Building Better Mobile and Online Banking Services in the Booming African Market

HPE Compute

Africa is the second-fastest-growing banking market in the world. It is also number two in electronic payments, with 40% of Africans using digital banking products to manage their money, grow their wealth, and run their businesses smoothly and securely.

Competition in this evolving market is fierce, and African financial institutions need to re-evaluate and refresh their IT infrastructure at regular intervals to ensure the best customer experience and to build cutting-edge features into their online and mobile services. 

Working with World-Class Partners

I manage the core banking and treasury systems at a leading Kenyan bank. With multiple branches, hundreds of employees, and a robust online presence, we provide traditional and channel-based electronic banking services to retail and institutional clients.

In the hyper-competitive banking industry, let your IT foundation help set you apart.

Our core banking and treasury systems run on HP-UX and hardware from HPE. And we have gone through several upgrade cycles with HPE over the years.

In 2013, our team, led by our Head of IT, Gouri Shankar Sharma, set out to solidify our digital transformation strategy. Our roadmap focused on three operational pillars: business, infrastructure, and cybersecurity. By improving our approaches in these areas, we could better position ourselves to expand our digital offerings and give our customers more services at their fingertips. HPE played an essential role in this project. 

Moving to Solid-State Storage

We began on the infrastructure side of the equation and replaced our aging mechanical SANs with HPE 3PAR all-flash storage systems and HPE SAN switches. At the time, our dated infrastructure wasn’t highly available, and we needed heightened security and the ability to make upgrades while the systems were online. 3PAR would help in all those areas. We worked with HPE to integrate 3PAR with existing hardware, including our tape libraries, to create a comprehensive daily and monthly backup solution. 

HPE 3PAR offers resiliency, reliability, and replication. We manage, upgrade, and patch storage, test new functionalities and scale our SAN using a single pane of glass and an intuitive graphical user interface. 

On top of this, HPE support has been nothing short of superb. We've had the expected drive failures and other hardware issues, but HPE's support has been so solid that we never experienced a service disruption, which is critical with customers using multiple digital channels, including ATMs, mobile apps, and our website.

Eliminating Our Bare Metal Pain Points

Our next major upgrade saw us move our data centers from HPE rx-Series bare metal servers to HPE Synergy composable software-defined infrastructure. HPE invited us to the HPE Synergy launch in February 2017 and gave us a complete breakdown of the new product. They showed us how HPE Synergy could help us achieve our goal of building highly available, scalable, and secure infrastructure as the foundation of our next-generation electronic banking services. Best of all, HPE Synergy seamlessly integrates with our HPE 3PAR storage. 

Composable software-defined infrastructure can make scaling as simple as the push of a button.

HPE also solved our biggest pain point with bare metal servers: procurement. Every time we added a new system, we had to procure another physical server. With HPE Synergy, we can compose dozens of servers into a single physical box. We can even replicate our entire DR site, all without having to add any new equipment.

With HPE Synergy, we can compose and configure physical and virtual storage, compute, and fabric resources to meet any of our workload needs. We can assemble the infrastructure we need to add new services through a single interface and deploy it at the push of a button.

Disaster Recovery, Transparency, and 24/7 Service

We installed HPE Synergy at the primary data center at our company headquarters. We then set up an HPE Synergy mirror at our DR data center and copied everything over. Once we achieved full redundancy, we migrated many of our bare metal servers to HPE Synergy and then decommissioned them.

We run dozens of mission-critical systems on HPE Synergy now. These include our checkpoint truncation system, which captures incoming and outgoing checks; and our business intelligence system, which talks to our various systems and gives us a full overview of our activities for internal use and for reporting to Kenya's central bank. Our anti-money laundering, reconciliation, SWIFT, and RTGS systems also run on HPE Synergy, as does our mobile banking platform.

HPE Synergy ensures that our banking operations run 24/7. It instantly replicates data at our primary data center and saves it to our backup site. In an emergency, we can boot a system from our DR data center without interrupting the end-user experience. The transition is seamless and instantaneous.

We also use HPE Synergy to fine-tune our virtual machines without having to take systems or applications offline. Because HPE Synergy tightly integrates VMware, we can see when a server uses too many or too few resources and can increase or decrease CPU power and storage capacity accordingly. Once again, it is transparent to our customers and end-users, and helps fulfill our promise of 24/7 service.

Easier Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Management

HPE Synergy also excels at cybersecurity, as HPE provides us with regular patches and security fixes. When they find a vulnerability, they'll typically issue an update within a day or two. Their HPE OneView utility alerts us to new security patches. It provides a 360 view of our HPE Synergy deployment, including how our LAN and SAN switches communicate with our 3PAR storage array. 

HPE Synergy seamlessly manages our composable infrastructure. It takes care of our resource allocation, high-level integrations, and failover to our DR data center. Instead of worrying about adding more hardware, we can easily procure new applications and more capacity that run on HPE Synergy, HPE 3PAR, and HP-UX. It frees us to manage our digital transformation and focus on reaching out to our customers and understanding their needs.

A Foundation to Build Upon

With the infrastructure and cybersecurity pillars in place, we can focus on digital transformation on the business side. Our next step is upgrading our core banking system software. 

Our current application is seven years old and lacks some of the features our customers demand. The next version will leverage HPE Synergy to offer improved internet and mobile banking to retail and corporate customers. It will also allow us to customize features for individual users and send out alerts to all our customers. Our next-generation online and mobile banking products will be flexible, personalized, and highly secure. HPE Synergy is helping us take operation excellence to whole new levels.

Over the years, HPE has given us rock-solid support, zero downtime, and a solid foundation to build upon. The Head of IT, Gouri Shankar Sharma, has said, "Our HPE infrastructure has never let us down. I am a very great fan of HPE because our whole banking has been running successfully since 2013." I couldn't agree more. 

The African banking market is poised for explosive growth, and we need flexible, scalable infrastructure to underpin the banking products and services of our future. African and Kenyan consumers and businesses are demanding more of their financial institutions, and HPE is helping us provide the flexible banking solutions they crave.