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Case Study: HDFC Bank’s unified network management
Looking through the window

HDFC Bank improves services by implementing a management tool to streamline its network and monitor it through a single window. by Minu Sirsalewala

HDFC Bank offers a wide range of banking services covering commercial and investment banking on the wholesale side, and transactional/branch banking on the retail side.

With its headquarters in Mumbai, the bank has a network of over 215 branches spread over 111 cities across the country. All branches are linked on an online, real-time basis. Being a clearing/settlement bank to various leading stock exchanges, the bank has branches in centers where NSE and BSE have a strong and active member base. It also has over 675 networked ATMs across these cities.

Naturally, HDFC Bank has a huge complex, dispersed computing network to enable the offering of its wide range of banking products and services in both the wholesale and retail segments.

The bank's top level management understood that, to continue the company's growth and provide efficient services to its customers, the IT infrastructure had to be streamlined and tightly managed. The bank's IT team evaluated a number of available options and chose Computer Associates' (CA) Unicenter TNG solution to fulfill its network management needs.

In a nutshell

The company
HDFC Bank was incorporated in August 1994 and set up its headquarters in Mumbai. The bank offers a wide range of banking services covering, commercial and investment banking on the wholesale side and transactional/branch banking on the retail side. It also serves as a clearing house or settlement bank for India's two largest stock exchanges, and participates in depository operations. The bank has a network of over 215 branches spread over 111 cities, with more than 675 ATMs across the country.

The need
HDFC Bank has a complex dispersed network, with a number of servers, applications and databases. The network needed to be streamlined and monitored for better performance and reduction of downtime.

The solution
A network management tool that would enable one to efficiently monitor and manage the entire network—through one common window. It should also provide for the maintenance of Web infrastructure to ensure high quality service to online customers, and control downtime.

The benefit
Monitoring and management of the entire network from a single window console without the need to visit remote locations.


Click on image for larger view

The network topology
HDFC Bank's network has a hub and spoke design. There are around 12 hub locations connected on a 2 Mbps link to the main site at Chandivili (Mumbai). The locations around the hub are connected via multiple 64 Kbps links. A few local branches that have heavy transaction loads are connected via 512 Kbps or 2 Mbps links, either to the central site or to the nearest hub site of that branch.

All major cities like Delhi, Ahmedabad, Chennai and Chandigarh have two hub locations for redundancy and load sharing purposes. Every hub and branch location has an ISDN backup link. In remote locations where leased lines or ISDN cannot be provided, connectivity has been provided through VSATs. Most of the bank's offsite ATMs have VSATs as the primary link. There are 250 odd 64 Kbps links and around 25 x 2 Mbps links. A few 512 Kbps links are also available. The bank has over 400 VSATs servicing the various branches/offsite ATMs.

S.R. Balasubramanian, Vice President, Information Technology, HDFC Bank explains, "Hardware redundancy has been established wherever possible. We have taken care of all the failure points; we have leased line with ISDN backups. In case a line fails the connectivity is still available to the user through an ISDN link. The remote locations are connected through VSATs which are on PAMA 64 Kbps."

Requirements
IT plays a crucial role in building the bank's competitive advantage. But there were some specific problems in the set-up that needed to be addressed. With bank's, especially those with online applications, system downtime can severely affect business. Additionally, for a bank providing online banking services to its customers, it is essential to minimize downtime of Web resources, and provide optimal performance for its Web servers.

For HDFC Bank, it was not technically and economically feasible to manage assets, solve problems, and distribute and update applications on the network across the country. Additionally, the ever-increasing data also needed to be backed up and restored. It required a tool that could analyze the network, upgrade the links and servers, and add more disk capacity when required. And the robust network that HDFC Bank needed had to be managed from one single window.

The solution
Such a robust and complex network needed to be streamlined and managed from a common point and CA's Unicenter Web management solution provided the services the bank's IT team was looking for.

"We did consider the more popularly known network management products but settled for Unicenter TNG for various reasons. We wanted a solution that was widely used in the market by Fortune 500 companies, with strong customer support through a partnership with a local systems integrator. It had to be compatible and integrate with different servers, applications and databases running on the network. All this was available to us on Unicenter TNG."

Unicenter, which comes in a number of modules, was implemented for better planning of capacity, to manage the IT infrastructure, and to secure and maintain assets centrally.

BrightStor another solution from CA was used to protect, backup and restore data.

The implementation
Before adopting Unicenter the bank was using a semi-automated system developed in-house to control and monitor the entire network. The bank spent approximately Rs 5 crore on the product and its implementation. The solution was put to test at the end of 2000 and rolled out by July 2001.

"Technically we did not face any implementation problems. But any solution has to be customized to the enterprise needs; this involved configuration at various levels. The only issue we really faced was the initial configuration for the solution to work efficiently. The in-house technical team worked in close association with the vendor and the implementation partner (Wipro) and ensured that the solution was customized to the bank's needs without any glitches."

Network management
Unicenter Web Management solutions were implemented on the bank's Web servers. These solutions provide detailed reports on the performance of Web servers as well as traffic statistics and analysis.

Among the modules deployed, the Remote Control capability of Unicenter was implemented on all desktops, enabling network engineers to configure or diagnose any problem from their control room. Bala explained, "Earlier, if an engineer from a remote branch faced a problem, he or she would typically contact the regional office where the engineers would try to solve the problem. This would at times require some traveling, which was time-consuming and expensive."

Another module called Unicenter Software Delivery enables engineers to effectively manage software applications on end-user systems. Instead of manually installing, managing and uninstalling software applications; software upgrades and maintenance are performed from a central location without visiting the individual users' desktop. Bala explained, "If we have to upgrade an application for 40 locations, I can start the process after office hours or late in the night and the next morning all users start work with the upgraded version of the application on their desktops."

The Asset Management module ensures that the bank has an accurate and current inventory of all the desktops and NT, NetWare and Solaris servers. The automatic discovery of the hardware and software inventory throughout the enterprise helps the bank to provide improved service levels to its end-users.

The Network and Systems Management solutions module was deployed on all network devices to manage the health and availability of operating systems and provide basic status management of infrastructure elements. It informs the network manager about past events and object status. This helps identify potential bottlenecks in the systems and applications automating actions to prevent them. Further, the Performance Management module aids the administrator in collecting network performance metrics, to analyze network performance and provide automated baselines and thresholds. It can also post alerts when performance problems occur in the client/server environment.

Benefits
After deploying a new IT solution, the benefits could come by way of cost savings, improved processes and efficiency levels, or competitive business advantage. But Bala says the benefits in this case cannot be quantified in terms of money.

"We cannot quantify the benefits directly in terms of money, but there has been considerable reduction in our cost and the solution saves us time and resources," opined Bala. He added, "Though the modules were performing satisfactorily, we felt the need to upgrade to the new Unicenter version 3.0 as it had modules with enhanced features, which would help us increase our efficiency levels. Version 3.0 has been purchased and is being tested at the center. The solution should be customized to our processes and deployed for use by end of April 2003,"
said Bala.

Minu Sirsalewala can be reached at minus@networkmagazineindia.com

 
     
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