The insurance company, which operates in ten sub-Saharan countries in Africa, is capitalizing on Bull’s skills and experience to build a shared and standardized virtual environment.
A European leader in insurance and financial services, Allianz has a presence in 70 countries worldwide. In Africa, the group is active in all branches of insurance and reinsurance, including property and casualty, travel and life insurance. It is also involved with micro-finance organisms and is developing micro-insurance schemes in a number of countries, among them Cameroon, Ivory Coast, Mali and Senegal. As the leading European insurer in sub-Saharan Africa, Allianz has a regional network of 14 subsidiaries in ten countries. Their information systems are managed centrally by the IT Department of Allianz Africa, which is based in Douala, in Cameroun. When the company decided to update all its IT hardware, it turned to Bull to implement a shared and virtualized infrastructure which would be perfectly aligned with its business needs and the local situation.
Harmonization and centralized management
By enabling Allianz Africa to standardize its network and application infrastructure across all countries, virtualization meets the IT Department’s two key objectives of harmonization and simplifying system management. “Thanks to virtualization, we can build the whole platform in Cameroon before we roll it out to the subsidiaries, with minimal on-site intervention,” explains Pascal Doye, Allianz Africa’s IT Director. Another benefit of this approach is that the information system is much more scalable, for example when it comes to porting a specialist life insurance application from AS/400 to an open environment or in where there is the possibility of setting up a new subsidiary. Finally, the extremely flexible and adaptable virtualized environment easily lends itself to training and the creation of test environments that are similar to real ones, enabling Allianz Africa to carry out large-scale tests without actually adding any more physical servers.
To build this infrastructure – as well as to provide the appropriate documentation and support to meet the subsidiaries’ needs and prepare for the industrialization of future implementations – Allianz Africa turned to Bull. “Bull was one of the few players with all the ingredients we were looking for: technical skills, a pan-African presence and highly responsive support from expert resources based in France working together with the team from Bull Cameroon that was managing the whole project,” Pascal Doye continues. Bull developed a global, structured and fully-documented solution, based on its NovaScale servers and the vSphere environment from VMware. Bull also implemented the back-up solution using vRanger disks: a perfect match with Allianz Africa’s situation and resources. “Because of its long-standing presence in Africa, Bull can really understand the conditions on the ground, and suggest highly pragmatic solutions,” Pascal Doye notes. “We’ve built up a real partnership with them; Bull comes up with many proactive suggestions, which helps us to anticipate and rapidly resolve the possible problems involved in such a complex geographic roll-out.”
A project that is transparent to users
Implemented in such a way that it did not affect users, the new infrastructure will enable Allianz Africa to better control the way it manages its subsidiaries’ networks and applications from its data center in Douala, as well as to further improve IT security while also simplifying the implementation of its business continuity plan. And this coherent, virtualized environment is already opening up many new possibilities for future enhancements, whether in terms of virtualization of other business applications or workstations, or aspects of automated back-up for subsidiaries.
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