Insurance company Discovery created the Vitality wellness program and application to encourage and reward healthy behaviour. To continue app expansion — including integration with other
partners — and track data from a growing user base, the company sought a flexible, cost-effective solution. With help from Red Hat Consulting and Red Hat premier partner LSD Open, Discovery used Red Hat OpenShift Container Platform as the foundation for its updated offering, Vitality One. Discovery can now take advantage of open source innovation while providing a certified offering with enterprise security and support.
Legacy solution restricts global expansion of wellness platform
Discovery, an insurance company based in South Africa, is pioneering a shared value business model that offers incentives to encourage its medical insurance customers to be healthier. The core of this model is Vitality, Discovery’s wellness program. With more than three million members in five countries, Vitality is the world’s largest scientific, incentive-based wellness solution for individuals and companies. Members can earn points for healthy behaviour, such as exercising or losing weight, and receive cash back and discounts on a wide range of products, including flights, car rentals, and gym memberships.
Discovery uses an Internet of Things (IoT) implementation to track the program’s continuous generation of massive volumes of data — for example, from fitness tracking devices. This data must be reliably, efficiently, and cost-effectively stored and analysed.
In addition, Discovery sought to expand the program beyond South Africa by working with large insurance companies in the United Kingdom, United States, France, Germany, China, and Canada.
To achieve this collaboration, the company needed to provide Vitality as a cost-effective Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) model that would let partners operate the program’s back-end systems, customise rewards, and add their own branding. However, the program’s legacy platform, a solution that included Oracle databases, would be complex and costly to expand and created challenges for Discovery’s partners.
“The legacy platform, with all its different complexities, wasn’t fit for this purpose,” said Neil Adamson, CIO at the Vitality Group, a subsidiary of Discovery. “It relied heavily on Discovery’s corporate systems. Keeping all of the applications in sync and providing global, 24-hour support proved to be very difficult.”
To overcome these issues, Discovery started developing a new, lower-cost platform called Vitality One. “We aspired to create a single, global, multitenant Vitality platform, hosted in the cloud. It would offer rapid deployment into local markets and be customisable for local needs, such as different languages,” said Adamson.
This new platform would let Discovery supply a central set of services via a PaaS offering or let partners run and support their own instances, depending on local data protection laws. In addition, Discovery sought to make its new platform flexible and cost-effective by shifting from a capital expenditure (CapEx) to an operational expense (OpEx) model.
To achieve these capabilities, Discovery started developing its platform in a microservices environment using Docker containers, the clustering tool Swarm, and community-developed open source tools. However, this approach proved resource- and time-consuming. In addition, the company wanted to add enterprise support to improve the platform’s management and security.
“Our technical integration team raised security concerns around Docker and were keen for us to look for an enterprise-level container management tool,” said Adamson.
Open source technology offers opportunity for rapid expansion
To meet a tight three-month deadline for a U.S. launch that would offer discounted Apple Watches, Discovery sought a reliable, enterprise-ready solution. After quickly evaluating several solutions, including IBM Blue Box and Pivotal Cloud Foundry, the company chose an open source solution from a trusted vendor: Red Hat.
“When we use open source software, we think Red Hat,” said Pete Gouws, head of international infrastructure operations at Discovery. “We’ve used Red Hat Enterprise Linux and Red Hat JBoss Middleware for a lot of our business. We needed to move to the new solution quickly to meet our deadline with Apple. Because of our confidence in both the Red Hat team and the technology, we decided to go with Red Hat OpenShift.”
Discovery worked with Red Hat premier partner LSD Open and a Red Hat
OpenShift architect consultant to deploy a solution based on Red Hat OpenShift Container Platform to its U.S. datacentres and Amazon Web Services (AWS) instance.
“We’re a strong supporter of DevOps and the agility that open source brings to the enterprise,” said Stefan Lesicnik, managing director of LSD Open. “The timelines for the Discovery implementation were extremely tight, but OpenShift provided the necessary platform to help us meet those deadlines. We provided OpenShift expertise and an on-site DevOps team that worked with Discovery to help them achieve their goal.”
With help from Red Hat and LSD Open, Discovery quickly and seamlessly migrated to the new solution and met its deadline.
Enterprise platform supports faster, cost-effective development faster, more flexible deployments
With a combination of DevOps and microservices approaches and container technology, Discovery can quickly and easily develop applications and features, without assistance from its IT team to deploy physical servers. Vitality and its partners now have access to near real-time data, supporting the launch of a new product called Active Rewards that offers smaller, instant rewards, such as a free movie ticket for walking a certain number of steps.
“It’s a new mindset. With one monolithic app, we had to regression test everything end-to-end,” said Adamson. “With a microservices environment, we can easily and confidently change components, and we get a lot of value out of spinning up containers and services as they’re needed.”
With these improvements, deploying the Vitality platform to new markets is much faster than before. In addition, Discovery and its partners can develop components for Vitality that meet their needs and can also be reused around the world, speeding deployment of services to multiple countries.
“We can make changes easily, such as how often rewards are offered,” said Adamson. “The platform also makes it simple to adapt to local requirements.”
Faster deployment is also supported by the automation capabilities of Red Hat OpenShift Container Platform.
“With Red Hat OpenShift, some features are easier to implement than trying to build them ourselves on different open source technologies,” said Gouws. “With OpenShift’s built-in features and Red Hat’s support, we established a level of automation and scaling that we weren’t comfortable attempting on our own.”
Enterprise-level security and reliability
Vitality collects and uses data from more than a million users. With Red Hat OpenShift, Discovery can quickly ensure that this data is protected from threats using Red Hat’s certifications, instead of having to certify open source solutions itself.
“We wanted a Docker image that was certified and secure—something that we could get from Red Hat more quickly than from any other vendor and not at all from the free versions,” said Gouws.
As a result, Discovery offers its partners greater flexibility in running Vitality without sacrificing data security.
“Depending on how a partner wants to run their infrastructure — in their own datacentre or in the cloud — and whether or not they have in-house security, the model changes,” said Gouws. “Or they might choose to use Oracle Database or PostgreSQL. We’ve accredited our solution for both.”
In addition, the new solution offers high reliability to ensure customers can always access the platform and their data. Based on trusted technology, Vitality One has experienced zero downtime since its launch.
For Discovery’s partners, the launch of Vitality One means that the cost of rolling out Vitality is far lower than before.
“We can deploy Vitality into smaller countries at a much lower price with estimated reductions of millions of rand per year,” said Adamson.
Discovery has also defined a standard technology architecture for its platform. Incorporating open source technology, this architecture reduces license costs and cuts the new platform’s infrastructure footprint by 50% compared to the legacy system. This configuration results in an 85% reduction in the cost to partners compared to the previous legacy platform.
“We can develop quicker, cut time to market, and address new markets because of the reduced capital expenditure,” said Gouws.
Expert guidance and support
Red Hat Consulting provided guidance during and after the implementation of Vitality One and related Red Hat solutions to ensure a seamless, quick transition. The platform’s new capabilities and performance improvements are supported by ongoing expert support from Red Hat.
“Enterprise support is peace of mind,” said Adamson. “Red Hat’s team has been extremely helpful, and they are phenomenally responsive. Our developers are very happy with the support they have received.”
Success prompts plans for future expansion
Over the next year, Discovery plans to migrate its remaining partners from its legacy platform to Vitality One. It will also use the new platform to increase the number of countries using the Vitality program to 16 — including a full implementation in Japan—and launch the Active Rewards mobile app to additional, smaller markets.
“We wouldn’t have come near to hitting our targets or delivering the product to the business without Red Hat,” said Gouws.