Genworth Financial Meets Grid

By By Kelly Vizzini, Contributing Author

July 18, 2005

For all industries, competitive pressures and consumer demands require organizations to constantly and consistently address all external forces (e.g., declining returns on investment, tighter industry regulations and tougher competition) and internal forces (e.g., rising operational costs, maintenance of infrastructure and other systems). According to Gartner Group, the ability to create new products and bring them to market faster is a top priority for those in the insurance industry. However, this task is constantly challenged by inefficient processes and insufficient technologies.

Genworth Financial is an insurance holding company serving the lifestyle protection, retirement income, investment and mortgage insurance needs of more than 15 million customers. The company has more than 6,000 skilled professionals overseeing $104 billion in assets throughout its global operations in 22 countries.

During the last decade, the insurance industry experienced a paradigm shift led by new compliance and regulatory issues, as well as a realization that legacy technologies were ill-equipped to handle the speed and capacity requirements needed to comply with these new regulations, improve analytic capabilities and bring new products to market faster.

These regulatory pressures gave rise to more stringent requirements for internal capital assessment and risk profile calculations. Genworth needed to increase the accuracy of its calculations and drive down unmanaged risk, while satisfying the industry's growing appetite for speed and capacity — ensuring customer retention remained high.

With demand for compute-intensive workloads, such as actuarial analysis surpassing existing IT resources, Genworth sought new ways to guarantee workload execution and improve the run-time rates of its actuarial applications.

To keep up with the exponential demand for computing power, control costs and maintain its competitive advantage, the company adopted a Grid computing strategy. Rather than enduring the high costs to build a homegrown distributed-computing solution, Genworth decided to deploy a Grid-enabling solution that would distribute workloads across available systems and resources as needed. This standards-based infrastructure could virtualize data components and business logic, which are typically found in mission-critical applications.

“The cost to deploy processing across a grid was nominal compared to the expenses associated with building out a clustered configuration, or adding new server boxes,” said Scott McKay, global CIO of Genworth.

Genworth chose GridServer from DataSynapse to leverage available, underutilized compute capacity within its existing IT infrastructure to reduce cycle times of its actuarial projection software from days to minutes, giving the actuarial team improved performance and control in determining premiums and optimizing cash flow while minimizing risk.

Replacing a farm of 10 dedicated servers with 100 desktop machines linked by the Grid allowed Genworth to accelerate time to results and increase the number of modeling iterations achieved within a given timeframe. “The amount of additional computing power we're getting from the Grid is tremendous,” said McKay. “We're seeing anywhere from 10 times or more improvement in cycle times, just by retiring dedicated hardware and leveraging assets that we already had.”

The success achieved by placing actuarial software on the Grid inspired Genworth to evaluate enabling other business-critical applications via Grid technology, including life insurance applications, annuity administration software and asset liability management applications. To identify and transition into production appropriate applications, Genworth used a best-practices methodology that helps companies identify and Grid-enable the applications that yield the highest business benefit when integrated into a virtual application infrastructure.

After completing the proof-of-concept, Genworth identified the next Grid-worthy application: a variable annuity administration system that manages over 700,000 accounts. The application suffered from long-running batch cycles, draining computing resources and negatively impacting Genworth's ability to deliver enviable service. To improve performance against service level agreements (SLAs) and drive better risk management, the application was added to the Grid. Once in production, policy valuation jobs taking 28 hours were processed in only 90 minutes.

“With Grid, we are able to do a better job managing risk,” said McKay. “As a life insurance business, you're winning on the backend because the policies you're selling are better underwritten and therefore more profitable.”

In order to achieve repeated success across the enterprise and to scale without the purchase of additional hardware, a migration from a departmental strategy to an enterprise-wide Grid strategy was deployed. The Grid solution armed Genworth with an affordable and resilient IT environment for fast, in-depth analysis and improved decision support. As such, the company currently performs additional, more sophisticated stochastic analysis to drive better risk management, reduce cycle times for close process and support regulatory requirements with ease.

“I think it would be very difficult for a CIO to find a technology and an application that has the payback that Grid does,” said Kevin Gordon, CIO of insurance and investment systems at Genworth.

About Kelly Vizzini

As chief marketing officer at DataSynapse, Kelly Vizzini works to leverage the company's existing successes and domain expertise to build a brand identity that positions DataSynapse as the de facto standard in the U.S. and European markets for distributed computing solutions. Prior to her role at DataSynapse, Vizzini held marketing positions at several software companies including Prescient, Optum, Metasys and InfoSystems. She holds a bachelor's degree in journalism and communications from the University of South Carolina.

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