Alecta is the company ensuring that 2.6 million private individuals and 35,000 companies around Sweden have employment pensions. As an insurance provider, Alecta organizes its operations into various different business areas, including asset management and a newly established real estate company.
The various business areas, which need to have their own installations and comply with different regulations, each have differing IT requirements. For instance, some areas have extremely high security requirements, while others require less. At the same time, there is a massive potential in having a joint basic infrastructure and shared data pools.
Needed power for major data computations
The insurance branch of the business requires numerous difficult mathematical calculations, using enormous volumes of data. Alecta needed what is known as "computing power" – scalable power that traditional data centers are unable to deliver.
That was one reason why Alecta started seriously reviewing its cloud systems. They realized that they needed to figure out how to establish a robust environment in Microsoft Azure.
However, they soon saw that this was easier said than done. As one of their technicians put it:
"This phase is complex! It's a lot more than just setting up a server, and it's hard to administrate. We would also need a whole range of different skill sets. This is much more complicated than we thought."
Instead of hiring a bunch of consultants by the hour, Alecta thought there had to be another way. They did not want to have to depend on consultants. But they also did not want to have to take over the administration and development themselves – both because it is expensive, and because it is hard to find the top-level expertise required.
Wanted to purchase a ready-made concept
Alecta needed to start fast, but structured.
"We wanted a ready-made concept for Microsoft Azure, where we do not have to press a thousand buttons, where everything is automated and where the set-up gets updated whenever Azure is updated," says Ulf Larsson, Head of IT at Alecta.
"Once we came into contact with Innofactor, we saw that there was actually someone who'd been thinking the same as us," Larsson continues.
The solution: Innofactor Virtual Data Center
The solution that Alecta has phased in with Innofactor's help is called Innofactor Virtual Data Center: programming code operating within in Azure using pre-configured commands that follow Microsoft's cloud best practices.
"We buy a stable framework that has a state-of-the-art set-up and pay for a license, so we share the costs with other companies," says Larsson.
Since the VDC has been developed using ready-made code, clients can easily take over the reigns if they want, or learn how to run the data center with the aid of commands.
"Innofactor helps us run the infrastructural aspects, so that we can focus on the business side of things, where we have a super motivated team developing applications and managing data."
"We get all the benefits of Microsoft such as Power BI, but without having to become Azure architecture experts. That saves a massive amount of time and money."
Speed is a major benefit
One benefit that Alecta has been seeing, after introducing the Innofactor Virtual Data Center, is saving time and money, as mentioned. Another benefit is that they are avoiding having to solve the almost impossible task of finding people with expertise in Azure systems architecture.
A further advantage is how fast they can now perform large data operations by switching capacity on and off as needed.
"Previously, we weren't able to do certain calculations at all, and others took forever to complete. Now, we can perform a calculation that used to take several days in just a few minutes," says Fredric Adell, IT architect at Alecta.
A way of attracting staff
Introducing the Innofactor Virtual Data Center is also a way of letting Alecta attract staff.
"We can offer them a stable job with real purpose, a good working environment, and highly competent fellow staff. They also get to work in an Azure best-practice environment, and use innovative solutions and new technologies," says Larsson.
"We are going to be investing heavily in developments in Azure and Microsoft services. There are opportunities here for people who want to get involved and develop new ways of working," he continues.
Introduction: 2 months instead of 18
Put briefly, Alecta is already seeing the benefits of the partnership with Innofactor:
- Flexible computing power for large-scale data analysis operations
- Eliminated the need for staff highly specialized in Azure
- Sound system architecture, combining security and structure with agility and flexibility
- Quick to get up and running. Instead of 18 months (that they estimated it would take to build from scratch), they had rolled out the virtual data center within just two months.
Or, as Larsson himself puts it:
– "Innofactor Virtual Data Center saves us a massive amount of time."