Penn Mutual

Penn Mutual selects AppDynamics to ensure success of major business transformation project

For more than 167 years, Penn Mutual has been helping families achieve their life’s possibilities through life insurance and annuity solutions.  The company recently achieved a significant milestone -- $100 billion of life insurance in force. Its national network of financial professionals provides clients with policies that protect, build cash value and make an enduring impact for generations to come.

Challenge: Needed to monitor application performance in production

When Penn Mutual embarked on a large-scale business transformation project—moving a manual process to an automated one, involving several legacy systems—they began looking for a solution that would provide more visibility into application performance. The life insurance pioneer already had operational tools, but lacked a tool that would sufficiently provide application performance data in production.

This complex, collaborative project, which involved an acquired platform that Penn Mutual was customizing and integrating with its own systems, had to transition smoothly and without business disruption.

Once we got the proof of concept done on AppDynamics, within 5-10 minutes we were able to pinpoint where the bottleneck was—at the exact line of the code.

“Once it's in production, we need to have reliable performance monitoring on it on a daily basis, so we can get in front of problems,” said Mark Dash, Assistant Vice President of Information Management and Technology at Penn Mutual. “We don't want to be reactive to any kind of business delays or issues.”
“We were researching the tools that would give us the information about our code quality and response time,” said Mittal Bhiogade, Senior Software Architect at Penn Mutual. That’s when Penn Mutual began looking for an application performance management (APM) solution that could help them ensure a successful integration.

AppDynamics, a better fit

Penn Mutual began evaluating the AppDynamics APM solution after reading about it in industry analyst research and hearing positive recommendations from peers. It started running a proof of value (POV), the AppDynamics approach to proof of concept (POC). “We just started running it in the POC to see if it solved all of our uses cases,” said Mittal. The AppDynamics solution performed well, proving its value almost immediately.
For example, large medical images and documents used to evaluate the risk of an individual applying for life insurance coverage were taking too long to load. “Response times were very high, and we were not able to figure out where the problem was,” recalled Mittal. “Once we got the POC done on AppDynamics, within 5-10 minutes we were able to pinpoint where the bottleneck was—at the exact line of the code.”

After evaluating various APM solutions, “AppDynamics was a better fit and more progressive for modern and emerging technology frameworks, which was applicable to the Penn Mutual technology stack, ” said Dash.

You can directly go to the hot-spots and see what is a real bottleneck and then just focus on that.

Eliminated bottlenecks in development

Penn Mutual deployed the AppDynamics APM in development to identify areas for optimization. “We customized the software, so we are able to determine performance bottlenecks, tracking the line level in the code,” said Mittal. “We have shared that information with our third-party vendors to tell them, ‘This is exactly where your code is taking five minutes, and the whole transaction is slowing down.’”

Mittal’s favorite AppDynamics feature was "hot spots," allowing the IT team to triage. He added that the APM solution, “ has a lot of information there, so instead of reading everything, you can directly go to the hot spots and see what is a real bottleneck and then just focus on that.”

Penn Mutual planned to promote the AppDynamics APM solution to production next. Mittal recommends the POV process with AppDynamics for asynchronous deployments with legacy systems and multiple platforms like at Penn Mutual. He added, “if your use case is more synchronous, more web apps, more stable web services, I think AppDynamics should just work for you out of the box.”