Founded in 1922, R+V is one of Germany’s leading insurers for private and corporate customers. The cooperative insurance company headquartered in Wiesbaden serves nearly 9 million customers with around 27 million policies.
R+V’s product range includes all major insurance products for private customers — from motor vehicle liability insurance to personal pension plans. In its corporate customer portfolio, R+V aids medium-sized enterprises in trade, commerce and agriculture with industry-specific coverage offerings.
In order to gear new services entirely to its customers’ needs, R+V is transitioning to agile software development and containerized applications. Using Rancher Prime and Kubernetes, the company is facilitating this transformation process by largely automating its infrastructure and shortening the time to market of innovative services for 9 million policyholders.
The challenge: growing customer expectations
Clear customer demand for online services in lieu of in-person consultations meant that R+V had to quickly up its game. So, R+V placed enrollment for its private liability and foreign travel insurance, among others, fully available online.
But for the innovators at R+V, this wasn’t enough.
With 5G internet speeds and fiber internet connections breaking the gig barrier, latency issues inherent to Web 1.0 were no longer tolerable. R+V wanted to enable customers to get what they need, including enroll for a new policy, in as few clicks as possible.
To build these services faster and increase security, R+V aimed to build cloud native applications, adopting microservices in its processes and turning to containers in its technology stack.
“Rancher Prime brings all the functionality we need to deploy, manage and monitor Kubernetes clusters from a central interface, and it’s completely automated. Using OKD, on the other hand, would have required an entire ecosystem of additional solutions, adding further cost and complexity.”
The solution: Rancher Prime
The IT organization started by identifying over 100 services that needed to be deployed as containerized applications.
The team’s first venture into container technology was with Mesosphere Data Center Operating System (DC/OS), which garnered the team experience in managing containerized workloads.
However, individually managing so many containerized applications would have been extremely inefficient. So, the team looked for a platform to operate and manage the applications as automatically as possible.
As Kubernetes is proving to become the standard for container orchestration, the team shifted course. R+V evaluated different solutions that could support setting up and managing a Kubernetes environment. In particular: OKD, Red Hat OpenShift’s open source project, and Rancher Prime.
“Our first impression was that Rancher Prime was much easier to administer than the OpenShift distribution, OKD,” says Ronny Becker, product owner platforms at R+V. “Rancher Prime brings all the functionality we need to deploy, manage and monitor Kubernetes clusters from a central interface, and it’s completely automated. Using OKD, on the other hand, would have required an entire ecosystem of additional solutions, adding further cost and complexity.”
Given Rancher Prime’s ability to fully operate within R+V’s tightly secure on-premises environment, combined with a positive experience with Rancher Prime’s support team, the IT team found the right solution and support for its needs.
With Rancher Prime, the team at R+V was able to leverage container technology to transform its monolithic processes and technology structure into microservices, achieving scale and taking its services online.
R+V achieved its goal to exceed customer expectations by creating seamless and innovative services for the next generation of online and application experiences.
Systems update 12 times faster - without downtime
Rancher Prime made applying the company’s stringent security requirements easier, thanks to its high level of automation. R+V requires operating system security updates to be implemented no later than three months after release. With Rancher Prime, the team is able to act 12 times as fast — once a week. While Rancher Prime automatically applies these updates, customer and employee services continue without downtime. “Since the introduction of zero-downtime upgrades for Rancher Prime, we have been able to update our clusters countless times during operation and benefit from virtually uninterrupted 24/7 operation,” reports Alexander Seith, product manager cloud platform at R+V.
One-click resource allocation
R+V has also been able to accelerate its transformation to cloud native applications. With Rancher Prime, the IT team has created an agile development process that reduces the time it takes to request and allocate needed resources by 99.5% — from weeks to minutes.
“We can now support our project teams much more flexibly. If a developer needs a new Kubernetes cluster to try something out, it only costs us one click,” says Seith. “That’s the kind of agility we need to shorten the time to market of innovative services.”
“We perform virtually no manual steps anymore,” says Becker. “We just push a button to create a Kubernetes cluster of the desired size, which greatly simplifies cluster deployment.”
Rancher Prime simultaneously ensures that these agile development processes are comprehensively secured. It separates individual projects from each other on the clusters, and it centrally manages and documents developer permissions. Direct access to the cluster infrastructure from within the projects is not possible — all access is controlled via R+V’s CI/CD pipeline. This also protects the projects from accidental data loss; if a cluster fails due to a defect, the IT team can easily restore it.
The R+V IT team now has visibility into its Kubernetes infrastructure with Rancher Prime. The tool’s integrated monitoring capabilities provide the team with detailed insights into the health of individual clusters, nodes and workloads.
“Today, we can very quickly pinpoint bottlenecks or other disruptions that could impact the performance of our services,” says Becker. “A dashboard view shows us, at a glance, how our clusters are doing and informs us when intervention is required.”
Full cost transparency
Infrastructure costs are also more visible to the team. Thanks to Rancher Prime, the IT team can evaluate CPU and storage utilization in detail and automatically allocate expenses to individual projects for internal billing.
What’s next for R+V?
With the current setup, R+V has been able to scale and meet customer expectations by delivering digital insurance services.
R+V is also considering using Kubernetes’ Autoscaler feature for certain services. This would enable it to specify whether the performance of key applications needs to be automatically scaled up or down based on current workload and to optimally absorb peak loads for its digital offerings on the web.