Fu­ture Di­rec­tion of Pol­icy Ad­min­is­tra­tion Sys­tems in the Cloud

Digital Insurance - - STRATEGIES - Chris Phillips, Chief Ar­chi­tect StoneRiver, Inc.

Every­one knows that run­ning Pol­icy Ad­min­is­tra­tion Sys­tems (PAS) in the cloud is in­evitable. The busi­ness case for this shift is well known and un­der­stood in­clud­ing such ben­e­fits as cost sav­ings, tech­ni­cal agility, and in­ter­con­nec­tiv­ity. Plus, the bar­ri­ers around se­cu­rity and re­li­a­bil­ity are erod­ing as the cloud con­tin­ues to in­dus­tri­al­ize and cloud ven­dors in­vest bil­lions in cloud in­fra­struc­ture, process and tech­nol­ogy. PAS sys­tems are al­ready de­ployed and op­er­at­ing in the cloud, and de­ploy­ments will in­crease as more PAS ven­dors and in­sur­ance com­pa­nies em­brace the cloud.

To­day this gen­er­ally means us­ing the cloud to ef­fi­ciently host PAS sys­tems ar­chi­tected and built to run on en­ter­prise, dis­trib­uted ar­chi­tec­tures. And, in these mod­els of host­ing in the cloud there are clear ben­e­fits. But, what is the fu­ture evo­lu­tion of PAS sys­tems re­quired to de­liver the real prom­ises of cloud com­put­ing? How do pol­icy sys­tems be­come truly elas­tic and de­liver a soft­ware-as-a-ser­vice (SaaS) ex­pe­ri­ence while still en­abling the level of con­fig­u­ra­tion and cus­tomiza­tion needed for core in­sur­ance sys­tems?

To an­swer such ques­tions, it is im­por­tant to un­der­stand both the di­rec­tion of the cloud it­self and the di­rec­tion of mod­ern ar­chi­tec­tures that lead­ing PAS sys­tems are start­ing to em­brace.

CON­TAIN­ERS ARE TRANS­FORM­ING AP­PLI­CA­TIONS

IN THE CLOUD

When look­ing at the di­rec­tion of the cloud for en­ter­prise ap­pli­ca­tions, it is im­por­tant to un­der­stand how the con­cept of ap­pli­ca­tion con­tain­ers such as Docker are trans­form­ing ap­pli­ca­tions in the cloud. First and fore­most, the cloud is fo­cused on en­abling on-de­mand com­put­ing re­sources that pro­vide se­cure, re­li­able ap­pli­ca­tion ser­vices that can be con­sumed on a va­ri­ety of de­vices.

How­ever, meet­ing this cloud de­mand re­quires the abil­ity to rapidly de­fine, de­velop and com­pose use­ful ap­pli­ca­tions out of dis­parate pieces that can be read­ily tested, cat­a­logued and de­ployed in this on-de­mand, cloud world. Us­ing es­tab­lished en­ter­prise ap­pli­ca­tion ar­chi­tec­tures proves to be a stum­bling block in meet­ing these new cloud re­quire­ments.

This is where con­tain­ers fit – they pro­vide the next layer of ab­strac­tion within the cloud that al­lows an abil­ity to rapidly and re­li­ably as­sem­ble a se­ries of dis­parate pieces into a co­he­sive so­lu­tion. Con­tain­ers es­sen­tially al­low all as­pects of an en­vi­ron­ment needed to run soft­ware to be cod­i­fied, ver­sioned and tested in much the same way as the func­tional code it­self. For the new re­quire­ments for ap­pli­ca­tions in the cloud, con­tain­ers are a trans­for­ma­tional force, al­low­ing higher agility while ac­tu­ally in­creas­ing re­li­a­bil­ity and in­ter­con­nec­tiv­ity more than ever.

Fi­nally, con­tain­ers pro­vide clear bound­aries be­tween sys­tem com­po­nents while not dic­tat­ing the ma­chine bound­ary. This means one col­lec­tion of con­tain­ers defin­ing a sys­tem can run in a sin­gle cloud vir­tual ma­chine or can be clus­tered and dis­trib­uted across many cloud nodes. This level of agility be­comes crit­i­cal in try­ing to reach a truly elas­tic, scal­able cloud sys­tem.

MICROSERVICE AR­CHI­TEC­TURES ARE IN­CREAS­ING AGILITY IN MOD­ERN AP­PLI­CA­TIONS

One key shift un­der­way with mod­ern soft­ware ar­chi­tec­tures is the use of mi­croser­vices to in­crease agility that PAS sys­tems can pro­vide. In the sim­plest of terms a mi­croser­vices-based sys­tem lever­ages a spe­cific form of a ser­vices-ori­ented ar­chi­tec­ture that breaks a larger sys­tem into finer grained ser­vice group­ings that can be de­vel­oped, evolved, and tested in­de­pen­dent of each other. This style of ar­chi­tec­ture en­sures changes and fixes can be ac­com­plished with great re­li­a­bil­ity and speed.

Fur­ther­more, a mi­croser­vices-based sys­tem al­lows the rel­a­tively seam­less in­tro­duc­tion of new mi­croser­vices to ex­pand or en­hance the sys­tem. This is highly im­por­tant when it is nec­es­sary to com­bine ven­dor off-the-shelf func­tion­al­ity with cus­tom PAS re­quire­ments since that can be done by in­tro­duc­ing new mi­croser­vices.

CLOUD, CON­TAIN­ERS AND MI­CROSER­VICES WILL TRANS­FORM POL­ICY AD­MIN­IS­TRA­TION SYS­TEMS

With the evo­lu­tion of mi­croser­vices run­ning in con­tain­ers, you have a bridge to a new, evolved world where PAS sys­tems are an or­ga­nized, as­sem­bled set of con­tain­ers that can be dis­trib­uted and scaled in the cloud like never be­fore. In­stead of sim­ply be­ing a well ar­chi­tected, con­fig­urable dis­trib­uted sys­tem as most ven­dors of­fer to­day, the new world of PAS sys­tems will be a se­ries of cus­tom­iz­a­ble con­tain­ers that can in­ter­con­nect re­li­ably to other con­tain­ers and new ser­vices much like build­ing a Lego model.

No longer will PAS sys­tems sim­ply be hosted ap­pli­ca­tions in the cloud. In­stead, fu­ture PAS sys­tems lever­ag­ing mi­croser­vices run­ning in con­tain­ers will achieve true elas­tic­ity and SaaS-like ca­pa­bil­i­ties through as­sem­bling and scal­ing con­tain­ers.

The per­fect storm of cloud, con­tain­ers and mod­ern ar­chi­tec­tures will drive in­sur­ance core sys­tem evo­lu­tion in much the same way as evolv­ing from main­frame ap­pli­ca­tions to dis­trib­uted com­put­ing – evo­lu­tion from host­ing in the cloud to a fully au­to­mated, dis­trib­uted sys­tem of in­ter­con­nected con­tain­ers based on mi­croser­vices.

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