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

    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, Sanlamknows that, to maintain its position as a market leader, it needs to frequently upgrade its technologicalinfrastructure. Indeed, Group Technology Chief Information Officer (CIO) Theo Mabaso has spoken about his passionfor 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 andrevenue uplift. What digital technologies give us in terms of potential is greater customer touchpoint intimacy, anability to price and underwrite a lot more accurately, connectivity with partners and marketplaces, and the chanceto 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 highestpossible 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 InformationTechnology (IT) infrastructure. It was a big worry, then, in August 2019, when Sanlam began experiencing issues withits traditional storage architecture on the live network, with serious knock-on effects. High average latency ofover 6 ms was severely affecting Sanlam's Database and Data Warehouse Service Departments. The efficiency of theOperations Analysis Department also dramatically decreased, so much so that analysis and report generation could nolonger be completed on schedule. Conversely, digitalization in the service industry has only raised customerexpectations, who now demand much more from company systems that need to be faster, safer, and more adaptable thanever before, just to keep up in the changing insurance market. Against this backdrop, in an effort to bring itsanalysis 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 storageperformance 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 dataloss 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 toSanlam itself receiving negative feedback from its own customers, so the company began to look for a new, moredependable partner, one that could commit to improving storage reliability, engage with customers regardingcontroller 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 areliable transformation partner. "For Sanlam, a trusted brand for generations, with colleagues across the continentoperating in multiple jurisdictions, it is imperative to increase and showcase technological confidence levelswithin our markets, demonstrating the transformative effects of technology disruptions," Mabaso said. "I am proud tosay 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 meetingSanlam's need for 240,000 Input/Output Operations Per Second (IOPS). With value-added features such asdeduplication, 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 directresult 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 andreducing energy consumption by 60%. Meanwhile, a flexible, centralized storage platform consolidates resources andsimplifies 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-TripleParity (RAID-TP) to tolerate three disk failures with zero impact on services, with each component supporting atleast one plus one — 1 + 1 — redundancy. Indeed, switchover takes mere seconds when controllers fail. Both datacenters also have synchronous replication data recovery programs implemented, with a dual quorum server ensuringservice continuity. And, even if issues do occur, a 24/7 helpline for all services, supported by a local warehousein 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 thetransformation 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 morestreamlined and effective data analysis.

Confidence in the Future

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

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