Frost Bank Builds Business-Critical Online Banking System on JBoss Enterprise Application Platform

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January 15, 2013

Frost Bank needed to modernize its application infrastructure. By migrating to JBoss® Enterprise Application Platform, the banking company increased developer and administrator productivity, and enhanced production efficiency.

Customer: Frost Bank

"We didn’t have to hire anyone new to complete the modernization project, despite the complexity of the initiative, so that our developers were able to make the transition to JBoss Enterprise Application Platform very easily." Doug Skiba, senior vice president of IT Architecture

Geography: North America
Country: United States


Business Challenge:

Frost Bank needed to modernize its application infrastructure. This meant replacing the legacy e-commerce application server platform for its critical online banking system with a more flexible, scalable platform that encourages greater developer productivity. Scaling the existing application to meet Frost Bank’s rapid growth was costly, and it was difficult to find resources that supported the legacy codebase.

Migration Path:

Legacy e-commerce application server to JBoss Enterprise Application Platform

Software:

JBoss® Enterprise Application Platform 5.1, Red Hat® Enterprise Linux®

Hardware:

HP ProLiant BL460c G6 (Quad-core Intel Xeon 2267 MHz, 36GB memory)

Benefits:

By migrating to JBoss® Enterprise Application Platform, the banking company increased developer and administrator productivity, and enhanced production efficiency.

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Background:

About Frost Bank Frost is the banking, investments, and insurance subsidiary of Cullen/Frost Bankers, Inc. (NYSE: CFR), a financial holding company with $20.9 billion in assets as of June 30, 2012. One of 24 banks included in the KBW Bank Index and a top-50 U.S. bank by asset size, Frost provides a full range of business and consumer banking products, investment and brokerage services, insurance products, and investment banking services to businesses and individuals in the Austin, Corpus Christi, Dallas, Fort Worth, Houston, Rio Grande Valley, and San Antonio regions. Founded in 1868, Frost has helped Texans with their financial needs during 3 centuries. For more information, visit www.frostbank.com.

Business Challenge:

Changing course: To remain competitive, Frost Bank needed to replace a technology foundation

Frost Bank had been running its online banking system for almost a decade. But in 2009, as the bank began planning the future technology foundation for this business-critical application, it recognized a need to change course.

“We realized that staying with the legacy architecture was not a good strategic direction for us,” said Doug Skiba, senior vice president of Information Technology Architecture at Frost Bank. “In addition to the support issues, the legacy application had a single-threaded architecture, so the only way to increase capacity was to add nodes and scale out horizontally. This was an extremely costly way to go,” said Skiba. “We wanted to move to an industry-standard solution that fully supported J2EE and could scale as we grew.”

Frost also needed the application platform to be robust and reliable, given the importance of the initiative. Frost Bank’s online banking system is a critical part of the bank’s overall business strategy. “Eleven years ago, we faced a strategic decision: buy an online banking product in the marketplace, or build it ourselves,” said Skiba. “Because of our strong relationship-driven culture, we knew we needed complete control over the features and functions of the system. We also absolutely required control of the customer experience. We decided the only way to get all this was to build the system ourselves. Today, we serve roughly 250,000 customers and originate $8 billion worth of transactions annually through our online channels.”

Frost Bank was also interested in improving the productivity of its developers and administrators. Like all businesses, Frost Bank was under pressure to keep costs low—but the fact that it was growing meant that there was an increasing burden on the existing IT staff.

Because Frost Bank considered its online banking system as a core competency, the choice of strategic platform on which to deliver more features and functionality was a critical one.

Solution:

JBoss Enterprise Application Platform: The right choice to support Frost Bank’s business goals

In 2009, Frost began researching strategic application platform technology alternatives and decided to focus strictly on J2EE application server technology.

Feedback from leading IT analyst firms Forrester and Gartner indicated that, for what the bank was doing and planning to do, JBoss Enterprise Application Platform was equal to or better than the commercially available J2EE application server alternatives. “When we did the side-by-side comparisons, JBoss Enterprise Application Platform performed on par with much more expensive options,” said Skiba, “And it was certainly a much more economical choice.”

The migration process for Frost Bank went very smoothly, including the training of existing administration and networking engineering teams on new tools and techniques. “The developers were able to get up to speed very quickly, and our administrative folks say JBoss Enterprise Application Server is a lot easier to run,” said Skiba. “Everyone was happy with the results.”

“We didn’t have to hire anyone new to complete the modernization project, despite the complexity of the initiative, because our developers were able to make the transition to JBoss Enterprise Application Platform very easily,” said Skiba. “In fact, since then, the productivity of both our developers and administrators has increased because of how easy and fast they can build in JBoss.”

Today, Frost Bank has 6 instances of JBoss Enterprise Application Platform deployed on 3 physical nodes, with 2 instances per node. The base hardware is HP blade servers.

Benefits:

Red Hat supports Frost Bank as it grows its deposit base

The JBoss Enterprise Application Platform-supported system went live in May 2012. Since that time, online activity has been at historically high levels. The best news, as far as Doug was concerned: The migration to JBoss Enterprise Application Platform was completely transparent from the end-user perspective. “With this migration, we didn’t introduce a lot of new functionality,” he said. “We also kept the same look and feel so that users wouldn’t experience any difference. We considered hearing nothing back from our user community good news.”

The scalability of JBoss Enterprise Application Platform has also proven to be a boon. “The bank has been very successful growing its consumer deposit base, so we needed the ability to scale the system easily. JBoss Enterprise Application Platform allows us to do this simply by adding another node to the cluster. Other solutions required us to do infrastructure uplift.”

“Cost was a huge component of our decision,” said Skiba. “JBoss offers a very compelling business model: a subscription that runs on any CPU, regardless of whether it is disaster recovery, test and development, or production.” Additionally, the Frost development team was interested in taking advantage of the open source library—both as a way to acquire technology to run their code and to provide support when they needed it. “Going with JBoss Enterprise Application Platform aligned with all our goals and plans,” said Skiba.

Red Hat Consulting helped Skiba with the JBoss Enterprise Application Platform application, and in the future he plans to work with with Red Hat to learn more agile software development techniques for J2EE applications. “Historically, we’ve done 1 or 2 major projects a year,” said Skiba. “But we’d like to start working on them concurrently and accelerate to 6 or more projects annually.”

“If you’re thinking strategically for the long term, I would advise you to compare and contrast JBoss Enterprise Application Server with pricier alternatives. I think you’ll be extremely impressed at how well it measures up,” said Skiba. “Our shift in strategic direction to that platform has been achieved, and it was absolutely the right thing to do.”

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