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Banking Industry IT Services Provider Delivers Fast, Secure Applications and Online Services

Headquartered in Frankfurt, Finanz Informatik (FI) is the IT services provider of Germany’s Savings Banks Finance Group (Sparkassen-Finanzgruppe) and one of the largest banking IT services providers in Europe. FI’s portfolio covers all of IT—from the development and provisioning of IT applications, networks, and technical infrastructure, to data centre operation, to consulting, training, and support.

Using F5 BIG-IP Application Delivery Controllers (ADCs), FI unified its application delivery platform and provides speedy and secure use of ATM machines and online services for savings banks’ customers. The F5 solution also meets four key requirements—uninterrupted uptime for applications, load balancing automation, FIPS compliance, and cost-effectiveness.

Business Challenges

 

Finanz Informatik’s customers include 426 savings banks, 8 regional banks and the DekaBank, 10 regional building societies, and other companies in the Savings Banks Finance Group and the finance sector. Today, FI’s high-end core banking solution, OSPlus, is the leading IT system for Germany’s banking industry. Subsidiaries and affiliates like Finanz Informatik Technologie Service, Finanz Informatik Solutions Plus, Star Finanz, and inasys further extend the IT portfolio. Finanz Informatik provides service for 126.9 million accounts; more than 89.7 billion technical transactions are handled by the systems. The company employs 5,077 people and posts income on sales totaling approximately EUR 1.5 billion.

The company Finanz Informatik was formed in 2008 when Sparkassen Informatik and FinanzIT merged. The merger resulted in a huge volume of data for the company to manage. To process the data efficiently, FI needed a solution that would both control the data traffic and ensure uninterrupted uptime of the OSPlus applications for staff working in the savings banks and customers who rely on those banks. It was equally important to ensure a unified and cost-effective operation of the load balancing components.

The growing clientele and the associated volume of work posed an ever-increasing challenge for the staff at Finanz Informatik. In particular, the rapid switch from daily front-desk duties to Internet banking and self-service banking was a major change. FI needed a load balancing solution to control the flow of data from users to OSPlus applications in the FI network. Stringent security standards also had to be met as did fast application response times. The company consolidated the load balancing infrastructure from three platforms to one.  As the load balancers were extended, more and more applications could be supported.

“We opted for BIG-IP LTM because it met the requirements we laid down…. And what that means is that our customers are very happy.” Dr. Jens Fricke, Head of Load Balancing and Proxy, Finanz Informatik

Solution

 

Finanz Informatik wanted to use a company with outstanding expertise and a product that offered automation, was Federal Information Processing Standard (FIPS) 140-2 compliant, and provided a solution for all the requirements of the banking sector.

Straightforward administration through multiple channels was another necessity, and the new solution would have to retain the functionalities of its predecessor and open doors for IPv6 and new FIPS requirements to be ready for future needs and Payment Card Industry (PCI) compliance.

After in-depth analysis, the team chose BIG-IP Local Traffic Manager (LTM) from F5. It supports remote administration using the F5 iControl API. IControl is the industry’s only interface that enables communication and thus interaction between the network and applications. Data and statistics about the utilisation of applications and resources generated by the F5 components can be read and used for fault analysis and troubleshooting. The F5 iRules scripting language is another important feature for FI.  With iRules, load balancing configuration can be safely delegated to outside teams without allowing them full administration rights for the system.

F5 BIG-IP LTM provided another crucial benefit for FI—optimised application deployment.  Load balancing and uninterrupted uptime are essential for operation of the customer self- service machines (ATMs, self-service terminals, and account statement printers).

The solution also offers fast and secure use of Internet banking with SSL encryption and eases the load on the application servers.  The F5 Hardware Security Module (HSM) is responsible for achievement of FIPS 140-2 and PCI compliance.

IPv6 compatibility is another important factor because migration from IPv4 to IPv6 is planned for the near future. The company-developed and external-source dialog applications of the OSPlus sales solution are to be integrated for the 200,000 employees of the savings banks, and this too is supported by the F5 application delivery solution.

“We opted for BIG-IP LTM because it met the requirements we laid down for the solution. The system meshed smoothly into the existing IT infrastructure and met all the requirements for load balancing and the requirements for failure safety for customer-operated and employee-operated applications in the OSPlus core banking system. And what that means is that our customers are very happy,” says Dr. Jens Fricke, Head of Load Balancing and Proxy at Finanz Informatik.

Fricke continues, “The support we received from F5 throughout planning and implementation was excellent. The constant interchange with F5 led to continuous improvement of the services and avoided downtimes.”

“The support we received from F5 throughout planning and implementation was excellent." Dr. Jens Fricke, Head of Load Balancing and Proxy, Finanz Informatik

Benefits

 

With the implementation of BIG-IP Local Traffic Manager, FI is able to establish a unified environment from a single-source supplier, significantly reducing administrative outlay. The reduction in load on system resources with SSL offload is another benefit.

Importantly, the F5 solution provides secure, high-availability, high-performance application delivery for end customers and employees of the savings banks. It also makes for increased flexibility in reacting to external circumstances, such as rerouting to bypass a data centre location. Selective rerouting to other data centres is an essential element in preventive emergency planning.

BIG-IP LTM achieved times savings for Finanz Informatik in deploying applications. IT staff can now invest that time in looking after customers instead of systems.

“Through Presales and Professional Services, F5 was able to offer assistance for smooth migration of the systems in use beforehand.  We came to see close intermeshing with the service partners, the people from F5 Presales, and F5 Professional Services.  And even today, this interchange has remained lively and it has led to constant tweaking of the solution. Our objective in this context is to move on soon to implement new requirements, particularly with regard to the Citrix portals and shifting services from the mainframe to UNIX platforms,” comments Fricke.

Fricke adds, “The automated and time-driven configuration changes in BIG-IP LTM are some of the most important functions for us here at Finanz Informatik, and the great support for troubleshooting the applications with trace tools is another of the benefits we derive from  using BIG-IP LTM."