by Byron Connolly

NIB shifts health data to AWS cloud

Oct 28, 2019
Cloud Computing

Private health insurer, NIB, has completed what it claims is a major milestone in the Australian cloud landscape, announcing it has shifted the system of record for its corporate business, GU Health, to AWS.

The move is believed to be one of the earliest migrations of this type in Australia and involves moving information about 35,000 customers out of NIB’s data centres and into the public cloud. GU Health represented around five per cent of NIB’s Australian health insurance business in the 2018 financial year.

Since 2015, NIB has progressively moved around 98 per cent of its assets from its seven data centres in Australia and New Zealand into the AWS cloud. It has already closed three data centres as a result.

“We’re not actually storing that data, it’s very transient, it’s very transactional so linking back ultimately into our core systems. So that’s probably why there is interest around this initiative – it’s very much the actual primary system of record for the [GU Health] business that we moved as opposed to a transactional interface which we’ve been focused on since 2015,” NIB’s chief information officer, Brendan Mills told CIO Australia.

NIB worked extensively with the regulator, the Australian Prudential Authority (APRA) during the project.

Mills said APRA has released an information paper around cloud computing which categorises platforms or systems based on their inherent risk with systems of record carrying ‘extreme risks’ based on the type of data is stored in the public cloud.

“We followed that guidance closely but the difference [this time] was that we worked very closely with them to understand their concerns around topics like resiliency, security, and data protection. Also, the vendor issue around putting all our eggs in one basket and is that a concern in terms of vendor lock-in? Or do we have a portability strategy around how we would exit an AWS environment if we needed to?”

In July, market analysts said that health insurers will face continued financial pressure as people opt out of private coverage and health costs grow faster than funds can lift premiums.

Mills said NIB said cutting technology infrastructure costs – although a benefit – is not a primary driver for most to the public cloud.

“It was really around the agility and value we can provide to the internal business and external customer. The real opportunities are around creating this platform that we have then been able to build up to bring new products and services to the market,” he said.

“But sure, was it about keeping an eye on costs and being able to reduce our management expense ratio as much as we can? Yes for sure.”

It’s also about moving technology staff out of managing commoditised data centre infrastructure and into more valuable roles that are closer to the end customer, he said.

“I’d rather have 10 people working on a new mobile app or a new digital offering than 10 people managing a data centre.”

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