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Aslı Koçkal, Research Manager, IDC Turkey May, 2021
Organizations across all industries are embarking on digital transformation journeys as the benefits become impossible to ignore, with demand being further accelerated by the impact of COVID-19. IT organizations are under tremendous pressure to deliver on the promise of digital transformation. The heightened and changing needs of business require enhanced agility and manageability of the underlying infrastructure.
Networks are growing more critical and complex as organizations rise to the challenges of digital transformation and, in 2020 and 2021, the COVID-19 crisis. Locations, connections, remote workers, traffic volumes, application exchanges, security threats, and more are combining to raise organizations' requirements of and expectations from network transformation, in turn leading to new heights in capabilities as providers strive to meet these demands.
Legacy networking systems struggle to efficiently handle these technologies, which have become critically important for enterprises. This has led organizations to transform their enterprise networks to ensure they can meet the demands of their digital business.
To gain further insights on the business benefits and value gained by implementing Huawei's Agile Controller software-defined solution, IDC recently had the opportunity to interview İşbank. İşbank’s Huawei network implementation provides insight into best practices and key considerations for organizations planning their network transformation with an aim of achieving a scalable, agile, and manageable underlying network architecture while ensuring a non-disruptive high-performance environment.
This IDC Buyer Case Study summarizes an IDC discussion with İşbank and analyzes the company’s experiences with Huawei's networking solution. The study highlights the main business benefits and challenges that İşbank has experienced since its deployment of the Huawei Agile Controller solution and provides guidance to other IT organizations evaluating or planning to invest in a software-defined networking (SDN) solution to address emerging business requirements.
Turkey’s leading and largest private bank, İşbank’s total assets reached TL 593.9 billion as of year-end 2020. İşbank is the leader among private banks also in terms of loans, deposits and shareholders’ equity, as well as asset size. As of the end of 2020, İşbank effectively fulfills its customers’ needs with high value-added products, services and solutions via its 23,518 employees, 1,205 domestic and 22 overseas branches, 6,521 domestic Bankamatik ATMs and mobile channels, which increase their share in total transactions by the day.
İşbank introduced to Turkey the first ATM, the first internet branch, and the first mobile banking application. Carrying on with its investments in technology, İşbank makes a difference also in new generation digital banking applications. İşbank has 9.2 million digital customers by the end of 2020 and the number of active mobile banking customers reached 9 million.
Having reached its 97th year in 2021, İşbank has undertaken a pioneering and guiding role in the Turkish banking industry since the day it was founded. With a firm focus on the future and innovation, İşbank works in line with its vision of developing innovative products, services, and applications that are aligned with the global banking trend.
As well as the financial sector, İşbank provided great contribution to the development of industry in Turkey and has participated in nearly 300 companies to date. The Bank currently has direct participation in 16 companies operating in finance, insurance, and glass.
İşbank is one of the cornerstones of economic development in Turkey and has been supporting every sector in the country since its incorporation. For İşbank, digitalization is a high-priority topic for all its business lines, and the bank carries out many initiatives that build on its digital competencies. In order to make the most of the opportunities brought by digitalization, transformation initiatives are carried out as a multi-dimensional program covering all areas of activity and business models, and constantly renewed by adapting digital technologies to the bank's processes.
Datacenters have been vital assets in banking for many years, but their importance is growing in line with accelerated digitalization efforts. Being Turkey’s leading and largest private bank, İşbank also focuses on its digital banking strategy and has been planning its datacenter investments accordingly.
In line with its expansion plans, the bank decided to move its disaster recovery datacenter to Ankara in 2020. The bank has been looking for a next-generation networking solution to replicate the one located in the Istanbul Atlas datacenter. With the scope of having an agile and flexible underlying infrastructure, the bank was looking for a seamlessly interoperable, easy to manage, and agile open system to address evolving networking needs. Simultaneously, the bank sought to decrease operational workloads and to support the development of infrastructure management skills by searching for a software-defined networking system that could automate operations in its increasingly complex datacenters.
Additionally, heightened usage of microservices software architectures in the bank's datacenters increased the importance of technical features such as network isolation, security, and infrastructures that enable the bank to scale out horizontally. It was also important to choose a solution that can be integrated with automation, robotic processes, and orchestrator tools to address the future needs of the business.
The bank also wanted its network operations teams to master not only automated provisioning and elastic scaling of network infrastructure, but also the post-deployment, "day two" need to provide faster troubleshooting and remediation of issues that can impair network availability and performance. The bank thus required an easy-to-manage networking system that can interoperate with the other service systems to improve end-to-end operations and maintenance while shortening new service provisioning time and giving the bank’s IT team more time to support innovation.
İşbank's priorities in selecting a suitable solution were:
• A software-defined solution that can address evolving future business and technology needs
• Enhanced ease of use and operational manageability
• Increased security and visibility of network operations
• An agile network infrastructure for services
• A solution with high interoperability, elasticity, and openness
• A vendor offering strong technical support
Huawei, as one of the leading infrastructure vendors, has a wide networking solution portfolio. Huawei's software-defined solution, Agile Controller, is the vendor's latest user- and application-based network resource automatic control system.
Following the centralized control principle of software-defined networking, Agile Controller dynamically schedules network and security resources on the entire campus network, acting like the brain of the smart campus network.
The bank installed Huawei’s Agile Controller SDN solution in March 2020. Key factors in İşbank’s selection of Huawei networking solutions included the vendor’s technical support quality and the solution's advanced technical features, which can easily meet both current and future business needs.
As a company strategy, İşbank prefers the implementation process to be handled by its internal engineering team in order to ensure higher operational quality, greater awareness in planning new services, and the ability to provide more detailed information to the vendor’s support teams should an infrastructure failure occur.
In line with this scope, the bank started to develop proofs of concepts (POCs) with several vendors. Huawei provided five full days of theoretical training for the bank’s staff to get familiar with the networking platform and established an on-site laboratory environment in Huawei’s datacenter site. In developing these POCs, the bank’s senior engineers and Huawei’s research and development (R&D) team, including network leaders, jointly worked on possible disaster scenarios and several configuration models.
This working environment allowed İşbank’s engineers to determine the configurations of devices and the services needed in the future, even before beginning the implementation. As a result, all configurations were ready before the devices reached the datacenter, and it took only one day for the bank to set up four separate datacenter fabrics after the physical installation of the devices.
Other departments in the bank can request new services from the IT department to support routine day-to-day business. The Agile Controller solution supports up to 10 department levels, allowing administrators to import and export department and user information in batches via Excel files. New services can thereby be implemented simply by directly uploading Excel files. Thanks to the batch configuration feature, the bank is able to provide thousands of new ports and network services within a few hours.
Typically, network engineers with legacy network experience have concerns about adapting to new, software-based networking solutions. However, Agile Controller's simple and easy to use web interface meant that the bank's networking team developed a comprehensive understanding of the solution in just a few days.
In a financial institution where the network status changes constantly as massive numbers of tenant services are released or changed, network quality and availability are difficult to measure. When a problem occurs, it can be difficult to determine whether the problem lies in the network, storage, server, or application system sector. Administrators have to check all these sectors to locate the problem, which is inefficient. In terms of operational efficiency and reducing fault-detection times, the bank required a solution that can easily monitor and service network states across the entire network.
In Agile Controller, based on the operation and maintenance (O&M) application layers, FabricInsight provides visibility into the physical, logical, and application networks, intelligent fault location, and proactive optimization to significantly improve the SDN network's O&M efficiency.
FabricInsight shows all paths on the entire network and enables administrators to view the network status clearly. Physical and logical objects are all visual, including nodes and interfaces (network element level), as well as links, logical paths, and application quality (network level).
Additionally, FabricInsight can detect instant events lasting for milliseconds (such as microbursts) and low packet-loss rates (lower than 10-4), and identify elephant and mice flows. The full visibility of the network status and quality helps network administrators to improve the management efficiency.
As one of the largest banks in Turkey, İşbank works with various technology solution providers and adopts many emerging technologies. In line with its long-term strategy, the bank wanted a future-proofed solution ensuring high interoperability that was open-platform to allow for greater efficiency and innovation.
Agile Controller provides various northbound and southbound interfaces and open application programming interfaces (APIs) to make the forwarding plane and control plane programmable. It can interoperate with İşbank’s service systems, improving end-to-end operation and maintenance efficiency and shortening new service provisioning times. The Agile Controller is also interoperable with mainstream cloud platforms, including Huawei FusionSphere, VMware vSphere, OpenStack, and Microsoft Hyper-V. This broad interoperability makes the Agile Controller an elastic, open platform that integrates the best practices of various fields, allowing the bank to flexibly define its networks based on current and future service requirements.
“Huawei’s approach has always been very positive, professional, and solution-oriented. In an industry where the regulations and requirements keep changing constantly, we needed an agile and tailored-service support, and we could get it from Huawei.”
Murat Dereli, IT Unit Manager / Head of Network Infrastructure and Security, İşbank
IDC offers the following advice to organizations that are considering implementing a next-generation software-defined networking solution.
Consider Long-Term IT Plans and Investing in a Next-Generation Solution: As technology evolves and IT departments' roles expand to include business operations, IT leaders should evaluate the way they design platforms before investing in a networking technology. Operational efficiency, agility, flexibility, and interoperability are still the main advantages of the latest networking solutions, but factors such as openness, network-wide unified security, and automated and cloud-enabled next-generation systems can bring great advantages in competitive market conditions. Before deciding on a networking solution, it is important to evaluate whether that new technology can be aligned with future technology extension plans, such as cloud platforms, software-defined networking, and automated infrastructure.
Technical Support Is Important: Service support is also one of the key criteria that buyers should consider when selecting a vendor. Organizations should seek vendors that can showcase their technical capabilities, offer adequate support during and after the implementation process, and provide detailed guidance on solutions. Vendors should offer next-generation solutions to improve the management of complex IT infrastructures and have strong technical support capabilities.
Consider COVID-19 Impact on Network: Comparing 2019 with the first half of 2020, it becomes apparent that network management systems and practices were significantly impacted by the pandemic. Network traffic patterns, threat profiles, staff priorities, and tool usage changed, literally overnight, when businesses moved to a virtual operating model. Suddenly, IT organizations needed greater visibility into both the private enterprise network and end-user devices.
In addition, IT staff were suddenly thrust into a remote-only support model. Core, access, and endpoint systems were no longer readily accessible. Problem resolution, performance management, and protective actions all had to be executed remotely. Detailed visibility enabled more precise control — even at a distance. Organizations need to invest in a highly reliable and dynamic network solution that can schedule and adjust network and security resources on the entire campus network to meet the requirements of frequently moving users, offering free mobility and heightened visibility.
Founded in 1987, Huawei is a leading global provider of ICT infrastructure, with more than 194,000 employees, operating in more than 170 countries and regions, and serving more than 3 billion people around the world.
Huawei’s vision and mission is to bring digital to every person, home, and organization for a fully connected, intelligent world by driving ubiquitous connectivity and promoting equal access to networks; bringing cloud and artificial intelligence to all four corners of the Earth to provide superior computing power where needed, when needed; building digital platforms to help all industries and organizations become more agile, efficient, and dynamic; and redefining user experience with AI, making it more personalized for people in all aspects of their life, whether at home, in the office, or on the go.
International Data Corporation (IDC) is the premier global provider of market intelligence, advisory services, and events for the information technology, telecommunications, and consumer technology markets. IDC helps IT professionals, business executives, and the investment community make fact-based decisions on technology purchases and business strategy. More than 1,100 IDC analysts provide global, regional, and local expertise on technology and industry opportunities and trends in more than 110 countries worldwide. For 50 years, IDC has provided strategic insights to help our clients achieve their key business objectives. IDC is a subsidiary of IDG, the world's leading technology media, research, and events company.