Net Profits

Enhancing customer services and delivery channels has compelled The Housing Bank for Trade & Finance in Jordan to upgrade its Token Ring network to Ethernet. With the upgraded network in place, The Housing Bank plans to roll out mobile banking facilities in the near future.

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By  Zoe Moleshead Published  July 10, 2002

Ethernet Upgrade|~||~||~|The Housing Bank for Trade & Finance in Jordan is in the process of migrating away from its existing legacy Token Ring network to an advanced IP Ethernet backbone as it looks to enhance customer services. With the upgraded network in place, The Housing Bank plans to roll out mobile banking facilities in the near future.

“How we interact and communicate with our customers is a key element in our ongoing success,” says Mohammed Kamel Abu Arida, assistant general manager for operation & IT, The Housing Bank for Trade & Finance.

“The evolution of the financial marketplace means it is essential that we are able to support new services that will be demanded in the future. In deploying an Ethernet network, we are now well equipped to respond to and even pre-empt, market forces,” he adds.

The Housing Bank is already delivering a range of services to customers, including home banking, phone banking and Internet banking. The move to Ethernet will provide the financial institution with the bandwidth, scalability, and, the additional security required to expand its network and increase customer offerings.

“Currently we have Internet banking with minimum services, but we are planning to increase these services and give the customer the ability to implement more features, which means more security on the network. We are planning to have corporate banking for the e-channels. We are also in the process of offering mobile banking services,” says Raed Hesham, infrastructure manager, The Housing Bank for Trade & Finance.

The Ethernet solution from Cisco Systems not only enhances the rollout of services to The Housing Bank’s 1600 customers, but will also facilitate employee use of the intranet and its applications.

“This [Ethernet] infrastructure should afford good performance and utilisation for both the internal and external users. Better services will also be given to the customers [as a result of] higher redundancy and availability,” states Hesham.

The migration to the Ethernet network is being conducted in two phases, the first of which should be completed this month and addresses the wide area network (WAN) connectivity of The Housing Banks’s 100-plus branches, security and network management.

“We started three or four months ago with the pilot stage. We did some testing to see the impact of the Cisco routers on the network, on the applications, on the CP utilisation and on the bandwidth for the routers connected to the Frame Relay. We also tested the network management systems,” explains Hesham.

Following completion of the testing phase, The Housing Bank went ahead and deployed a host of switches and routers to connect its branch operations and ATM machines.

“We have about 100 branches and about 41 ATMs, so we are talking about 150 routers. In addition to the routers we have 100 small size switches for the branches. We have deployed a mix of 3640s, 2600s and 700 series routers,” says Hesham.

“We have different models implemented in the branches depending on their size. For the [bigger] branches we have 3640 routers and for the smaller branches we have the 700 series. For the standalone ATMs we also have the 700 series,” he explains.

The Housing Bank also implemented CiscoWorks to provide a centralised management platform for The Housing Bank’s 20 network technicians to monitor network performance, identify and eliminate any potential problems.

Providing a secure network is also a key priority for The Housing Bank, as such, it has deployed a host of encryption, authentication and firewalls to provide users with the highest levels of security.

The Cisco routers are designed around the Layer 3 IPSec protocol, which provides a starting base for the financial institution’s security procedures and also negated the need for Layer 2 encryption devices.

“For the wide area network link we are using the IPSec standard. We are also using authentication techniques and have additional solutions for securing the Internet links, as well as securing the extranet using firewalls,” says Hesham.

Cisco’s Secure Policy Manager and VPN Manager are also providing The Housing Bank with a centralised management platform to control its range of security solutions.

||**||Phase 2 |~||~||~|The financial institute has built redundancy into the network with the deployment of two Gigabit Ethernet switches — one on the primary side and one geared for disaster recovery.

“We have two Gigabit Ethernet switches connected to each other as a backbone. All the services that are delivered to the branches or the customers can either be connected from the primary or the backup recovery side,” explains The Housing Bank’s infrastructure manager.

“We have two different buildings about three kilometres apart and we have [failover] between the networking devices in each building, so if there is any failure on the primary side, the backup side will recover,” he adds.

Although, the bank only deployed its Token Ring network a couple of years ago, the solution would have struggled to fulfil The Housing Bank’s bandwidth requirements for future applications and plans. With the increasing maturity of Ethernet networks, the financial institution believes implementing the network will offer a better return-on-investment (ROI) and provide a platform to support forthcoming service initiatives.

“[There are] lots of reasons for moving away from the Token Ring, such as the applications you can run on it and the increased bandwidth Ethernet offers. Token Ring is also a vanishing technology. So why invest more in a technology when Ethernet serves us best for any new applications?” comments Hesham.

“An enterprise can grow so far with a Token Ring network, but if it wants to commit its future to Internet and e-business, then Ethernet is really the only choice,” adds Mohammed Abdul-Malak, regional manager, Cisco Systems, Levant region.

“Companies that do not change will find themselves continuing to invest in a technology, which will restrict their business’ ability to grow and adopt new services,” he explains.

The second phase of the network upgrade is due to begin as soon as the initial stage is finished. This will involve the deployment of a local area network (LAN) for The Housing Bank’s three main sites, which include its two headquarters in Amman and the computer department.

“When we finish the first phase, we will move to the LAN area in the three main sites. These sites [will be] connected by high speed links. We call it a triangular solution, we have three 6509 switches connecting the three main sites so as to afford availability between the sites and offer high speed,” says Hesham.

The bank has invested in E1 links to connect the three buildings. But the networking within each of the buildings will be Gigabit based.

Once the migration to Ethernet has been completed The Housing Bank believes it will have a network infrastructure, which will not only cater to its future requirements, but also instil customer confidence in future Internet or mobile services.

“The infrastructure and security in place will afford the customer trust in using [our] e-banking or e-commerce solutions,” Hesham concludes.
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