“As a long time user of Azul’s Vega appliances, we are excited about Zing as it allows us to expand the number of environments we can use Azul’s unique Java technology. We are looking at additional applications that can be improved by applying Azul’s scalable JVM.”
– Giovanni Margarito, Head of Operations and Production, Groupe Mutuel
Improving the performance of its customer portal, which struggled to keep up with the increasing customer service workload
Migrate a large number of AS400/RPG business critical applications from a traditional environment to a J2EE and SOA solution using Azul appliances and the Azul JVM
Based in Martigny, Switzerland, Groupe Mutuel is one of the largest health insurance agencies in Switzerland. The company provides a wide range of insurance services to more than 1 million customers representing 1.8 million insurance contracts. Comprised of 15 loosely-coupled business units, Groupe Mutuel focuses on all insurance sectors—health, accident, life, death and disability insurance—and provides services to over 875,000 consumers and 13,000 businesses. Given the dynamic and competitive health insurance environment in Switzerland, Groupe Mutuel recognized the need to provide a wider variety of choices to its health insurance carriers, including different levels of benefits, deductibles and premiums, as well as the latest information on pharmaceutical treatments. By leveraging the power of its customer portal in its call center operations, Groupe Mutuel was able to streamline internal processes, while providing higher customer service levels and improved operational efficiencies.
Reacting to rising costs, in 1996, Switzerland passed a law that mandated healthcare insurance for all its citizens and subsidizes low-income families to ensure universal coverage. One hallmark of the plan is a reliance on private insurers, from whom consumers can choose based on competitive policy offerings. For Swiss insurance providers, this change in the landscape not only created a stricter regulatory framework, but also a substantial market opportunity. However, under this tightly regulated, yet consumer-driven system, competition is keen and providers are motivated to offer a consistent level of service.
Groupe Mutuel adapted quickly to this new market environment, growing by a factor of 10, and became the number two provider in the country, primarily through acquisitions of small-and medium-sized independent providers. In an attempt to manage its rapid growth, the company recognized the need to create scale-based operating efficiencies across its business units, and launched a corporate business re-engineering program.
Part of the program was Project Nova, a project that was focused on putting the customer at the center of the business by improving customer satisfaction and retention, reducing reenrollment and claim cycle time, and compressing the timeto- market for new insurance products.
The customer portal was the key to the success of the project. However, due to garbage collection pauses, which created agonizingly long response times for call center agents and customers, the portal soon exhibited performance problems.
Faced with a classic scale-out problem, the company could have attempted to solve the problem by purchasing additional IBM P-Series hardware. Another costly and time-consuming option would be to re-write the portal application using IBM WebSphere Portal Server.
However, both alternatives put the success of the entire project at risk. Learning of how Azul Systems has been able to address similar performance concerns, Groupe Mutuel engaged Azul to replace the existing JVM, portal server and application server with the Azul JVM, two Azul 7320D and one 3320D with the same footprint. Working closely with the Azul implementation team, Groupe Mutuel was able to deploy a significant number of business-critical AS400/RPG applications from a traditional environment to J2EE and a SOA solution. All the applications were developed, hosted and operated internally, however, required no modification as part of the migration.
This breakthrough scalability is achieved with unique Azul capabilities such as hardware-assisted Pauseless Garbage Collection, which eliminates the impact of garbage collection-related application pauses, and Optimistic Thread Concurrency, which minimizes the impact of scalability bottlenecks caused by memory lock contentions.
With the Azul Systems solution, Groupe Mutuel has realized a number of business advantages. The solution has provided a substantial improvement in the performance of the customer portal and the scalability of the applications for both customers and service agents. The result is the ability to ensure the best online experience for its customer base.
Throughput and response time issues related to Java garbage collection have disappeared, allowing for much higher application utilization and scalability. Consequently, customer service agents are now able to access, obtain and send information to the customer instantly, providing immediate customer satisfaction and greater overall customer service.
Given that the cost for the Azul compute appliances are significantly less than the costs for additional IBM P-Series memory, costs have also been reduced substantially.
For more information on this and other success stories using Azul technology, please contact [email protected]