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Issue of May 2004 

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Driven by growth

In new age banks the ability to provide new services and grow exponentially, is determined to a great extent by technology cores such as data centers. Tracking IDBI Bank's evolution in this aspect over the years can provide valuable insights into how data centers can be major drivers behind business growth. by Anil Patrick R

IDBI Bank had a humble beginning with a small IT setup in 1995. By 1996, expansion plans dictated the need for a data center. This resulted in a small-scale data center at Nariman point, Mumbai's business precinct. The extent of the bank's business requirements at that time, did not warrant a large-scale data center. But the need for one became more acute by the year 2000, when IDBI Bank kicked off an elaborate expansion drive that included retail banking.

This merited the deployment of new software and solutions. A robust and redundant infrastructure (that included an ATM switch) was required, which could deal with core requirements like retail & corporate banking, and treasury.

IDBI Bank knew that data center sizing in accordance with business focus is essential. Keeping this in mind its business and IT functions collectively decide on the numbers and projections of business growth.

“Inputs have to come from the business. If you don't have business buy-in, you really can't create the infrastructure. It's the same while selecting software solutions, or services. It's always a joint effort by technology and business,” said Sanjay Sharma, Head-IT, IDBI Bank.

While selecting technology solutions that bank seriously considers user input for functionality perspectives.

The bank felt that it was best to set up the data center in a separate building. It ruled out a shared environment for various reasons. “We wanted an exclusive building for the data center, so that security is completely under our control. We also knew from experience that as we expand, we would require more and more space,” said Sharma.

There were other reasons for having an independent building. It potentially offered complete control over factors like power distribution and generators.

For certain reasons, the Andheri suburb in Mumbai was chosen as the location for the data center. The MTNL exchange, which offered decent connectivity, was located nearby in the MIDC area. Also, other connectivity service providers like Tata were launching services in that area.

“Considering all this we got an independent building at MIDC, which was most suitable from an environment perspective. Power was also not a problem, as this is an industrial area,” said Sharma.

Sharma says, they initially felt the server room area was oversized. However, the decision proved to be right. As the bank expanded into retail banking, newer applications, servers and storage were required. For example, when the Finacle application was selected as the core banking system, Sun servers were chosen as the backend servers. The Sun E10K servers required a bottoms-up cooling environment, whereas the bank's earlier equipment was on top-end cooling. This entailed the creation of a special area and server room with bottom cooling for the E10Ks.

This active involvement of the business paid off. “When the setup became operational, the bank's network had 54 branches and 800 users. Over a period of three years, our transaction load has gone up by 600 percent, and the number of users by 150 percent. The number of branches being served has also almost doubled,” said Sharma.

Currently, the bank is implementing a Sun StorEdge 9980 monolithic storage system to cope with future business requirements. The new setup is expected to be up and running by May 15th, 2004. Server expansion from the upgrade perspective is also on the cards, to accommodate 30 additional branches by the end of June 2004. IDBI Bank also expects its RTGS (Real Time Gross Settlement) system to go live as soon as the BI (Business Intelligence) software from RBI is released.

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