Most Innovative: ICICI Bank

PCQ Bureau
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Mail attachment stripping-what is so great about it, you

might ask, because that's what this project was about? But you would sing a

different tune had you been the CIO of an organization that handles about 40

million email messages a month, amounting to 2.2 TB. Even if every message were

around 50 kB, the amount of bandwidth required to handle the load is not funny.

Any amount of WAN bandwidth optimization would not be enough. That's exactly

the problem ICICI Bank faced with its messaging system after they centralized

their email system. They were having email with an average size of 45 kB, out of

which 25 kB was due to various attachments. The scene became even worse when one

mail was CCed to multiple people with the same attachment. So when a mail comes

in with a huge attachment, a user has no other choice but to download it, which

also led to choking of ICICI's WAN links.  



High WAN bandwidth usage, slow mail server access, excessive e-mail attachments


Strip mail attachments and store them centrally; accessed through URL in the original mail



Pravir Vohra, Senior GM, RTG and TMG team along with Gajshield Security Solutions 



Linux, Perl, C, Apache, Sendmail
Pravir Vohra, 

Sr General Manager


That's when Pravir Vohra, Senior GM of ICICI's

technology management team thought of putting in a solution that would strip all

mails of their attachments and place them in a separate directory on the mail

server itself, and place a URL pointing to its location in the email. So if a

user sitting in


sent out an email with an attachment to other users across the country, then

its attachment was first stripped by the mail server and placed in a separate

directory. All the recipients received the mail with a URL pointing to the

attachment. They did face some resistance from the users initially, but it

didn't last for long, because mail downloads became faster all of a sudden.

Even top management didn't require much convincing because this simple

solution saved close to 30% of the WAN bandwidth and an equal amount in storage.

The solution had many other indirect benefits also. For

one, as the users' mailboxes stopped becoming as full, the mail servers'

performance improved. In fact, even the performance of anti-virus servers

improved, because they weren't spending time scanning so many incoming

attachments. Likewise, it also reduced the time to do mail server backups. So in

all, a simple solution like this managed to make the whole system more

effective. Users can now download their attachments at their own convenience,

possibly during off-peak hours so that the network bandwidth doesn't get

choked. Truly innovative!


The best part about the solution is that it's only been

implemented for ICICI's internal users. Mails to or from external users are

not stripped. This places another condition on the system that internal users

can access their attachments only if they're connected to ICICI's enterprise


Pravir has worked out the solution to this as well. The

mail servers and the attachments directory are accessible to users over a VPN

connection as well. The mail-stripping program has been implemented on Linux and

can work with both Sendmail and MS Exchange. In Linux mail servers, the program

strips the attachments of all outgoing mail, while in Exchange, it does it for

incoming ones.


ICICI has done it on a Gajshield Linux mail server and

integrated the attachment stripping program with Sendmail using a Sendmail API

called milter. The way it works is fairly simple. The program checks the domain

name of the recipients. The attachments are stripped only if it's going to the

local domain. Mails marked to Internet domains are allowed to pass as is. The

program has been developed in C. The program affixes a date, time and process ID

to each attachment so that it can easily be identified.

The good thing here is that other than the cost for

development of this code, there was no cost for the rest of the software. In

fact, the overall cost of implementing this solution was peanuts, as it was

deployed on top of the existing messaging hardware. There was no additional

manpower cost either, as there's hardly any management required for the

system. The existing IT administration team can handle it. 

The project only took three months for development,

testing, and final deployment. Currently, it's  serving 35,000 users at