Since information is the lifeblood of the insurance industry, companies will go into contortions to make sure it is readily accessible.
Take Mortgage Guarantee Insurance Co. (MGIC, Milwaukee, $3.8 billion in assets), which had a data-storage conundrum. The mortgage insurer had mission-critical mainframe, Unix and Windows NT-based data and wanted to ensure its availability.
"We knew we had to add a SAN storage area network, so we assessed the storage marketplace," says Jim Sterling, MGIC's director of technical services and operations, adding that the two main things MGIC looks for in storage are consistency and reliability. "We concluded that EMC had the best solution." EMC Corp. (Hopkinton, MA), a provider of data storage hardware and software, was chosen also because MGIC has been a long-time user and development partner of EMC technology.
Preparing for Growth
"MGIC has been committed to EMC for a number of years," Sterling explains. "We chose EMC because of economy of scale. By staying with EMC we could leverage what we had already invested in, and we were already familiar with the products."
MGIC also was looking to increase its storage capacity to account for increased traffic on its eMagic.com mortgage insurance services portal. "EMagic is a portal that originators use to access wholesale and vendor partners in the mortgage process," relates Sterling. "It gives originators a one-stop shop and brings efficiency to the market." Originators, or lenders, can order credit checks, title searches and other services associated with the mortgage process through the portal.
By standardizing on EMC, Sterling says, MGIC was able to leverage its initial investment and technology, move data from three systems to a SAN, and also leverage the EMC storage disk farms to the fullest. "We have had unused disk space for a while," Sterling says. "Some people say EMC is costly, but we are driving the cost down by utilizing all" of EMC's capacity.
During the conversion to the SAN, which involved replacing EMC Symmetrix 5700 and 5930 systems with an EMC Symmetrix 8830 and two EMC CLARiiON FC4700s, MGIC realized it would need some of the extra capacity immediately. MGIC set a goal to migrate all of the data to EMC in a four-month time frame. Supporting the migration was EMC software, including Symmetrix Data Migration Services.
"The migration needed to be error free and done in a very timely fashion so we could keep our systems up and available to customers," says Jeff Mours, the project leader responsible for MGIC's storage needs and for the EMC implementation. "During the conversion, we had a huge spike in business due to the downturn in interest rates," says Mours. "With EMC, we were able to handle the volume without delaying any of the requests."
In hindsight, Sterling adds, "I wish we wouldn't have scheduled the migration when the volume was through the roof. The volume never let up and we could not falter. To the credit of EMC, we had minimal disruption. If we could do it over, we would do it at a slower pace."
Another reason MGIC decided to implement a storage-area network is because a SAN provides flexibility to all systems that utilize it. For instance, if eMagic.com is seeing high volumes during the day, additional capacity can be re-routed from applications that are not currently requiring the space, explains Mours. "The SAN gives us high performance and a lot of flexibility," Mours says. "We have a fair amount of space allocated to eMagic. With the SAN we are positioned to respond quickly if there is an urgent need for space. Although we have not calculated it, we will see savings in the ability to distribute storage to other systems when it is needed."
In the new configuration, the EMC Symmetrix 8830 environment is attached via SCSI and Fibre channels to Unix servers. Window NT/2000-based servers are attached to the Symmetrix and CLARiiON FC 4700, which also have connections to the Unix servers. The mainframes are connected to the Symmetrix 8830 for an open-systems and mainframe-centric data management solutionall housed in one system, according to Mours.
Case Study Closeup
Mortgage Guarantee Insurance Co., Milwaukee, $3.8 billion in assets.
LINES OF BUSINESS:
EMC Corp.'s (Hopkinton, MA) Symmetrix and CLARiiON storage solutions; various EMC software.
Migrate data to SAN to increase flexibility.
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