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CUSTOMER SUCCESS STORY

How NÜRNBERGER Established Transparency Across its Microservice Landscape

Industry

Insurance

Headquarters

Nuremberg, Germany

Revenue 2019

€ 4.5 billion

Results

  • Supporting cloud transformation while establishing cloud governance
  • Automated creation of a microservice catalog to efficiently drive the microservice journey
  • Distinction between functional enterprise architecture and technical microservices landscape to improve stakeholder alignment

LeanIX Value Stream Management and NÜRNBERGER

Implementing the cloud migration strategy

NÜRNBERGER has been using LeanIXValue Stream Management for about a year now. Combined with the Enterprise Architecture Suite, the insurance company creates transparency over its application and microservice landscape in order to establish governance while leaving the mainframe in favor of microservices.

LeanIX recently sat down with three of the leading insurance group's architects — Stefan Spangel (Cloud Architect), Andreas Michler (Enterprise Architect), and Patrick Link (Enterprise Architect) — to discuss their status quo, current challenges, and how NÜRNBERGER is managing it all.

"Thanks to the automated documentation, our development teams can efficiently navigate the technical application landscape and ultimately develop stable and secure software."

Patrick Link,
Enterprise Architect, NÜRNBERGER Versicherung

Patrick Link

LeanIX: Tell uns something about your cloud journey. What cloud strategy is NÜRNBERGER pursuing?

Stefan Spangel: NÜRNBERGER is a company with a long tradition who has relied on the mainframe for quite some time. Our cloud transformation envisions getting rid of the mainframe by 2025 and using a private cloud based on OpenShift (Kubernetes) instead. In some cases, we will certainly also turn to the public cloud.

How does strategic alignment impact your development organization?

Andreas Michler: We need to deal with all the buzzwords that are on everyone’s lips at the moment – from microservices and agility to DevOps and self-contained systems. All these new developments also influence NÜRNBERGER, of course. We need to find answers to them, decide which path we want to follow, and shape our cloud transformation accordingly.

Stefan Spangel: As soon as we’re talking about autonomous and self-organized teams (who can determine for themselves which technologies they wish to use), a multitude of opportunities opens up. At the same time, it entails many risks, including the use of licenses or unsuitable technologies. In order to manage these risks, we need to establish comprehensive transparency for ourselves and our stakeholders.

Why is the enterprise architecture team of NÜRNBERGER a central enabler and driver of cloud transformation?

Andreas Michler: Even from an enterprise architecture (EA) perspective, we see that the world is becoming increasingly complex: the smaller the systems and the teams, the more important it is to understand the overall context and to control the complexity. That’s why we need to look at all architectural and strategic elements holistically. To do this, however, we need to link the rather functional EA view with the technical microservices landscape. Even if we don’t always implement everything ourselves, we play a fundamental role as a driving force.

Patrick Link: While aligning with our stakeholders we quickly realized that looking at too much information at once can be counterproductive. Specific names of interfaces within reports do not help the management to understand the overall context whatsoever. At the same time, a central repository is necessary, where all the information is gathered. Here we discovered a need for action.

And that's how you became aware of Value Stream Management?

Andreas Michler: Two years ago, at the EA Connect Days, we learned that LeanIX was expanding its offering with the Cloud Native Suite and Value Stream Management. After the presentation, I thought about how great it would be to have a tool where I could zoom further into the IT landscape from an EA perspective, document the new microservice landscape, and link it to the EA workspace. That made the team rethink our status quo and enter into discussions with LeanIX.

Which solutions for documenting microservices did you have in place prior to Value Stream Management?

Andreas Michler: We had (or rather still have) an ITIL-compliant CMDB. The data quality, however, was not sufficient to create reliable metrics and gain specific insights. Thus, we had no useful information on a technical level. Even if we had taken a “traditional” approach and documented microservices by hand, the data quality would have been so poor from the start that this information wouldn’t have served us as a trusted database either. Therefore, it was clear to us that we needed automated processes – and automation was exactly the keyword André Christ had mentioned at the EA Connect Day. LeanIX Value Stream Management was simply a great match for us at that moment. That was the starting point of our joint journey.

What data do you store or gather in Value Stream Management?

Andreas Michler: We are still pretty much at the beginning here – also in terms of time. LeanIX has provided us with a connector that allows us to automatically record both our CI/CD pipeline and a Kubernetes cluster and display them in Value Stream Management. We initially focused exclusively on the architecture components that we rebuilt. Everything that runs via the pipeline or is deployed in Kubernetes is also 100% documented in Value Stream Management. On the other side, this also means that we currently have no overview of all the things that do not run via the pipeline (e.g., our shadow IT). But we are currently working on fixing this.

Patrick Link: To give some more context: At the moment, we have 283 microservices or technical applications in Value Stream Management documented that run via the pipeline or are deployed in Kubernetes. For these microservices, we also document the respective teams (i.e., owners) as well as dependencies and versions.

Stefan Spangel: We're still at the beginning of our microservices journey. We already have teams that break down technical applications into smaller components. In total, we are talking about approximately 30 services. Of course, we encourage our teams to always keep in mind that it is about generating an added value: Does the application benefit from the microservices approach or does it only create more complexity and possibly increase the error rate? This is one of the big misconceptions about microservices, and the architectural approach is both a blessing and a curse.

What are the advantages of Value Stream Management?

Stefan Spangel: With Value Stream Management, we can ensure that we don’t make any mistakes during our microservices journey – be it regulatory, license-related, and beyond. We need to have a clear understanding of possible security risks that are related to failed version updates or the exchange of library versions. We need to closely monitor all of these issues, because the variety of technologies in use means that individual deviations are directly multiplied. With the help of Value Stream Management we can manage these risks and at the same time establish transparency, create reports, and notify the affected user groups with little effort. Ultimately, this is the basis to implement governance in our cloud environment.

"Thanks to LeanIX, we can identify and address compliance risks of our microservice journey early on."

Stefan Spangel,
Cloud Architect, NÜRNBERGER Versicherung

Stefan Spangel

What overarching goals are you pursuing with Value Stream Management?

Andreas Michler: Transparency is key for our migration strategy. As already mentioned, we definitely want to leave the mainframe by 2025. To achieve this goal, decisions will be made in the future for which comprehensive transparency is an indispensable prerequisite. It’s all about questions like “When can we shut down the mainframe, and is everything completely and correctly documented?”

Stefan Spangel: That’s why we want to document and catalog all relevant data. We want to know exactly what is going on in the IT landscape at all times in order to implement our migration strategy efficiently. To do so, we need a sound understanding of the existing microservices, dependencies, interfaces, and data flows. Building on this, we see the enrichment of technical components with the corresponding API descriptions as a further step towards better navigation in the microservice landscape. The last and probably most important step is to link the old world with the new – this will allow us to have a comprehensive overview of what is running on client and host servers and where teams are already working in the private cloud. With this step we want to be able to understand which applications are deployed in both the new and the old world in order to minimize redundancies and thus exploit synergies to become more efficient.

Besides leaving the mainframe, what other use cases does NÜRNBERGER consider particularly important?

Andreas Michler: Another key use case relates to the topic of release management and deployments. We need an overview of our deployments at any given time. Only with such a holistic and transparent overview can we understand why, for example, a lot is deployed on the "pre-prod" stage instead of the "prod" stage.

Patrick Link: And we want to know which systems are currently deploying and what dependencies exist in this regard. We have some systems that are not as nicely encapsulated as one would like with microservices. So, if component A is deployed, component B has to be deployed at the same time. Value Stream Management helps us tremendously here because it allows us to have a transparent view of our deployments and, thanks to the subscription feature, we receive direct information about new deployments. Another use case we deal with is establishing governance in the cloud world. Without detailed documentation or automation, it is difficult for us to track which microservices are running where and which technologies are being used. Technology risk management is also one of the topics we address in this area.

Andreas Michler: As we’re already talking about governance and technology risk management, NÜRNBERGER is an insurance company so we must comply with the “Supervisory Requirements for IT in Insurance Undertakings” (Versicherungsaufsichtlichen Anforderungen an die IT; VAIT). Our colleagues from Compliance & Security desperately need this corresponding data.

"With LeanIX, we can holistically link the application layer with the underlying technical infrastructure. This way we know how far our cloud transformation has progressed at all times."

Andreas Michler,
Enterprise Architect, NÜRNBERGER Versicherung

Andreas Michler

Are you planning on rolling out Value Stream Management as a central knowledge base within your IT organization ?

Patrick Link: Definitely. We want to enable our colleagues to access relevant information independently via "self-services". Thanks to these platforms, they can immediately see who owns a web service or an interface and can contact that person directly.

 Some of our developers told me that they use Value Stream Management to draw. This module allows them to easily create technical diagrams. This is an incredibly useful feature. With two to three clicks, for example, they can create sophisticated data flow diagrams.

 Our managers benefit from Value Stream Management as well. As complexity increases with the growing number of small components, managers often lack a holistic view of their department or the applications used by staff. This is where the LeanIX Teams Fact Sheet comes in handy, as it clearly illustrates hierarchies. In this way, a manager or project leader can directly see which employee is responsible for which application.

What do you want to see more of from LeanIX?

Andreas Michler: Since we use both the EA Suite and Value Stream Management, seamless navigation between the respective workspaces would be a huge plus, especially in terms of reports. Just think, for example, of the application matrix, where we can zoom into the IT landscape and have a granular view of our technical applications. Until now, this has only been possible via several clicks and switching workspaces.

What are the next steps?

Andreas Michler: We have many visions and are in close contact with LeanIX. The seamless navigation between the EA Suite and Value Stream Management is something that we would like to see implemented in the near future. Also, the subscription feature and the Teams Fact Sheets mentioned by Patrick are a good first step in the right direction. The same applies to the question, “What can be found in a functional space and what makes up a technical space?” According to our definition, a tech stack would no longer fit into an EA workspace, which is why we have started mapping the tech stack in Value Stream Management.

[Translation from German into English]

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