eCoverage's databases are from Oracle (Redwood Shores, CA), running on Sun Microsystems' Solaris. ""As far as choosing Oracle running on Solaris, that move was the most conservative thing I did,"" says Drucker. ""I was notgoing to risk the databaseI wanted something tried and true."" The database is stored on an EMC (Hopkinton, MA) data storage system.
Drucker chose to have the company's Web servers run on Linux. ""Cost is a consideration when you are a start-up and we could not justify the cost of using Sun Microsystems Palo Alto, CA or Microsoft Redmond, WA technology,"" says Drucker. ""Linux gives us the price point, and the stability and operability of Unix. But we made those decisions two years ago. Nowadays it becomes easier to justify using Microsoft because it is easier to work with, cheaper and has better functionality.""
Drucker was also aware of scalability problems that many start-ups run into as their products attract more users. ""We adopted a Yahoo! model for scale,"" he says. By that he means eCoverage ""buys many servers cheaply and adds servers when we need more scale. That has enabled us to distribute load across Web servers.""
However, Drucker says an insurance company CIO's challenges are very different from those of a CIO at, say, a Yahoo!, Ameritrade or Charles Schwab. ""Insurance is great for a technologist,"" he says. ""We don't have to provide huge transaction volume and we don't have huge spikes in traffic. Our traffic volume is outstanding, but we don't need to build systems that will accommodate millions of transactions""for instance, like the scalability E*TRADE (Menlo Park, CA) must have to accommodate heavy activity on the stock market. ""It is a great luxury to not have to be concerned about scale.""
But the lack of need for scale in insurance is causing troubles for some of eCoverage's competitors. San Francisco-based eSurance, another online Insurance company, has run into financial trouble and a spokesperson for eSurance told I & T at press time the dot-com was looking for ""partners."" Does this worry Drucker? ""eSurance is an agency-based model and we left that model behind,"" says Drucker. ""eCoverage has taken on all parts of the insurance process and is a risk-bearing entity. We determined there is more money to be made on the underwriting side.
""But, it is not the greatest of news,"" Drucker says of eSurance's problems. ""While the model and technology is different, the market is large enough to have more than one player."" Drucker says there will be more online insurance ventures and that technology will change insurance over the next few years. ""We will see insurance companies leverage technology to have great operating efficiencies. The change in the next five years will be much larger than the change in the last five years.""
Max Drucker CIO & Vice President of Operations eCoverage
Size of IT staff: 10
Hobbies: Technology and gadgets, snowboarding, going to baseball games, playing softball, and his dog, an English Bulldog.
Key Quote: ""Do not be afraid to try new things with technology and experiment.""
Favorite magazines: Business 2.0, Fast Company
Last good book read: Cryptonomicon by Neal Stephenson.
Greg MacSweeney is editorial director of InformationWeek Financial Services, whose brands include Wall Street & Technology, Bank Systems & Technology, Advanced Trading, and Insurance & Technology. View Full Bio