Business challenge

To continue keeping pace with business demands, QBE Insurance Group’s global IT organization sought a scalable, centralized deployment solution to speed infrastructure build and application delivery.

Transformation

An UrbanCode Deploy platform with UrbanCode Blueprint Designer functionality spans company geographies, providing QBE developers with access to a self-service portal for rapid infrastructure deployment.

Results

From two months to < 2 hours

to deploy integrated, end-to-end development environments

Reduces costs

and saves resources with disposable infrastructure

Drives modernization

of the application environment and the ongoing shift to cloud

Business challenge story

Demand for scalable, more rapid deployment

As an international insurer, QBE maintains IT operations in Australia, Europe, Asia and North America to support lines of business in 31 countries. For the company’s IT group, speed, agility and staying at the cutting edge of application development and delivery are paramount in meeting the demands of a highly competitive global enterprise.  

Working in house to create the company’s core business applications, QBE IT staff needed to submit requests to have development environments built for each project. Multiple infrastructure teams were required for the builds — which included servers, operating system (OS) tools, software, service accounts, databases, DNS entries, load balancers, firewalls and more — and delivery timeframes for the environments often exceeded two months.     

Additionally, the lack of readily available resources meant that it was difficult to perform major development projects concurrently, leading to bottlenecks in delivery. The QBE IT group created an automated system to help accelerate its build and deploy processes, but the platform was based in North America and couldn’t scale across geographies.

When we saw how much faster we could stand up a complete development environment with UrbanCode Deploy, we immediately wanted to extend the solution to our other regions. This piece of work really started our ‘infrastructure as code’ journey within QBE.

Syed Ataur, Global Technical Lead, QBE Insurance Group

Transformation story

Collaboration to meet a tight deadline

QBE approached IBM to help launch a proof of concept (POC) for the UrbanCode Deploy automated application deployment offering. The company was also interested in exploring the tool’s UrbanCode Blueprint Designer component, designed to accelerate testing and enable the quick provisioning of, and deployment to, cloud-based environments.

Following a successful POC based in North America, QBE’s leadership was eager to move forward with a full UrbanCode Deploy implementation across geographies. “When we saw how much faster we could stand up a complete development environment with UrbanCode Deploy, we immediately wanted to extend the solution to our other regions,” says Syed Ataur, Global Technical Lead for QBE.  

Working within a tight timeframe, QBE and IBM designed and deployed an expanded UrbanCode Deploy solution that included the Blueprint Designer module. “We had six months to build this capability for delivering end-to-end development environments for our primary applications,” says Ataur. “In just four or five months, we were in production.”

Blueprint Designer: “build once, deploy to many”

The implementation provides QBE’s global IT team with a centralized self-service portal for rapidly standing up — and easily tearing down — development infrastructure on an as-needed basis. The UrbanCode Deploy platform serves as a front-end interface for developers to access infrastructure resources, including Blueprint Designer functionality for creating full-stack templates.

QBE developers can use the Blueprint Designer templates to quickly launch infrastructure for short-term testing purposes or for longer-term projects, including fully networked virtual machines. Plus, the IT group can automate app deployment to public or private environments with the functionality. “We now have a centralized ‘build once, deploy to many’ scenario for our developers,” says Ataur.

Additionally, QBE regional Data Scientist teams deploy infrastructure for the company’s billable data analytics platform (GDAP) with the UrbanCode solution. In total, QBE uses the platform in conjunction with approximately 400 applications and also employs the technology to automate core business processes. 

The ability to automate and deliver an end-to-end application solution in under two hours is truly transformational for QBE. Having this ability to increase overall productivity for our development teams and projects will go a long way in meeting customer needs and expectations for getting products to production faster.

Kelly Mikula, Global Head of Technical Services, QBE Insurance Group

Results story

A dramatic acceleration in deployment and delivery

With the UrbanCode Deploy and Blueprint Designer solution, QBE dramatically accelerated its build-and-deploy development operations — and its time to market for new applications. “When we introduced these capabilities, we brought deployment time for an end-to-end development environment down from two months to under two hours for two of our business-critical systems in Australia,” says Ataur. “Being able to react faster means we’re seeing a huge improvement in responsiveness and concurrent deliveries to the business.”

In addition to speeding infrastructure and application deployment, the UrbanCode Deploy platform helps QBE save on resource usage and drive down costs. A developer can quickly and easily dispose an environment after its use, but if left up and running, the UrbanCode platform will automatically shut infrastructure down after 30 days of inactivity.

Plus, the solution provides centralized hosting and management capabilities that save QBE significant time and effort. “Previously, we had to go through a lot of customizations to a host a particular application in our Australia data center, for example,” says Ataur. “UrbanCode is a completely different story — it’s a single pane of glass. We have one master instance in North America that serves across Australia and Europe as well. This also helps out a lot from a patching or maintenance perspective.”

More agile development capabilities also translate into benefits for QBE’s user base. Rapid deployment and monthly releases mean that employees are working with continually updated applications — and they see enhancement or change requests fulfilled much more quickly.

Finally, the UrbanCode implementation plays a critical role in QBE’s companywide initiative to modernize its application environment and continue its ongoing shift to cloud infrastructure. By integrating the UrbanCode platform with open-source Terraform software, QBE’s IT team will enable the organization’s various regions to more easily replace end-of-life legacy applications and run new vendor-based offerings in cloud environments.

“Our UrbanCode solution isn’t just about the time we’re saving on full-stack app deployment,” says Ataur. “It’s also about the flexibility we have in target cloud platforms. We anticipate moving easily across cloud vendors as the needs of the business change.”

We brought deployment time for an end-to-end development environment down from two months to under two hours for two of our business-critical systems in Australia.

Syed Ataur, Global Technical Lead, QBE Insurance Group

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About QBE Insurance Group

Founded in 1886, QBE is an international general insurance and reinsurance company offering customers a range of commercial, personal and specialty products and risk management solutions across its operations. QBE’s purpose is to give people the confidence to achieve their ambitions.

QBE is listed on the Australia Securities Exchange (ASX) and headquartered in Sydney, Australia. The company employs more than 12,000 people across three divisions: International, North America and Australia Pacific. These three divisions span 31 countries around the globe.

Take the Next Step

To learn more about the IBM solutions featured in this story or how to get your own modernization journey started, please contact your IBM representative or IBM Business Partner, or visit the following websites:

The Blueprint Designer module is also available within IBM Cloud™ Automation Manager and IBM Cloud Pak™ for Multicloud Management solutions.  

Learn about modernizing your existing apps and building new cloud-native apps with the IBM Cloud Pak for Applications platform.

Request a free consultation with an IBM DevOps modernization expert.