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ING-DiBa Gains High Availability and Increases Scalability of its Banking Systems with JBoss Enterprise Application Platform
October 24, 2012
The company set out to achieve cost efficiency through open source subscriptions, while guaranteeing enterprise-level support for a highly available, high-volume transactional IT infrastructure.
“Our management wasn’t willing to compromise on the quality of support, which would ultimately determine the quality of our product. The Red Hat subscription model and the engagement of Red Hat Consulting in the architecture planning stage dispelled all doubts.” Jörg Forstner, ING-DiBa
ING-DiBa AG had to ensure long-term scalability and process agility of its bank’s mission-critical middleware infrastructure. In addition, the financial services company set out to achieve cost efficiency through open source subscriptions, while guaranteeing enterprise-level support for a highly available, high-volume transactional IT infrastructure.
From proprietary, legacy middleware on Sun Solaris servers to JBoss Enterprise Application Platform from Red Hat on a virtualised x86 infrastructure
JBoss Enterprise Application Platform, JBoss Hibernate, Oracle Databases, Red Hat Consulting
Standard x86 servers
Lowered maintenance costs and reduced time needed to compile new applications by 50%; Lightened the load on RAM, storage, and backup space by utilising hardware investments more effectively; Retained Java EE developer knowledge in-house; Built a future-proof foundation for automated IT processes supporting an IT industrialisation strategy
About ING-DiBa AG ING-DiBa AG is Germany’s largest direct bank and one of the pioneers of Internet and phone banking. It serves more than 7 million private customers 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and 365 days a year through its online, mobile and phone channels. The bank’s products cover a full range of private banking from checking and savings accounts to online brokerage, to consumer credit to mortgage loans. ING-DiBa’s 2,696 employees are based in Frankfurt, Nuremberg and Hanover and are managing a balance sheet total of over 96.3 billion Euro (2010 figures). ING-DiBa AG is a wholly owned subsidiary of the Dutch ING Group.
High availability for a modern IT infrastructure is essential
ING-DiBa is at the forefront of a growing segment of the banking industry in Germany. Direct banking has massively gained in popularity over the past 10 years and ING-DiBa is among the companies that profit the most from the boom.
Since 2002, when ING-DiBa’s customer base reached 1 million, the bank has accommodated steep growth rates and is now serving more than 7 million customers. A purebreed direct bank with no branch offices, ING-DiBa’s touch points with the customer are either through its direct call centers or through the company’s website (www.ing-diba.de).
“For our business, high availability of our IT infrastructure is essential,” said Jörg Forstner, head of technical engineering and application services, ING-DiBa. “If we’re offline, we’re losing business, so that simply can’t happen. At the same time, our processes and operations have to be as streamlined as possible. We make a profit from ‘IT industrialisation’ as we call it. This means that we build and maintain a highly standardised and automated IT landscape on all levels, from the infrastructure and our central services, all the way through to the business and application development side.”
Much of ING-DiBa’s success comes from the bank’s ability to quickly adapt to market trends and customer demand. The technological basis for accomplishing this goal is a service-oriented architecture (SOA) approach in application and middleware architecture. In the early 2000s, ING-DiBa had implemented SOA based on proprietary middleware, which at that time was among the incumbents in the field.
However, only a few years later, as Jörg Forstner explains, the company’s IT staff began to experience the platform’s limitations. “The proprietary middleware in production became more and more complex. The vendor kept adding tools we didn’t really need, but insisted we install these tools regardless. Also, patches and updates to the JDK were provided with a considerable lag; therefore, maintenance costs went through the roof as our business grew. That wasn’t a situation we could live with for very long.”
In 2008, ING-DiBa decided to revisit its IT buying strategy in the course of a company-wide cost-efficiency programme. Middleware software was one of the key areas under scrutiny and the IT Central Services team soon defined the requirements for a new middleware platform.
“The criteria for our future middleware vendor were quite straightforward,” said Jörg Forstner. “First, the platform had to scale to accommodate the rapid growth of our customer base without increasing costs at the same rate. Second, it had to be flexible enough to support very fast turnaround of the new application and process development projects to improve our competitive edge. And third, we wanted to retain the expertise of our in-house, Java EE developer team.”
The Red Hat subscription model seals the deal
The evaluation process ultimately led to the selection of JBoss Enterprise Application Platform from Red Hat. Red Hat prevailed against two other vendors, both of which sell proprietary software. The open source approach was initially met with some scepticism, Jörg Forstner recalls, “The dominant question was about the speed and standard of professional support we required. Our management wasn’t willing to compromise on the quality of support that would ultimately determine the quality of our product. In the evaluation process, however, the Red Hat subscription model and the engagement of Red Hat Consulting in the architecture planning stage dispelled all doubts.”
Before migration, ING-DiBa’s IT Central Services team developed an architectural concept for the new middleware. As the bank’s IT team already had many years of experience with Java-based middleware, most of this planning was taken care of by the in-house team and validated with the help of Red Hat Consulting.
The migration to JBoss Enterprise Application Platform took place between 2008 and 2009. JEE operations expert Oliver Hummel said that, although the architecture was complex, his team was well-versed in automating processes, including migration projects. “In addition, JBoss Enterprise Application Platform fits so well into our Java EE architecture that we were able to handle the entire migration project without help from a systems integrator partner.”
The migration of applications, which included call center, mortgage, banking, brokerage and service center solutions, was staged over a 1.5 year period for security reasons. “As we’re a 24/7 business, downtime is not an option. We did not want to migrate in a rush, so we made sure everything worked in one segment of our application landscape before moving to the next,” said Hummel.
ING-DiBa reduces costs by half
The middleware migration to JBoss Enterprise Application Platform yielded impressive benefits for ING-DiBa. For example, maintenance costs were down by 50% compared to the previous proprietary solution.
However, even more value comes from the flexibility and speed of the platform in day-to-day operations. “Our developer teams can create, test and deploy new applications or modified processes much faster than before,” said Hummel. “Since JBoss Enterprise Application Platform has been in production, deploying a new setup can be done in about 20 minutes. That’s half the time we needed before and an enormous productivity gain for the IT organisation.”
The Red Hat-based architecture is also much more lightweight than the previous solution. This results in lower consumption of disk space, RAM and backup storage, helping ING-DiBa optimise its hardware investments.