Its use of Windows Azure enabled Wellmark to quickly and cost-effectively deliver compelling new mobile apps, which have received high ratings in their respective app markets. As the company finds additional uses for its Wellmark Mobile Service and develops new services in the cloud, Wellmark can rest assured knowing that those services will remain scalable and reliable.
By building on Windows Azure, Wellmark significantly accelerated the delivery of its new mobile apps. “With Windows Azure, we cut the time and effort required to deliver our new Wellmark Mobile Service in half,” says Hoyt.
Adds Doug Loots, Director of e-Business at Wellmark, “Not only did we conserve resources and accelerate time-to-market, but we also made the data more readily available to other enterprise applications.”
Low Up-Front and Ongoing Costs
With Windows Azure, Wellmark avoided any up-front investment in IT infrastructure, software licenses, and so on. Instead, the company can simply pay for the capacity it uses. “A pay-per-use model is compelling, especially as we work to streamline capital investments and reduce overall cost in the healthcare system,” says Peterson.
Adds Hoyt, “We’re already using our new Wellmark Mobile Service running on Windows Azure to support both member-facing apps and internal business applications, and the monthly costs are extremely modest.”
Instant, Cost-Effective Scalability
As Wellmark finds additional uses for its Wellmark Mobile Service and develops additional services on Windows Azure, the company can easily and instantly scale those services—again, without having to first invest in additional capacity. “We can immediately scale up if and when required, paying for additional capacity only when we need it—and just as easily give it back when we no longer need it, which will also lower costs,” says Hoyt.
Adds Loots, “Whether we need to support new mobile apps or choose to move parts of our website to Windows Azure, we’ll always have all the scalability we need.”
Superior Reliability and Security
The company’s use of Windows Azure will also help maximize service availability. With Windows Azure, which has a 99.95 percent uptime service level agreement (SLA), workloads are automatically moved within the Windows Azure cloud to support automatic operating system and service updates, with built-in network load balancing and failover to provide resiliency in case of a hardware failure. Similarly, SQL Database has a 99.9 percent uptime SLA, with every database hosted on it benefiting from built-in high availability, failover, and redundancy.
The solution also helps ensure security and user privacy in several ways. All traffic is encrypted using SSL (Secure Sockets Layer), no personally identifiable information is captured, nor is any such information pushed from Wellmark data centers to the cloud. Wellmark regularly checks to verify that required security controls are in place and functioning properly.
“Hosting this kind of app in Windows Azure is as secure as hosting it in our data center because we push to the cloud only that information that we know poses no privacy risks,” says Hoyt. “In addition, we can rest assured that Microsoft will keep Windows Azure current with the latest security updates.”
Familiar Development Environment
Should Wellmark decide to bring development on Windows Azure fully in-house, it will already have the required tools and skills. “We already use several development tools, including Visual Studio 2010, so we won’t need to adopt or learn any new tools or skills,” says Hoyt. “Developing on Windows Azure will simply become an extension of how we work today—we’ll just deploy to the cloud instead of to a local server.”
Platform for New Business Capabilities
Through its adoption of Windows Azure, Wellmark can now deliver new business value faster than ever before. “Although our mobile apps weren’t hard to build, they’re very impressive,” says Hoyt. “Our customers are delighted, and in hallway conversations, several executives have conveyed how pleased they are with this as an example of Business Technology Services at Wellmark using innovative technology to quickly and cost-effectively meet a business need.”