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HP Software's community for IT leaders // September 2013

Insuring an advantage with analytics

Infinity Insurance deploys a new data architecture to bring a deeper level of intelligence to its business model.

Data is key to Infinity Property & Casualty Corporation’s success—it drives business-critical decisions that can give the firm competitive advantage. When IT leaders realized they needed high-value analysis and business intelligence from an enterprise data warehouse that just wasn’t up to the task, they looked to the next generation of analytics tools.

Barry Ralston, Infinity’s assistant vice president for data management, recently told the BriefingsDirect podcast (audio podcast, transcript) that executives were drawn to HP Vertica’s “determination to use data as a strategic weapon, not just [for] IT as a whole, but data specifically … as a strategic or competitive advantage.”

This meant being able to quickly draw new, critical insight from big data. “When I want to know the top 10 products sold to my most profitable 20 percent of customers in a certain set of regions in the country, those set-based queries don’t perform well” within the old database architecture, he said.  

A new architecture enables business value

Vertica’s architecture offered Infinity a better, faster way to sort, compress, organize, and retrieve data. Ralston understood that removing bottlenecks and offering users near real-time analytics would help his company stay ahead of the curve technologically—and boost its competitive posture.

“Insurance is an interesting business in that, as my product and pricing people look for the next great indicator of risk, we essentially get to ride a wave of that competitive advantage for as long a period of time as it takes us to report that new rate to a state,” Ralston said.

Ralston also realized that Vertica was the best choice for helping create value that the business side could understand and appreciate. Vertica’s underlying architecture “allows me to create a playfield, if you will, for business analysts,” he said. “They don’t necessarily have to be data scientists to enjoy it and be able to relate things that have a business relationship” that wasn’t evident before.

Currently, 100 percent of the data being leveraged at Infinity is structured. Ralston is excited about the potential of bringing Hadoop into the mix: “We’re leveraging Vertica to manage all that structured data, but we have a plan to leverage Hadoop and the Vertica Hadoop connectors, based on what I’m seeing around HAVEn, the idea of being able to seamlessly [integrate] structured and non-structured data.”

He described Vertica as a “competitive hammer,” and said next he’d combine “Vertica plus Hadoop to do things that our competitors aren’t able to do. Then I’ve delivered what my CIO is asking me in terms of data as a competitive advantage.”

For more on how to turn data into a true business advantage, visit Start with what you missed at last month’s first-ever Vertica big data conference.


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