we wanted a mid-range, industrial-strength Unix system (in this case, AIX) to take on this kind of workload.”

LV 1871 succeeded in virtualizing its servers and moving its application code base, but it felt it could take virtualization even further to benefit the business. “Our storage was principally network-attached at this point,” said Triebs. “We believed that we would improve both IT cost ratios and our computing performance for the company and its agents if we virtualized storage, and that this would also improve our capabilities of failover and data mirroring.”

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