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Ameritas increases business agility and IT security with Cisco application-centric infrastructure

Ameritas, a large insurance company headquartered in Lincoln, Nebraska, has selected Cisco® computing, networking and security technology as the foundation for upgrading its data centres.

The goal of the infrastructure upgrade was to improve agility and operational efficiency while increasing IT security.

Supporting close to 1000 applications, the new technology infrastructure has reduced capex by 30 to 40% in switching devices alone and freed up 25 to 30% of the network operations team’s time, allowing them to focus on more strategic initiatives.

Security and agility are often at odds with the data centre, and yet both are paramount for modern enterprises—especially in the highly competitive insurance and financial services industry. Striving for technology-driven innovation and differentiation, the Ameritas IT department wanted the new data centres to provide an agile supportive environment for application developers to help bring new products and services to market quickly.

“Cybersecurity has to be at the forefront of a company like ours,” said Matt Billmeier, a director in IT at Ameritas. “But it is also the source of perceived delays in completing new projects. In selecting our new infrastructure, we looked to Cisco to provide both agility and the highest levels of security possible.”

At the heart of the new Ameritas data centres are Cisco Application Centric Infrastructure (Cisco ACI), Cisco Unified Computing System™ (Cisco UCS®), Cisco FirePOWER® Next Generation Intrusion Prevention System (NGIPS), and the Citrix NetScaler Application Delivery Controller.

“We found Cisco ACI to be the industry’s most comprehensive and integrated solution, with support for physical, virtual, and cloud environments, single-pane-of-glass management and a common policy framework that spans both our data centres,” said Mr Billmeier. “Network operations immediately became easier and more scalable because we could configure once and then deploy across the entire network fabric.”

In addition, ACI’s integration with the Cisco FirePOWER NGIPS increases security by providing automated threat protection. Less human intervention and decision making mean better protection and faster response times for Ameritas. ACI also improves security by facilitating micro-segmentation at the application layer.
“With our legacy environment, segmentation took a lot of time and thought,” said Mr Billmeier. “But with Cisco ACI, it’s built in. Nothing can connect to anything else without explicit instruction, so there’s no chance of confusion or miscommunication.”

The open Cisco ACI framework has 65 ecosystem members who can take advantage of the open Application Programming Interface (API) to integrate their solutions, allowing IT organisations to leverage a rich set of third-party appliances and solutions with ACI.

“We’ll set the parameters and then let the network make decisions on its own. Cisco ACI tells the entire infrastructure how to behave and respond,” said Mr Billmeier.
In the future, Mr Billmeier and his team will be looking at Cisco Tetration Analytics™ as a solution to add more automation and additional intelligence through application monitoring and machine learning to make the network smarter and more adaptable.