Case story: Swiss Re

aspectra hosts Swiss Re's highly available Sitecore customer portal

In the Command Tower: The host also monitors availability

Swiss Re's customer portal has to be highly available, safe and scalable. aspectra operates the platform and oversees security and availability with end-to-end monitoring. The particular challenge here is that the platform is connected to Swiss Re's own identity and access management system.

Notifications of claims, policy adjustments, compensation – even simple insurance policies generate a need for complex electronic communications. It becomes even more complex when major companies with a large number of branch offices insure their risks. Swiss Re Corporate Solutions provides insurance for such companies. The company's IT was faced with the challenge of offering a customer portal to provide employees and customers with an overview of the insurance services and transactions. The aim is to give the insured parties greater transparency and peace of mind, whilst also allowing the insurer to get closer to its customers and operate more efficiently.

Requirements: scalable platform with IAM connection
The IT solution must meet tough requirements because the portal contains personal data. This is why Swiss Re wanted the data to be located in Switzerland. Identity and Access Management (IAM) is subject to Swiss Re's strict policy and is managed by the company's own system. Data security and availability must be safeguarded through geo-redundancy. Furthermore, the platform needed to be built quickly and designed for scalability. The time between the start of the project and when it went live for the first time was twelve months: the initial development platform was up and running within two months.

Experts from the marketing technology consultants oddEVEN designed and built the platform. Swiss Re is purchasing the portal on a Platform-as-a-Service (Paas) basis. The Zürich-based company supported the project from beginning to end: working with Swiss Re it developed the vision, then defined the user experience and the architecture. oddEVEN also assisted Swiss Re with the implementation, project methodology and definition of governance, operation and maintenance.

oddEVEN worked with Swiss Re IT to build a platform based on Sitecore. It allowed Swiss Re's internal customers to develop specific portals for their own customers.

Hosting with specialists makes for security and availability
When looking for an organisation to host and operate their site, Swiss Re and oddEVEN chose aspectra, a hosting company that specialises in business-critical applications. Swiss Re's preference was for local hosting rather than the Azure cloud and hosting on the internal infrastructure. The deciding factors were the expertise and infrastructure for secure and highly available operation. aspectra maintains both as its core business, whereas other providers purely offer hosting as an additional service. aspectra also offers Swiss computer centres and geo-redundancy.

Special challenges
The host monitors availability. Markus Häfeli, who is managing this project at aspectra, says: “We take on responsibility for operating the platform. For this, it is absolutely essential that we also know the status of external systems that have an influence on the functionality of the platform.” This is why aspectra implemented end-to-end monitoring for the application. This also checks the functionality of Swiss Re's Identity and Access Management system. With monitoring, if incidents occur it is also possible to identify faults outside their own servers, thus allowing the party concerned to rectify these. One other challenge here is that Swiss Re requires complete encryption of all data when it is transferred and stored.

Private cloud on dedicated ESX servers
For this purpose aspectra has established a private cloud with 15 systems in its computer centres. It runs on two dedicated ESX servers with shared storage. The critical systems are geo-redundant and aspectra has mirrored these at the second site. As a long-standing partner of HPE's Partner Ready for Service Provider Program, aspectra leveraged HPE components for the service. Thanks to good standardisation and many years of experience, the servers interact well with the “myaspectra” monitoring cockpit. The HPE systems also offer good and fast scaling.

Swiss Re's customer portal is a challenge to operate in view of the requirement for high availability, geo-redundancy and a solution architecture that is divided into three. As the hosting company, aspectra monitors availability between oddEVEN's platform and Swiss Re's systems. This gives Swiss Re's managers certainty – and they can delegate responsibility to a reliable partner.

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