Future Direction of Policy Administration Systems in the Cloud
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.