Profit management

The Bank of Beirut has used CA solutions to conquer the challenge of effective network management and security. NME finds out how.

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By  Patrick Elligett Published  October 12, 2008

The Bank of Beirut has used CA solutions to conquer the challenge of effective network management and security. NME finds out how.

Running the IT infrastructure of one of the world's leading international banks is not an easy job. It is important to strike a healthy balance between implementing the latest IT developments and maintaining your current infrastructure.

But when you are on a tight budget, how do you decide on the best way to split spending between these two important areas? For the Bank of Beirut IT team, this decision is simple - split it 50/50.

This will provide considerable funds for system health and maintenance issues, and still leave plenty for new projects such as virtualisation and consolidation.

IT manager Najib Ghanem, offers a helpful glimpse of the scope of the organisation's IT infrastructure, and the hardware and software he employs to manage the bank across its various sites around the globe.

"We have 45 sites across Oman, Cyprus, and the UK, and we have other branches abroad that are connected through VPN. The branches in Lebanon are connected through communication frame relay. Moreover, we also have leased line connectivity.

The bank has a datacentre in Oman that was originally used as a disaster recovery site, but has now been converted for use as a primary site," says Ghanem.

"The datacentre in Lebanon is used to serve the Lebanese branches and is acting as a datacentre for Cyprus. The centre is hosting the internet and Exchange for all the branches. Oman has its own datacentre but the e-mail and Exchange are both currently centred in Lebanon.

Our datacentres are linked through a VPN and we have a transfer of data between both," he adds.

Managing the network

Such a large undertaking requires reliable infrastructure and appropriate supporting software, especially when it comes to international banks - where the collapse of a network affects thousands of people worldwide.

The bank selected CA to provide the majority of their products, and the company has become its major pillar of support when it comes to the maintenance of its IT systems. Ghanem says he was familiar with CA's products, and knew the quality of service that could be expected from an international company like CA.

The bank began implementing CA products in 2001, starting with antivirus and Unicentre, and has continued to rely heavily on the company throughout the new millennium. The company currently uses around ten CA products, ranging from mail and web filtering to service desk. Ghanem says choosing a company to provide them with these services was a relatively easy decision.

"We compared CA to a number of other available products, but we picked finally CA's solutions. There were many reasons for the decision. Personal relationships for one - I knew the people well from my previous experience in Dubai.

I know the people from the head office in the US and I know the kind of solutions that the company provides. I also know the type and quality of service and support that CA provides from previous experience with their other products," says a confident Ghanem.

CA's solutions have been especially helpful for the setting up of a service desk.

"We started looking for solutions because we didn't have a true service desk or help desk in the bank. We wanted to get a solution that was compliant with ITIL and other proven technologies. We tested a few different products for this, and we selected the service desk from CA," he said.

The bank has persisted with its usual cautious approach for implementing new products and solutions, and has begun a gradual implementation plan for the majority of the new CA products it has acquired.

We have installed the service desk and we are testing eHealth now. We still rely on the old network management which is currently installed and in use, but eHealth has much more functionality than Unicentre NSM, so we are testing it now along with the mail archiver," Ghanem says.

The organisation had been using NSM since, as Ghanem puts it, ‘day one'.

"Sticking with tried and true systems can have its advantages in the short term, but in IT, long term planning is essential. One must always be tuned in to new developments in the industry to prevent your current system from becoming obsolete, while also realising that upgrading too often can have a detrimental effect on budget targets, and even on efficiency.

"Upgrading multiple times per year will ensure you always have the latest technology at your disposal. However, your productivity will drop considerably if IT staff are constantly having to learn to operate new hardware and software," says Ghanem.

With regard to incident and problem management, the bank spent two months implementing the service desk this year, before finally finishing the project in April. The message manager and mail archiver are the other recent implementation projects the bank has engaged in with CA.

The Bank of Beirut's fifteen- year veteran, IT operations manager, Joseph Boutros, provided further insight as to why the organsation places so much emphasis on its use of the eHealth solution.

"The major goal or driving force for our IT operation is to give the bank availability, performance and security. We picked eHealth to monitor the availability of our network infrastructure and the solution helps us in achieving our goals with network management.

And, parallel to the older Unicentre, we implemented the new Unicentre version 11, which can take care of all other system and application management concerns," explains Boutros.

When it comes to hardware, the bank also uses a variety of different products and equipment to maintain its two datacentres, and various remote sites. The hardware selected must be reliable, as the relatively small team of 30 IT staff are unable to provide personal support at remote locations. IT manager Najib Ghanem says the bank is looking to blade servers and virtualisation as a way of improving efficiency.

"We have acquired two storage area networks from HP. And we have installed blade servers from HP again. We have one blade for eight servers. Gradually we will be migrating all our servers to blades. It will happen by the end of June 2009," says Ghanem.

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