• Sanlam

    Financial Services Company Sanlam Enjoys High Returns on Its All-Flash Acceleration

Starting out in 1918 and is headquartered in Cape Town as a life insurance company, South Africa's Sanlam has since transformed into a diversified financial services group with an extensive multi-segment product offering. It provides services and solutions in the areas of insurance, investment, and personal finance. Indeed, over the past 100 years, the company has become Africa's largest insurance and non-banking financial services provider and, with operations spanning 44 countries, one of the biggest international insurance groups in the world.

The Strategic Growth Plan

The value of digital technologies became crystal clear as time goes by. Taking in the wider strategic picture, Sanlam knows that, to maintain its position as a market leader, it needs to frequently upgrade its technological infrastructure. Indeed, Group Technology Chief Information Officer (CIO) Theo Mabaso has spoken about his passion for digital transformation and the importance of augmenting traditional business models with new ones: "Even now, with businesses recovering from the financial impact of hard lockdowns, there is significant pressure on costs and revenue uplift. What digital technologies give us in terms of potential is greater customer touchpoint intimacy, an ability to price and underwrite a lot more accurately, connectivity with partners and marketplaces, and the chance to develop new markets." As such, Mabaso is leading Sanlam's transition with confidence.

Business in Jeopardy as Data Storage meets bottleneck

Sanlam's team takes pride in its unwavering focus on customer satisfaction and a commitment to delivering the highest possible returns., the company runs five operating clusters, each focusing on a core business.

Obviously enough, managing operations across such a diverse network of businesses depends on powerful Information Technology (IT) infrastructure. It was a big worry, then, in August 2019, when Sanlam began experiencing issues with its traditional storage architecture on the live network, with serious knock-on effects. High average latency of over 6 ms was severely affecting Sanlam's Database and Data Warehouse Service Departments. The efficiency of the Operations Analysis Department also dramatically decreased, so much so that analysis and report generation could no longer be completed on schedule. Conversely, digitalization in the service industry has only raised customer expectations, who now demand much more from company systems that need to be faster, safer, and more adaptable than ever before, just to keep up in the changing insurance market. Against this backdrop, in an effort to bring its analysis schedule back on track, Sanlam executives looked to upgrade the company's Online Transaction Processing (OLTP) and Online Analytical Processing (OLAP) database service systems, in order to deliver better storage performance and lower latency going forward.

In truth, over a 12-month period, the legacy storage system had begun to show the strain, posing the risk of data loss for customer production systems. Compounding matters, the provider of that legacy equipment proved lacking, failing to respond to fix malfunctions with any kind of speed, making immediate resolutions impossible. This led to Sanlam itself receiving negative feedback from its own customers, so the company began to look for a new, more dependable partner, one that could commit to improving storage reliability, engage with customers regarding controller faults, and implement data recovery for two data centers.

Investing in Superior Storage for reliable digital transformation

Sanlam chose to work with Huawei because they were impressed by the diligence and commitment that Huawei displayed. Important technological transformations, of course, require close oversight, and Huawei proved that it would be a reliable transformation partner. "For Sanlam, a trusted brand for generations, with colleagues across the continent operating in multiple jurisdictions, it is imperative to increase and showcase technological confidence levels within our markets, demonstrating the transformative effects of technology disruptions," Mabaso said. "I am proud to say that my colleagues and I are already doing precisely this."

Huawei OceanStor Dorado all-flash storage is now helping Sanlam address business challenges, more than meeting Sanlam's need for 240,000 Input/Output Operations Per Second (IOPS). With value-added features such as deduplication, compression, snapshot, and remote replication enabled, latency also falls below the required 1.2 ms. The four-fold improvement in the efficiency of the operation analysis system that Sanlam now enjoys is a direct result of advanced storage performance.

In deploying OceanStor Dorado all-flash systems, Sanlam has also significantly reduced Total Cost of Ownership (TCO). Just two sets of OceanStor Dorado replaced four sets of the old system, halving the floor space required and reducing energy consumption by 60%. Meanwhile, a flexible, centralized storage platform consolidates resources and simplifies overall planning, helping the organization save both time and money, with maintenance costs cut by 60% and operating costs reduced by 40%. Such big reductions are likely to make a sizable difference to profitability.

Huawei OceanStor Dorado all-flash storage is highly reliable, supporting Redundant Array of Independent Disks-Triple Parity (RAID-TP) to tolerate three disk failures with zero impact on services, with each component supporting at least one plus one — 1 + 1 — redundancy. Indeed, switchover takes mere seconds when controllers fail. Both data centers also have synchronous replication data recovery programs implemented, with a dual quorum server ensuring service continuity. And, even if issues do occur, a 24/7 helpline for all services, supported by a local warehouse in Cape Town, which can deliver parts within four hours, provides additional reassurance for Sanlam.

Mabaso is at his happiest when using technology to solve business problems. "It's about making it clear that the transformation effort is not just about being digital, it's more about creating significant value for the business." It's abundantly clear that, Sanlam's operational analysis system has experienced a significant boost in efficiency, thanks to the advanced performance of Huawei storage. The system now operates four times faster, allowing for more streamlined and effective data analysis.

Confidence in the Future

With operations successfully streamlined, Sanlam can continue its track record of outperforming the cost of capital rate. But the collaboration with Huawei goes further than that, laying a solid foundation for a future partnership for third-tier development of Sanlam's storage and network. Indeed, Huawei and Sanlam are further developing a global strategic partnership and expand their influence in the industry, creating new value together.