A look at John Hancock’s journey from SOA to microservices

December 30, 2019 Patricia Johnson

In early 2018, in alignment with John Hancock’s digitization strategy, the company decided to retire 84 vintage service-oriented architecture (SOA) services and move to API-led services. It called on Pivotal to help in its journey, including engagement with Pivotal Labs and leveraging Pivotal Platform for running modernized workloads. The team explained its story during a session at SpringOne Platform 2019.

Moving to cloud + microservices

In this SpringOne Platform session, John Hancock shares its process for modernizing its monolithic SOA apps and the lessons learned along the way:

“We went to Pivotal Labs. And the purpose of that is to understand not only the platform offering, but to learn some practices which are battle tested, industry standard, and a change of our mindset…. We were learning what is the real meaning of releasing early and releasing often. And more important: fail fast.... Don’t take three weeks and four weeks to figure out ‘oops, this is not what we want to do.’” — Sunil Saxena, Senior Director, Shared Services, John Hancock

During a 12-week Labs engagement, the John Hancock team re-designed its monolithic underwriting software. The team also learned to work in a modern, cloud-native way with pair programming, test-driven development, and lean software methodologies. 

No longer did it have to think about testing and delivering a big, monolithic product after months of development. Rather, the organization learned to think in smaller, iterative batches of work: the minimum viable product (MVP). 

Extracting value through automation

The John Hancock team also realized that modernizing its apps was only one part of the equation. It also had to embrace CI/CD to become more agile in its software delivery.

“We started developing in Spring, in Spring Cloud, which was the way to go. And we also started using Concourse for our automation. We started using Git for our code repositories. We were going on Pivotal, which was awesome, because we were able to achieve a lot of things: auto scaling, fail overs, which was easier at Pivotal.” — Ankit Sharma, Senior Fullstack Engineer, John Hancock

Concourse Pipeline for Modern App Delivery at John Hancock

Sharing best practices

Although it has more learning to do and progress to make, the John Hancock team is seeing results! It successfully migrated its services and was able to train existing resources to develop and deliver differently. 

“...We will continuously improve the automation, but at this point I’m very happy and glad to say that what we have achieved is benefiting not only of our own small, low area or department, but other business units are also utilizing this. And we’re going to spread it more as we build. Sharing is important. Whenever you do something, make sure that you share it with the rest of your organization, or wherever.” — Sunil Saxena, Senior Director, Shared Services, John Hancock

John Hancock’s engineering teams now can work at the speed of cloud instead of letting old tech hold it back. By focusing on culture and practice transformation, the company will be able to adapt more easily to up and coming technologies, like Kubernetes.

 
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