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French Financial Service Organization Maintains 100% Uptime and Saves 2 Million Euros with Red Hat’s JBoss Enterprise Middleware
November 2, 2010
Customer: LaSer Nederland B.V. (LSN)
JBoss Enterprise Application Platform, JBoss Enterprise SOA Platform, JBoss Operations Network, JBoss Business Rules Management System (BRMS), HP Dialogue Live and VMWare.
Windows 2008 Server, Microsoft SQL Server, Dell PowerEdge 2950 with two quad-core 2.8 GHz CPUs per server, 32 GB RAM per server; EMC SAN storage via iSCSI.
LaSer Nederland B.V. (LSN), founded in 1996, is an innovative service organization that specializes in financial services, retail marketing, protection, and related programs for consumers, retailers, and money brokers, which act as intermediaries. LSN’s portfolio includes tailor-made programs for acquisition financing, credit products, (co-branded) Visa credit cards, loyalty cards, and online loyalty program management. LaSer Nederland is part of the French LaSer Group, which is equally owned by Galleries Lafayette and BNP Paribas. At its headquarters in Den Bosch in The Netherlands, LSN employs approximately 375 employees who serve more than 400,000 customers. LaSer also has offices in France, Denmark, United Kingdom, Poland and Spain.
“Transparency is a key part of LSN’s philosophy. It’s important for us to offer customers fair products and inform them thoroughly about terms and conditions such as when to pay off a loan. We want to communicate information to our customers as clearly as possible,” said Marc van der Tier, manager of IT Delivery at LaSer Nederland. “LSN, therefore, has about 30 websites that provide product information and service customer needs.”BUSINESS CHALLENGE
LSN wanted to improve the customer experience by expanding self service options, such as making payments, changing a phone number, or transferring money. In addition, the company wanted to offer customers the unique option of opening or closing an account and obtaining a real time overview of credit card transactions.
The French LaSer Group took the decision to introduce a new core system, Base 2000, from Fidelity Information Services (NYSE: FIS) in the Netherlands and across operations worldwide. The new system was intended to easily consolidate financial figures and provide a comprehensive overview of the entire group’s activities. With the introduction of the core system came the need for a more feature-rich front end. Most of the LSN product websites were not integrated with all databases, architectures, and maintenance plans. A number of the websites were connected to the old LSN back office systems. In addition, some of LSN’s financial products (Visa credit cards, retail credit, and personal loans) were administered and processed in large back-end applications (IBM/CICS), often rigid in architecture and mostly written in COBOL. Initially, it proved difficult to develop new sites and keep the processes and
data consistent and interconnected.
ISAAC, a JBoss Solution Partner, was commissioned to create a platform on which LSN could build replicable and interconnected sites, to improve the integration between the middleware platform and the new LSN back office systems. In addition, it was important that the front and back-end applications offered enhanced control and flexibility so that LSN could easily scale and adjust as needed.
An important factor in the solution selection is VISA international’s required adherence to an array of financial legislation and internal security processes. For example, when customers create and enter their passwords online, they are required to enter codes received by SMS on their mobile phones. Both the email address and the mobile phone number are verified when someone tries to create a password.
“A modular deployment was crucial to any technology implementation. The system has to meet core standards of stability and security, in particular, the customer’s security, We are very concerned about identity theft,” said Van der Tier. “We do everything to avoid headlines such as ‘personal credit card information is leaked to the public.”
JBoss Solution Partner ISAAC developed a JBoss Enterprise Middleware prototype that withstood stress testing and am external evaluation. During this process comparable solutions demonstrated bottlenecks. Therefore, JBoss Enterprise Middleware was identified as the ideal platform fit.
ISAAC developed an Enterprise JavaBeans 2.1/Java MessageService (JMS) based platform called Pangaea, which runs on JBoss Enterprise Application Platform 4.3. The platform itself uses Microsoft SQL 2005, which exposes an XML based interface/API, which can be accessed through JMS.
Furthermore, ISAAC used JBoss Enterprise Application Platform and JBoss Enterprise SOA Platform to connect legacy back-end applications to a large number of customer service websites, POS loan application portals, and reporting solutions, all developed by ISAAC. JBoss Enterprise Middleware forms a bridge between the back-end systems and third-party services, such as an advanced printing solution based on HP Dialogue Live.
In total, tens of thousands of loan applications are processed every month by the system and hundreds of thousands of customers access the customer service portals. Of these, 125,000 are active users.
In the new solution, back office integration varies and involves XML over HTTPS, MQ, file transfers and SOAP. Data is either stored in the back office or in a central Microsoft SQL 2005 database. Lately, dotCMS has been added as a possible front end to the Pangaea platform, allowing dotCMS websites to include back-office content, which is retrieved via the Pangaea platform. JBoss Enterprise Middleware communicates using Websphere MQ with the CICS back-end mainframes and uses the messaging component in JBoss EAP 4.3 to communicate with front-end servers. The front-end environment uses JBoss Enterprise Application Platform in combination with Apache, mod_jk, and the enterprise-level CMS system dotCMS to provide a rich front-end architecture.
JBoss Enterprise Middleware is one of four key IT infrastructure components. The 24×7, 365 days a year model for availability is crucial because if Pangaea is down, the entire system stops functioning.
Based on Red Hat’s JBoss Enterprise Middleware, ISAAC has developed a solution for LaSer Nederland that has proven to be highly scalable. Without having to change their architecture, LaSer has gone from servicing several thousand online customers in 2008 to more than 100,000 customers in 2010.
Although changes are made to the system on a weekly basis, reliability and stability have remained very high, with no middleware or front-end-related outages over the past six months.
Integrating the front-end solutions like dotCMS and back-end systems using Websphere MQ has functioned almost without incident due to the standards of compliance JBoss Enterprise Middleware maintains in its architecture and the flexibility the EAP platform offers in configuring its interfaces to third-party systems.
“Since the introduction of the self-service websites, we have dramatically reduced workloads and enhanced the customer’s ability to consult/access his/her financial accounts. This is a savings of euro2,250,000,” said Van der Tier. “We can further automate certain processes and make them simpler and quicker, increasing efficiency. We are also in a position to offer and add new modular functions for our customers and retailers.”
“Over the past year, we’ve established and maintained a 100 percent uptime level. The IT dashboard built by ISAAC and managed by Red Hat allows us to monitor whether all system components are functioning properly,” said Van der Tier. “A change in color indicates real-time issues, so we can address it immediately.”
“We maintain a short turnaround time for incidents. If we can’t address the issue ourselves, we have secondhand support from ISAAC and a third backup line to Red Hat. LSN is very satisfied with the involvement of ISAAC as a Red Hat partner,” said Van der Tier. “With JBoss we’ve always got a specialist on hand. We rely on this safety net, and it functions exceptionally well. The Red Hat subscription model is an added value. In fact, I don’t think we could do it without JBoss.”
“JBoss, as a toolkit, fulfills a crucial role for our business,” said Van der Tier. “Some applications that ISAAC has built are unique. It offers us the necessary functionalities and contributes to the transparency that we want to convey in the market, underlining our business philosophy. In addition, JBoss has improved speed and performance, which are very important. That said, we’re well aware of the flip side of automation. When everything becomes fully automated, questions arise about whether the customer relations are genuine. Therefore, next to the extensive automated services, we maintain personal contact with our customers that will shift from the transactional to the relational.”