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Capital Gains: FBL improves operations by strengthening its telecom assets

April 30, 2013

Federal Bank Limited (FBL) offers banking and financial services related to savings and current accounts, term and fixed deposits, cash certificates, federal tax saving deposits, inward remittance and foreign exchange in the distribution and retail finance segments. Incorporated in 1931 as Travancore Federal Bank Limited, the company changed its name in March 1947.

FBL also offers working capital, trade finance, specialised corporate financial products, structured finance, syndication services and electronic banking to Indian corporate groups, public sector enterprises, government bodies, multinational companies and financial institutions. As of January 2013, it operated a network of 1,028 branches and 1,145 ATMs.

With business expansion, FBL took measures to upgrade its existing communications set-up to facilitate business continuity and seamless connectivity across its branches.

tele.net tracks the development of its communications set-up…

Existing communications infrastructure

Prior to 2010, each branch office was grouped on the basis of regions. Each of these regions had a single network concentration point (a total of 16 such points).

Each branch office was connected to these concentration points through a

64 kbps leased line network provided by Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL). These points were connected to the company’s data centre and its disaster recovery site by a 1 Mbps leased line and a 16 Mbps MPLS core link sourced from BSNL and Tata Communications respectively. For backup connectivity, the company used an ISDN link.

The network was upgraded after 2010, which involved connecting all 950 branch offices to a central site (the data centre and disaster recovery site) through an MPLS link. Each branch office has redundant 2 Mbps, 1 Mbps or 192 kbps links based on its size. The primary link was sourced from BSNL while others were supplied by Tata Communications, Tulip Telecom and Reliance Communications.

These links are configured in the high-availability mode to ensure that the network load remains balanced while both links are functional. Traffic will go into the failover mode in case of link downtime.

The bank’s total network traffic is prioritised in three different categories – critical, normal and less critical. Based on this, the quality of service parameter is applied in order to ensure that critical applications like the core banking solution are available even when the network is congested.

FBL also operates a data centre in Kochi, which is owned and maintained in-house. The disaster recovery site is hosted at a co-location space in Bengaluru. Both these sites meet the requirement of a Tier IV data centre with regard to the bank’s overall communications network. All the devices at the data centre and the disaster recovery site have a backup or failover mechanism in place.

Meanwhile, the bank’s website, facilities such as internet and mobile banking, and email servers are hosted at the data centre. Three internet operators have provided one-to-one internet leased lines at the data centre. The data load on these links has been balanced through a link load balancer. Functions such as maintaining the domain name system, level load balancing and minimising network failover are undertaken through these links.

Also, FBL’s consumer-centric applications are hosted on a three-tiered architecture with firewalls separating each segment. This ensures improved network control and security. In addition, an in-plane switching technology-based medium has been placed between these segments.

Recently, the bank tied up with Infosys to implement the Finacle-enabled two-factor authentication solution, which is aimed at strengthening its existing authentication system for corporate and retail internet banking customers. This network security framework has been built on the CA AuthMinder Versatile platform. It provides a two-factor authentication system between the bank and end-user, thereby enabling an easy and transparent user login experience. The solution supports both retail and corporate internet banking channels across multiple form factors like hardware token, software credential (CA ArcotID) and a one-time password. It also supports the public key infrastructure and dynamic passcodes that protect customers from security threats such as phishing, man-in-the-middle, brute-force attacks and replay attacks.

The benefits

The bank did not face any major challenges while upgrading its communications set-up. The new set-up has helped in load balancing of primary and secondary links, ensured auto recovery in case of link failover and facilitated application of the service module quality. Further, by opting for multiple providers, FBL reduced the chances of isolating its branch offices from each other.

In sum, investments in communications infrastructure have helped FBL meet changing market requirements and consolidate its market position.

 
 

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