Leading digital transformation in the insurance market

Reduces time to market for new products from days to hours with VMware Tanzu Kubernetes Grid

Creates competitive advantage with the introduction of unique, niche insurance products

Improves efficiency of developer teams through automation and common tooling

Harel creates dynamic environment for developers to build competitive edge

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Harel Insurance Investments & Financial Services is Israel’s largest insurance and finance group. It is also the country’s most innovative provider, taking a lead in the digital transformation of the insurance market.

Harel has been a VMware customer for more than 10 years. By adopting VMware® Tanzu Kubernetes Grid, Harel has reduced development costs, improved development times, and reduced time to market for new services. It also cements Harel’s reputation for being among the most exciting places to work for Israel’s developer community.

As #1 in the market, Harel is a target for established competitors and every new entrant. Its challenge is to continue to lead the market.

The business wants to use its wealth of historical and transactional data to create actionable insight on customer trends and preferences. It will use this to inform better service. This could involve new products, faster onboarding, self-service, or complaint handling.

Reduce time to market of new services

The primary route to market is through a network of 1,500 independent insurance agents, but Harel expects to see a growth in customers engaging directly through online and mobile channels. The company needs to balance being both traditional and established, and dynamic and modern.

Above all, Harel wants to be first to market with innovative new insurance products. It needs to do so efficiently.

Call center employee. Person in office.

It wants to reduce the time and complexity of developing, testing and bringing to production new services, particularly cloud and mobile apps. By freeing up developers from infrastructure requirements—instead, managing infrastructure as software—it wants to create a dynamic, fast-moving development environment. This will help attract the country’s best developer talent, and cement Harel’s reputation for innovation.

“Digital transformation means we have to change the way our developers work,” says David Ben-Eli, head of IT systems, Harel. “If we want to develop cloud native apps, then we need a stable environment on which to deploy.”

Automating workloads with enhanced security

Kubernetes is an open source system for automating deployment, scaling, and management of containerized applications, but it is not without its challenges.

Tanzu Kubernetes Grid addresses a broad range of Kubernetes challenges, such as networking, security, storage, monitoring and logging. This is achieved by including VMware NSX-TTM Data Center and integrating with other VMware products.

“We looked at other solutions, but the only one without compatibility issues was [Tanzu Kubernetes Grid],” says Ben-Eli. “Plus, we have a great relationship with VMware and were confident any issues could be resolved. There are good technical people on both sides.”

Tanzu Kubernetes Grid is built for running critical workloads in production, with enterprise features such as enhanced security, high availability, rolling upgrade, constant health monitoring, and self-healing.

“VMware NSX-T Data Center is hugely important for us,” says Ben-Eli. “It means we can micro-segment between different services, protecting our work. Security is vital. We’re managing money and personal data.”

Selecting Tanzu Kubernetes Grid is the latest project in Harel’s long-term engagement with VMware. It originally opted for VMware vSphere to lead its virtualization program. Today, 95 percent of its servers are virtual.

Team working

The initial engagement has since grown to include VMware NSX Data Center and VMware vRealize Network Insight. The former delivers networking and security entirely in software, abstracted from the underlying physical infrastructure. The latter accelerates micro-segmentation deployment, minimizes business risk during application migration, and enables Harel to confidently manage and scale its NSX deployment.

“It is a partnership we can be comfortable with,” says Ben-Eli. “There was no risk with [Tanzu Kubernetes Grid].”

Improved operational efficiency

Tanzu Kubernetes Grid has been operational at Harel since late 2018. It is a key component in Harel’s drive to create niche products for the insurance market and is helping reduce the time to market for new services from weeks to hours. It means Harel is delivering all the infrastructure a developer might need, software-controlled and automated.

[Tanzu Kubernetes Grid] means we can be faster and more efficient in the way we onboard new customers. We can tell it’s having an effect, because we see our competitors trying to copy us.”
David Ben-Eli, Head of IT Systems, Harel Insurance

“They just need to build the code, write the code and deploy the code,” says Ben-Eli. “[Tanzu Kubernetes Grid] means we can be faster and more efficient in the way we onboard new customers. We can tell it’s having an effect, because we see our competitors trying to copy us.”

For instance, Harel has created a product that allows drivers to buy insurance based on the number of kilometers driven. It is unique to the industry and reflects a broader trend of products geared toward individual habits. “We want to give customers the ability to buy small amounts of insurance that suit their needs. They don’t always want the whole package,” Ben-Eli explains.

Such dynamism strengthens Harel’s reputation as a market- leading innovator and creates a more engaging environment for developers. Ben-Eli says it builds an environment that helps attract the best developer talent.

“What I’m most proud of is the high level of design work that went into this project,” he says. “[Tanzu Kubernetes Grid] improves our operational efficiency with built-in automation and a common set of tooling for virtual machines and containers.”

It also strengthens Harel’s links with VMware, he adds: “We got to speak directly to the VMware product manager. For an infrastructure team, that access is invaluable. Ultimately, it took us just two days to install.”

Looking ahead

Israel’s insurance market continues to grow. The market is split across 15 companies, of which five are dominant. To protect market competition, state regulators won’t allow further acquisitions and mergers.

Digital services will enable Harel to engage directly with customers. This trend will continue to gain pace, requiring Harel to be faster and more dynamic with new services and updates.

“We’re always looking at new technology, but that technology has to serve a purpose,” says Ben-Eli.