Being the IT in-charge of Shri Arihant Co-op Bank Ltd, since the last 17 years, I introduced computerization in the bank, by selecting OS, developing and managing applications, training staff, looking after network, connectivity and all IT related challenges you can think of. Our banking application was developed using FoxPro on DOS. We also used NetWare 3.2 OS, Word Star 7 and Lotus 4 for document and spreadsheet needs. This was a low cost and secure way of transacting across branches. However when Intel stopped supporting DOS and Windows 98, we started looking for alternatives.
Applies To: IT managers
USP: Learn about the nuances involved in deploying a core banking solution Primary Link: NA
Keywords: Core-banking solution
Application planning and deployment
We sieved through a slew of solutions from Open Source and Microsoft domains and found the implementation challenges getting balanced across both domains. While Linux proved to be better in Security and Licensing issues, Microsoft products scored in manageability. After a careful evaluation, we decided to sign an MoU with a Linux based CBS solution from VSoft Technologies, Bangalore. We are paying for support services and updates to Vsoft. The vendor chose RedHat Linux enterprise edition as he wanted to spend more time in makng the application stable rather than experiment with multiple Linux distros. A major change for the users was the difference in interface between DOS and Linux. Right from the change in hardware to acceptance of application by users, we faced lot of challenges. Thankfully, most issues have been resolved. We selected Open Office as the document management application. After a brief training, our staff transited from the DOS based applications to GUI based ones in a very short time.
We got 4 GB storage on our branch server and transferred old data from 1st April 2008 to the new application and ran both systems for 15 days in parallel in the pilot branch. Most problems and issues faced were with the working of the application as this was the first installation of its kind in Mumbai for VSoft. Most banking practices and routines were found different than what was available in the application. Moreover we had to change all PC hardware of our entire branch as the nodes started giving driver problems for the LAN card. We contacted Intel and searched for solutions on the Web but the only solution that we found on one of the forums was to shut down the machine for five minutes and restart for the nodes to come up normally and work smoothly throughout the day.
While on DOS, security was always an issue, but using Novell NetWare's features and DOS batch file concepts, we could control visibility of the DOS prompt. The users logging in to the application and those logging out due to termination of the application were ably recorded. Database was modified in such a way that no one could work on previous dates. Interbranch transactions happen without intervention of staff, and were fully secure. PC Anywhere and Windows 98 were used to connect through dialup, At the first connection (host at the other end validating the connection), the transaction transfer is through a secure, encrypted script. The whole process of transacting through the application and getting back flags in real time from other branches regarding success of the transaction, make it a very cost-effective solution.
How it works
The new Application's maiden installation is in Mumbai region. Even as most practices followed are the same as with the old application, we've introduced the customer code concept. The interest calculation is on a per day basis in the new application against the monthly process followed in the older application. The speed at which this application works is pretty decent and all other benchmarks are working perfectly. The remote helpdesk, management and support is working on ADSL and fixed IP from MTNL. Our bank shall get MPLS connectivity soon and create a WAN network. We have six branches and one head office. Two branches are live on CBS and the head office gets backup the next day on its server, located there itself. However HO can see transactions and reports, online, of two branches as of now. Our pilot branch is now totally on the Linux platform and one of our new branches at Dombivli started its operations on the Linux platform. Another branch is planned for migration in the near future. The remaining three branches will get converted by December 2009 and this will kickstart our CBS. The old application was not scalable, but new application is indeed scalable. We are using PostgreSQL open source database and is capable to handle for about 30 branches data with ease.
Right now, about 75 users, comprising 2 branches are on CBS, which are running on Linux OS. Windows is used on only one node where the hand scanner is used for utility bill collection or signature scanning. The WAN bandwidth is 128 Kbps for all branches but 1 Mbps for HO, which we have contracted with Sify Technologies. We have outsourced our Data Center to Net Magic, who offer us an Opex model where Server, Backups, OS management and Router/Firewall (everything except connectivity facility) will be provided 24 x 7. Tape cartridges will be delivered to us every morning. A DR site will be planned in the next financial year. So from 1st week of January 2010 we will start Internet and SMS banking, helpdesk for clients, centralized clearing department to save costs and increase efficiency, centralized account opening monitoring and KYC audit department, loan processing, etc. Our bank plans to open a new branch at Navi Mumbai in November or December 2009, where we shall introduce touch screen kiosks, cash dispensing machines, etc.
How we benefit
We've saved a lot on our sanctioned IT budget due to savings on licensing cost of OS and savings due to low requirement of resources with the applications running on Linux, savings on anti-virus and other application licenses and the added benefit of securely installing new services like video conferencing, Intercom facility, email solutions, etc. Now, PC Anywhere is out. And since Linux does not face the same virus threat as Windows-based platforms, our anti-virus requirements are limited.
Kirit Shah, IT incharge, Sri Arihant Co-operative Bank