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PRODUCT SPOTLIGHT: UNITY CATALOG

Building scalable actuarial services

10x

Reduction in data storage costs

Improved

Collaboration among employees and with clients

Improved

Compliance with centralized, fine-grained auditing capabilities

Milliman
SOLUTION: Risk Management
CLOUDS: AWS,Azure

“Unity Catalog has allowed Milliman to tie its expansive data assets directly to its users, simplifying access management and reducing storage complexity. Unity Catalog allows Milliman to meet stringent healthcare standards and provide collaborative data exploration. With Unity Catalog, we can quickly scale to meet our clients’ needs.”

– Dan McCurley, Cloud Solutions Architect, Milliman

Milliman is an international actuarial and consulting firm based in Seattle. The 75-year-old organization focuses on healthcare, casualty, life insurance and employee benefits, and is dedicated to delivering outstanding professional services to its clients. Milliman has consistently been an early adopter of technology to help it accomplish its goals. Using the Databricks Data Intelligence Platform, Milliman modernized its data infrastructure and was able to ingest billions of healthcare and insurance data used by downstream users and clients, and build actuarial and machine learning models to analyze the data.

Data sprawl limiting visibility and collaboration

As with many companies, the volume of data Milliman collects has grown exponentially over the years. And with data residing on both AWS and Azure, it became increasingly difficult for the company to keep track of what data it had, where it was located and who had access to it. Data access was also often limited by office and regions, which made it difficult for employees from different offices to collaborate and hindered potential innovation.

Milliman wanted to reduce data sprawl, enhance data security and governance across clouds, and make it easier for employees to share data. Milliman data engineers also wanted to manage third-party audits more efficiently, leverage multiple clouds without concern about data portability between clouds, and share data with clients in real time to enhance collaboration and engagement.

One true copy of the data with centralized governance

Milliman leverages Databricks Data Intelligence Platform to unify data, analytics and AI use cases on a single platform, which simplifies data operations and accelerates time to value. To simplify data governance, Milliman leverages Unity Catalog and benefits from a companywide data catalog with centralized access controls and fine-grained auditing capabilities. Since with Unity Catalog, access controls are directly tied to the user identity, employees can now share data across the organization without any replication, enabling the company to maintain one true copy of its data. “Data owners who manage client relationships can now easily provide access to data on a project-by-project basis using standardized and familiar SQL, facilitating data collaboration among different business units, irrespective of the regions they are in,” said Dan McCurley, Cloud Solutions Architect at Milliman. “Who better to manage data than the people closest to it?”

Having one version of the data “owned” by one person within the organization who understands the security restrictions associated with it helps Milliman streamline data security and reduce risk. Having data “owners” also means that if the company ever suspects a data breach, it can immediately access data-centric logging information to see who accessed that data. This drastically reduces the breach notification to the client from “this is what the user can access” to “this is what the user accessed on this specific day.” As the company diversifies and manages new data types with specific restrictions, this feature has become more critical.

As an actuarial firm, Milliman constantly works with third-party auditors to better protect client data. Because Unity Catalog captures a fine-grained audit log of all actions performed against data, Milliman can now respond to third-party auditors more quickly and efficiently. “Auditors love that Milliman data owners are able to manage risks associated with each piece of data, automatically log entitlement reviews, and gain the ability to easily review data access patterns with Databricks. This has been a game changer for the company, especially when it comes to highly protected healthcare data,” said McCurley.

Seamless data observability enabled better compliance

Unity catalog also helped Milliman drive better data observability across the organization. Every asset that is registered inside Unity Catalog is automatically indexed so that it can be searched easily. Once data is registered in Unity Catalog, end users can easily search across metadata fields including table names, column names and comments to find the data they need for their analysis. This allows for creation of curated informational libraries to assist with historical analysis that would have previously been too expensive and slow to be practical. With automated and real-time data lineage, actuaries and data engineers can easily trace the spread of sensitive data for compliance requirements and quickly model any data changes to downstream data consumers and clients. “Lineage helps Milliman professionals see where data is coming from, what transformations did it go through and how it is being used for the life of the project. This well-documented end-to-end process complements the standard actuarial process,” said McCurley.

Finally, Milliman can now leverage the Databricks platform seamlessly yet securely on both AWS and Azure and benefit from a common governance model that works across the clouds without having to deal with the underlying cloud governance APIs.

Faster innovation and reduced costs

Unity Catalog allowed Milliman to tie its expansive data assets directly to its users, simplifying access management, eliminating data duplication, and reducing storage requirements and complexity. As a result, the company saw a 10x savings in data storage costs.

Unity Catalog has improved how Milliman employees work together by enabling just-in-time collaborative data exploration across clouds or regions. It’s also helped the company improve data security by allowing it to identify data owners and perform data-centric access logging, which helps it respond to audit requests quickly and efficiently. As a result, Unity Catalog helps Milliman meet stringent healthcare compliance standards.