​Revolutionizing old businesses with new clouds

The insurance business is moving from its old mainframe ways to the cloud.
Written by Steven Vaughan-Nichols, Senior Contributing Editor

Old business models are being turned upside-down by new cloud-based technologies. Hotels will never be the same after Airbnb arrived and the taxi industry as we've known it may not survive Lyft and Uber. Other industries are more resistant to the cloud. One example is insurance.

Not selling you, the consumer, insurance. That end of the business is covered. Big data is also revolutionizing how this most staid of industries is handling risk. But, managing the levers and gears of insurance IT on the cloud has been a slower process.

It's speeding up now. MetLife is working on improving both the process and economics for insurance product development and improving underwriting and benefits delivery. They're not the only ones.

Socotra -- creator of one of the first cloud-based, productized insurance core platforms, and backed by USAA, CrunchFund, Founders Fund, and numerous other venture capitalists -- is seeking to create a cloud platform for both domestic and international insurance companies.

Socotra claims its first-of-its-kind cloud-native system is enabling carriers to easily and efficiently manage complex interactions throughout the lifecycle of policies (whether single line, single state, or multi-line, multi-country). The Socotra platform's agility, flexibility, reliability, and modern design "offers carriers lower costs, faster product releases, and easy integration with future technologies".

This platform aims to be run across all areas of insurance operations: Policyholders, policies, claims, and insured assets. In short, everything an insurance company would need.

Its services are built on Tomcat, Docker, and Amazon Web Services (AWS). It's designed for companies to make the most of it for their own particular uses. It uses REpresentational State Transfer (REST) application programming interface (API). This supports HTTP and JSON

All Socotra cloud operations, including retrieving, creating, and manipulating data, are available via a set of HTTP endpoints. In most cases, all requests take JSON data as input and return a JSON response. In short, an insurance company with savvy developers can customize the platform for their own needs.

Why are they doing this? Well, believe it or not, the cloud really hasn't made that big an impact on the insurance business yet. Nathan McKinley, vice president of USAA Corporate Development, said, "Current insurance IT infrastructures require long lead times and expensive teams to bring new insurance products to market. Socotra's vision closely aligns with ours -- the ability to configure, deploy, and update new insurance products quickly without large technology projects or the addition of systems integration labor."

Dan Woods, Socotra CEO, added, "Insurance IT is littered with consulting services and antiquated IT architectures, leaving insurers at all levels struggling to catch up with customers' changing needs. The only path forward is a truly productized insurance IT core, which insurers can configure and extend by themselves."

OK, so maybe your business isn't insurance. There's another lesson here as well. Maybe your business isn't making the best use of the cloud yet either. Perhaps there's an opportunity here for you to gain a march on your competitors. Or, if you're technologist, maybe it's time to start talking to friends in vertical businesses. Perhaps their businesses need a cloud boost too, in which case you could lead them to a new cloud-based methodology.

Not everyone can revolutizine old business models with new technologies, but that doesn't mean that the opportunities aren't out there. Unless you try, as Socotra is, you can't succeed.

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