About the Client
The client is the 2nd largest health insurance provider for US Government employees, with approx. 2 million policy holders. They are a self-insured, not-for-profit association providing health and dental plans to federal employees and retirees and their families through the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program and the Federal Employees Dental and Vision Insurance Program.
The client realized the profound impact digital and cloud technologies had across businesses and industries and did not want to be left behind. They hired a leading consulting firm to strategize on their business and technology landscape for the future – with the goal of capturing market share and drive profitability. This could be attained by gaining a larger share of the customer’s wallet and attaining higher customer satisfaction levels.
One of the key assets that would play a role in attaining their business objectives was the online customer portal – the main point of interaction with customers. Approx. 70% of their customers would interact with the client solely through the portal.
The client decided to re-engineer the customer portal from the ground up to create a technologically advanced and modern platform that would be easier to maintain and manage. It also had to support their new business and product initiatives with agility, performance and scalability goals.
The new customer portal was developed in-house and deployed on the Azure Cloud. During the deployment planning, the client’s attention shifted towards the ongoing managed and operations of the customer portal. They were looking for experts who could provide ongoing Infrastructure and Application platform managed services.
With deep DevOps, and Cloud transformation expertise, and health insurance domain knowledge, Silicus was recommended by Microsoft as a preferred services partner.
Infrastructure & Platform Ops Managed Services
Being a business-critical application, the client wanted experts to manage the portal given the new technology landscape in the Cloud. Experts were required to manage the infrastructure, the application platform and the DevOps toolchain.
Another reason was that the client wanted to focus on technology aspects that were business facing and contributed to revenue, profitability and new product growth, while leaving the back-end technology to be managed by 3rd party experts.
Silicus stepped up to take responsibility of managing this critical asset for the client, across the infrastructure and the application platform.
Amongst others, the key SLA backed managed services offerings provided were:
- Platform security monitoring and managed
- High availability & performance
Scope of Managed Services
- Initial onboarding, Provisioning and Configuration Support
- Platform Monitoring: PaaS / Application Monitoring, Application Continuous Integration [CI] Pipeline Support, Application Continuous Delivery [CD] Pipeline Support, Resource Configuration Management, Security Management, Resiliency & DR Management
- Infrastructure Monitoring: Azure Virtual Network: Azure VPN Services, Azure Virtual Machines, Network Virtual Appliances
- 24x7 Service desk and L1 Support
Platform Ops Managed Services
Silicus offered the following platform managed services for the client:
- Proactive Monitoring
- Application Performance Monitoring
- Azure PaaS Monitoring
- Monitor Platform Health for High Availability
- Monitor Platform Compute Usage for Scalability Thresholds
- Monitor and detect Traffic Patterns and Usage Spikes
- Security Management
- Application Vulnerability Scan Platform Remediation
- Penetration Testing Platform Remediation
- Manage Data at Rest Security
- Resource Configuration Management
- Azure Multi-tenant PaaS Deployment
- Azure Containerized Deployment
- Azure Isolated PaaS Deployment
- Resiliency & DR Management
- Manage Database Replications
- Manage Active-Active / Active-Passive implementations
- Orchestrate Active-Passive Application Failover & Failback
- Manage Rule-based Platform Scaling
- Application Continuous Integration / Delivery [CI / CD] Pipeline Support
- Application Build Pipeline Automation
- Integrate Unit Testing, QA, Code Analysis to Build Workflow
- Deployment with Automated Infrastructure Provisioning
- Maintenance and Upgrade of DevOps CD Toolchain
Infrastructure Managed Services
Silicus offered the following infrastructure managed services for the client:
- Windows Server Management
- VM lifecycle management
- OS patch management
- Anti-virus management
- Monitoring of Backups for Virtual Machines and Files/Folders
- Proactive Server Maintenance
- Database Management
- Proactive management of database configuration
- Database Health checks
- Manage Scheduled Database Backups
- Monthly Performance Analysis and Tuning
- Monitor Database High availability (Log Shipping, Mirroring, Always-On Availability Groups)
- Additional on-demand support services including Database Restore
- Virtual Firewall Appliances
- Network Virtual Appliance (NVA) Baseline Configuration, Maintenance and Incident Troubleshooting
- NVA software and operating system (OS) image patching
- NVA software and operating system (OS) version upgrades
- NVA Baseline Configuration Backup Management
- Azure Virtual Network
- Virtual Network [VNET] Baseline Configuration Maintenance and Incident Troubleshooting
- Network Resource & Network Security Group [NSG] Baseline Configuration Maintenance and Incident Troubleshooting
- Network Resource & Network Security Group [NSG] Baseline Rules, Policy and Settings Management
- Azure VPN Gateway Connection Troubleshooting Support
- Standard Network Vulnerability Scanning [Monthly]
Performance Tuning & High Availability Monitoring
The clients SLA for application recovery in the event of a disaster was 15 min. Prior to the managed services engagement, Silicus implemented full scale disaster recovery for the client, conducting several DR tests before going live. This included configuring high availability data protection, and disaster recovery.
On an ongoing basis, Silicus conducted periodic performance tuning based on response times, transaction rates, resource utilization, etc. The activities under Performance Tuning included:
- Scheduled Automated Tuning
- Monthly Performance Optimization Review
- Monitor Mirroring
- Monitor Log Shipping
Managed Services Process
Silicus followed a combination of proactive and reactive management to detect issues and fix them before it impacts performance. Events received, and issues identified by Silicus are escalated to the client for remediation. Client may upfront request Silicus to deploy additional on demand support services without prior approval.
- During an alert, L1 generates a ticket, which triggers an auto email to the client and Silicus’ L2 team
- L2 immediately works on the issue, fixes it and notifies L1. If it’s a back-up related issue, L2 directly contacts the Microsoft Azure team and gets it resolved without involving the client
- Once the issue is resolved, L1 notifies the client and sends them a detailed report on the incident
Service Level Commitments
Silicus SLAs were offered in line with the service plan selected by the client. The SLAs covered the Initial response goals (acknowledgement and response initiation) and Ongoing communication goals (update frequency). Issues were categorized at four levels – Critical, Urgent, Important and Advisory, and the initial response and ongoing communication SLAs were different for each.
Infrastructure & Platform Monitoring
Application Performance Management
Security Information & Event Management
Network Appliance Monitoring
Enable (Silicus’ in-house tool)
Cost Savings in Managed Services Operations
With expertise and economies of scale Silicus offered infrastructure and platform managed services at a fraction of the rate it would have taken the client – approx. 80% savings compared to moving the practice in-house.
Access to 24x7 True Azure Experts
This would have been extremely difficult for the client to replicate inhouse and prohibitively expensive to set-up. Silicus Azure experts have worked on weekends to resolve critical issues within agreed upon SLAs.
Additional Value in Processes & Policies
Silicus charges the client only for the services provided. However, there is significant value in the intangibles – PCI & SOX compliance, ongoing training and technology upgrades, 24x7 support center management, personnel management across shifts and weekends, communication best practices etc
Cost of Downtime
The SLAs Silicus provided were extremely stringent and exceeded industry standards. This was due to the highly business critical nature of the portal. The SLA’s guaranteed an unprecedented level of uptime, significantly more than what the on-prem asset provided. The savings in additional uptime costs were huge and cannot be easily quantified.