Serverless for the Enterprise

How Mutual of Enumclaw reduced TCO and focused on their customers with Stackery

Caroll Casbeer

Executive Summary

Mutual of Enumclaw, a 100-year-old insurance company from Washington, modernized their policy processing system in order to reduce TCO and focus on their software and customers - not infrastructure. However, they realized serverless development still presents many DevOps challenges like environments, workflows, documentation and local development. Stackery’s secure serverless development platform allowed their teams to build, test, and deploy applications securely and effectively - saving them time and money.

Mutual of Enumclaw: Building a Legacy

Mutual of Enumclaw is beholden not to shareholders but their members, allowing them to focus not solely on profits but on long-term high-quality products and services. Over the last century, it developed into a leading insurance provider. It balances its recent rapid growth into multiple regions and products with a long-term mindset. “We want to build an insurance company that will be around for 500 years… we want to build a legacy,” said Nikody Keating, Cloud Architect at Mutual of Enumclaw.

Serverless ‘Revolution’

Keating joined Mutual of Enumclaw in 2016 to help the organization modernize into a cloud-first organization. Keating saw the transition to the cloud and serverless as a break from the previous DevOps dichotomy of infrastructure and software. Reducing the focus on infrastructure enabled the team to focus more on their software and customers.

When Mutual of Enumclaw explored cloud providers, they made a list of principles that their cloud provider would need to meet. AWS met all their criteria. Even more so, they prioritize AWS Cloud Native architecture to reduce not just infrastructure and maintenance cost but also development costs.

After an inspiring Serverless Conf, Keating and team came back to build a proof-of-concept for a policy processing system. One thing that makes this particular policy processing system unique is that it will soon be open-sourced to help other insurance companies serve their communities.

Keating and team started building their policy process system, “the heartbeat of any insurance company” as he puts it, using Serverless Framework and AWS. The policy processing application needs to have lineage, track changes, and add-on claims.

The first step of the move to AWS required migrating legacy policy systems that ran on a mainframe zOS platform, to AWS native services. The initial cost calculation, according to Keating, came out to roughly the same amount for the entire serverless implementation on AWS as the power bill for just that one server. “If we could adopt technology in the right way with the right strategy, we could really drive down our costs,” he explained. This also applies not just to infrastructure costs, but also the costs of developing and maintaining software.

Because the policy processing system is so vital, every modification needs to be meticulously tracked. The development team uses DynamoDB for data storage, and S3 and Snowflake for data warehousing and analytics, counting on the reliability and speed of those core services to keep their software efficient and reliable.

Complexities of Serverless Development for the Enterprise... Enter Stackery

Keating and the team started their project in the popular Serverless Framework with some early success, however, they quickly reached some road bumps when it came to environments, visibility, and security. They needed a solution that worked for enterprise teams.

The problems became evident as their software scaled. They wanted the capability to see what was deployed to different environments, but without proper environment management, this translated to creating a branch in GitHub for each environment, and that became overwhelming and difficult to manage very quickly.

The desire to simplify the deployment process across multiple environments is what led Keating to Stackery. They have multiple people working on the same stacks and CloudFormation templates across projects. They use Stackery’s multiple environments to identify when a particular stack can be promoted and use it to help stabilize their product lifecycle. “Stackery has partnered with us in an amazing way, opening up the door to see what was in which environment and whether a deployment was successful,” giving them lots of visibility at a glance, explains Keating.

Results: Enterprise-grade Serverless Ops

Keating began to look for a solution to their serverless workflows that would scale and meet their high security standards. Stackery’s environments, IAM role permissioning, and low-code editor, and local development helped the team scale their serverless ambitions. Keating says, “they see immediate impact and quality results.”

The low-code editor in particular helped less experienced serverless developers on-board and learn how to leverage AWS, thus saving resources and quickening timelines. In addition to onboarding and automated AWS Well-Architectured best practices, Stackery served as the ‘source of truth,’ and freed up time from developers being forced to write lengthy documentation.

In addition to the low-code editor, Mutual of Enumclaw simplified their deployment workflow and used Stackery to visualize the capabilities of the development lifecycle. Stackery also simplified local development for their team, in particular when it comes to permissions; “Stackery allows you to run locally with the permission sets that you’ve configured in your IaC template,” meaning a developer can know that the permissions needed to access a Lambda function on their local machine will be the same as when their code is running in the cloud.

As Mutual of Enumclaw expanded, Stackery was there to help expand their capabilities across the enterprise. Stackery was on hand to help with minute technical issues and help develop solutions for enterprise-scale solutions across teams.

Now that Mutual of Enumclaw quickened their development lifecycle with Stackery it was time to scale to additional teams within the company. They moved their open-source tools to be easily used and improved by solutions architects and development teams enabling them “to move faster with better information to develop new capabilities for our customers.”

About Stackery

Stackery is a secure serverless infrastructure platform for AWS. Its patented low-code Design Canvas helps teams develop and visualize CloudFormation templates. Stackery also helps test and deploy serverless applications with enterprise-grade security automation.

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