How Mutual of Enumclaw Transformed from AS/400 to Modern Application with Confidence

Mutual of Enumclaw Insurance Company has been supporting communities with insurance for over 100 years. Mutual of Enumclaw provides commercial and personal property/casualty insurance in six western states (Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Utah, Arizona, and Montana). Through subsidiaries Mutual of Enumclaw Insurance Company and Enumclaw Property and Casualty Insurance, the company writes a variety of lines, including auto, homeowners, liability, and umbrella insurance.

Challenges

Mutual of Enumclaw engineers were tasked to expand their solution to more states. As the company has been around for so long, some of the systems are more up to date than others. The company’ primary policy systems run on an AS/400 and a Z-Mainframe, both leveraging forms of Cobol and both are fundamental to how they do business.

Using the modern application approach, Mutual of Enumclaw was able to provide a scalable solution to more customers, while keeping a rapid development pace. Under the pressure to deliver, the engineers knew that the additional infrastructure overhead would incur more cost and may take time to deploy. As such, continuing to build on-premises would slow down the company’s efforts. Thus, the need to take the innovative solutions to scale prompted Mutual of Enumclaw to make the move forward and build an architecture based on microservices with Amazon Elastic Container Service clusters and AWS Lambda.

From AS/400 to Modern Application

This last year Mutual of Enumclaw decided to take a leap and work on transforming their policy system, but more fundamentally how to operate in the “How” to do business. They decided to go from large queues of batch processes to real-time and go from running on an AS/400 and Z-Series Mainframe to running a modern application using AWS Lambda and Amazon Elastic Container Service (ECS).

Mutual of Enumclaw saw the transition to AWS Lambda and ECS as an opportunity to be more business-focused, greatly increase the productivity of their developers, and significantly reduce their infrastructure costs.

Mutual of Enumclaw initially set a small team of architects and developers to focus on the project. The first task was to design a scalable and modern architecture, based on services such as AWS Lambda, ECS, API Gateway, SQS, SNS, S3, DynamoDB, and more. The new application had to connect to the legacy application via existing APIs, which was taken into consideration.

After the initial design, Mutual of Enumclaw started the implementation. They developed new services one-by-one, making sure that each piece of the puzzle is working correctly before moving on to the next piece. At that point, they also started to encounter observability challenges as there were so many moving pieces in the architecture. These challenges affected the developers’ velocity. A solution was much needed.

Solution – Distributed Tracing

As Mutual of Enumclaw started looking at this transformation, they knew they didn’t want to do what they had always done. They wanted a system which would self-document, provide visibility into what was going on, and requires less effort to maintain and support. This is where Epsagon fits into the vision. Epsagon uniquely fits into an area of visibility where it’s not intrusive to the development experience and provides value at all stages of the product life cycle. During initial development, Mutual of Enumclaw could see messages and logs for a specific processing path, even if it gets complex (for example, Lambda to SNS to SQS to Lambda).

Distributed Modern Architectures, Visualized by Epsagon

This allows developers to identify where unexpected events occurred in a chain, and to reproduce the issue when running a function on their local machine. In production, they plan to use Epsagon’s tagging capabilities to allow either help desk or developers get visuals easily into specific customers’ problems, and work with the customer to get any issues resolved in a short time period (potentially even while on the call). Given where the cloud is and the specific challenges that come into place with micro-service architecture, visibility is crucial in the efforts to provide an insurance experience that can’t be found elsewhere.

Finally, from a development perspective, Mutual of Enumclaw found that Epsagon’s extremely responsive team is a delight to work with. Each time the company ran into problems around visibility, Epsagon’s expertise and experience have allowed them to solve those issues. The elegance of their system and how it plugs in also makes it much simpler to work with than other solutions. With Epsagon, Mutual of Enumclaw can build environments and tear them down at a moment’s notice, without complications.

Monitoring AWS Lambda Functions

As Mutual of Enumclaw expanded its modern architecture footprint, they encountered additional challenges. One of the main blind spots in the timeouts and out-of-memory conditions that are usually common when getting started with AWS Lambda. Choosing the maximum running time and memory limit for the function is always a challenge since they didn’t know how much time or memory the function will need. Using Epsagon’s functions analysis, they could easily identify these issues.

Identify Unique Modern Application Problems: Timeouts and Out-of-Memory

Staying on top of these issues contributes both to the mentioned above developers’ velocity, and, of course, helps to make sure their application’s health is proper.

Monitoring Containerized Services

A major part of Mutual’s application is the Claim Center, which runs on ECS clusters. Using Epsagon, engineers can correlate problems from the traces to the environment and infrastructure it is running on. Epsagon automatically maps all running services and their tasks, allowing them to know better the health of the application.

Listing services and tasks with easy navigation to data in AWS

With the ability to drill down into a specific service, and detect spikes in CPU or memory usage, developers can understand better how their application is operating, and act accordingly. Using Epsagon, Mutual of Enumclaw can also monitor disk I/O operations (bytes and counts), alongside the health checks.

Detecting spike in traffic by looking at CPU and memory consumption

Moving Forward

Mutual of Enumclaw keeps developing their applications and expand its modern application footprint. The goal is to add more and more services into their modern application, due to the huge benefits of cost, efficiency, and productivity.

This coming year, Mutual of Enumclaw plans to expand their solution to more states. Using modern application approach, they are able to provide a scalable solution to more customers, while keeping a rapid development pace.

Modern applications provide Mutual of Enumclaw with a competitive edge in the market. By using AWS Lambda, ECS and other AWS services, they are able to adjust to changes quicker than ever.