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Banco G&T Improves Availability, Performance, Scalability, and Security with F5 Upgrade

G&T Bank requires high application availability to serve its more than 1.7 million clients. By updating its F5 solution, the bank migrated its primary data center with minimal downtime, and is currently benefiting from greater availability, security, and an improved display of application and network performance.

Business Challenges

 

Headquartered in Guatemala, G&T Continental Bank has offices in El Salvador, Costa Rica, and Panama. The company employs over 6,000 people at more than 4,000 points of service, including agencies, agents, ATMs, and mobile and Internet banking.

In Guatemala, the bank’s largest market, G&T Bank maintains its main data center in the capital city (the 21 city districts are identified by numbers), as well as business continuity and disaster recovery installations. Both customers and employees use mission-critical applications that are executed at the two locations. Most of the applications were developed in-house, many of them in Citrix or VMware.

Several years ago, in order to mitigate recurring performance and network issues, G&T Bank replaced Radware Web Server Director and LinkProof with F5® BIG-IP® Local Traffic Manager™ (LTM) and BIG-IP® Link Controller™. Although this substitution solved the more immediate problems, G&T Bank still needed to improve global application availability. Unexpected downtime did not pose problems, but the failover time from one data center to the other during system maintenance hours, which were scheduled twice a year, did reach the threshold allowed by the Banking Superintendence of Guatemala, the bank’s regulatory body. If a failure occurred during this manual process, G&T Bank could find itself in non-compliance.

When the bank decided to migrate its primary data center to another location, it saw not only the opportunity to reduce downtime and minimize risks through task automation, but also to improve scalability, performance, security and automation, as well as other aspects regarding application delivery.

“We currently have a 20 percent failover time margin with respect to what we used to take, which is within the threshold allowed by the banking regulators.” Victor Leiva, Network and Security Manager, G&T Continental Bank

Solution

 

After performing a market study and evaluating available options, G&T Bank decided to upgrade and expand its existing F5 solution. Currently, both data centers are composed of the following:

“We selected the F5 solution based on our experience with the company, our familiarity with their products, and its leading position according to the Gartner Magic Quadrant for application delivery controllers,” said Victor Leiva, IT Network and Security Manager at G&T Continental Bank. “The level of commitment we have from F5 and channel partners has been exceptional; they helped us analyze our requirements, design an optimal solution, and implement it.”

Leiva indicates that the deployment of the solution was very simple and straightforward. “We used [BIG-IP] DNS to connect our old and new primary data centers, as well as our secondary data center; then we simply failed over from the old to the new primary data center, and everything happened in a very short time compared to what it used to take,” he commented. “The Banking Superintendence of Guatemala provided its services to run the tests, further increasing our confidence that we are able to meet the legal requirements.”

“F5 simplifies the tasks of scaling applications, adding computer resources, and many more. It is as easy as following a recipe.” Victor Leiva, IT Network and Security Manager, G&T Continental Bank

Benefits

 

G&T Bank can now offer excellent application availability as required by its clients, employees and regulatory bodies. Scalability, performance, and security have improved, as well as other aspects that are key for application delivery, allowing the bank to maintain a competitive advantage while it works to maximize profitability, optimize IT operations, and satisfy new customer needs.

Improved application availability

Failovers from one data center to the other are significantly faster than before. Not only is scheduled downtime reduced during maintenance periods, it also allows G&T Bank to recover from unexpected downtimes and restore application availability more quickly. “We currently have a 20 percent failover time margin with respect to what we used to take, which is within the threshold allowed by the banking regulators,” Leiva states. “And, since failovers are now virtually automated, with minimal human intervention, the risk of issues during the process has decreased significantly.”

Increased scalability and performance

With its new F5 solution, which uses only 20 percent of the capacity, G&T Bank has a lot of available space to scale the network and add new applications and services. “F5 simplifies the tasks of scaling applications, adding computer resources, and much more,” Leiva adds. “It is as easy as following a recipe.”

The adoption of BIG-IP AAM has also improved scalability, thanks to the reduction in the loads handled by the bank’s servers and network, leaving greater available capacity to drive the growth of the business. Additionally, the bank now enjoys better application response, once again due to SSL offloading capabilities, compression, caching, deduplication, and traffic prioritization. “In all certainty, we cannot quantify it, but internal tests have shown tremendous differences in performance and application response for both internal and external services,” Leiva mentions.

Greater security

G&T Bank has improved security in different ways, starting with the requirement of maintaining a single encryption certificate for all F5 systems. Moreover, with BIG-IP DNS the bank is able to protect itself against Internet threats. “We comply with all security requirements established by the regulating bodies,” Leiva comments. “For example, in case of a denial-of-service attack, we now have a strategy to respond to this situation and do so automatically instead of manually.”

Full network monitoring

Leiva mentions the way in which the F5 platform’s broad network and application monitoring capabilities have contributed to improve all the aforementioned aspects. “Our operations center is available 24/7, with 2 of its 16 monitoring screens dedicated to F5,” he explains. “Thanks to this comprehensive display of how our network works, we can be more proactive, make better decisions, and respond more quickly when necessary. Thus, we see benefits in all aspects, including performance and security.”