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“We are witnessing the creative destruction of financial services, rearranging itself around the consumer. Who does this in the most relevant, exciting way using data and digital, wins!”

Arvin Sankaran

Fintech Investor and Adviros

BANCA POPOLARE di SONDRIO

Managed Services for Mission Critical Big Data Environment

Scenario

Financial institutions and banks are facing the need to quickly evolve their service portfolio in order to being able to offer more and more personalised services to fulfil and even anticipate their customers’ needsThis translates into the need to manage huge datasets, quicklyefficiently and, considering the very sensitive nature of financial and personal information, above and beyond the legislative requirements for privacy, safety and reliability. A Bank’s IT system must be able to scale while maintain the highest reliability, include the newest technological paradigmssuch ad Big Data and Machine Learning, in order to extract value from the data. 

 

Client Context 

Banca Popolare di Sondrio S.C.p.A. (BPSO) is one of the most important and oldest co-operative banks, with a history spanning 120 yearsas it has been founded in 1871, gradually extending its range of action to the whole national territory. Today it is at the head of a banking group with over 500 branches, 159,000 shareholders and 600,000 customers, operating in Europe and in the rest of the world, with the goal of creating a complete network of services alongside families, small and medium-sized businesses, promoting the well-being and development of communities. The company is included in FTSE Italia Mid Cap Index. 

 

Challenge 

Banca Popolare di Sondrio was looking to introduce in its IT ecosystem a distributed platform to support the evolution of its operational model. This represent a significant technological challenge, as it comes with strict requirements in terms of network integration, data security, legislation-compliant data storage and many more. The software side must be scalable by design, able to respond to significant variation in load factors, as well as stringent requirements of application interface, availability and uptime. The new operational approach must be automation-oriented, which means software centric. Software must be able to follow operational requirements and rigorous methodologies, guaranteeing a strict deterministic and repeatable result by design: in this architecture components that require manual intervention (or with a manual approach, based on human intervention) is not admissible. 

A Key aspect in bank IT, besides data security and data integrity, is that of availability. Operations must provide a service level measured in terms of uptime and data availability. This means that the availability target can not be retrofitted on an existing architecture, but it must be integrated upfront in the design of the new architecture so that it can guarantee the meeting of these requirements both in practice and in a formal way, with a documentable uptime. 

 

Solution 

Banca Popolare di Sondrio demonstrated an “enlightened ” and innovative approach by looking at the IT architecture and infrastructure not only as a tool that must conform to the bank’s current needs, but rather as part of the foundation upon which to build new services and plot the future course of the bank offer. It chose Agile Lab as a partner to turn this vision into a reality. 

Agile Lab provides a full Site Reliability Engineering (SRE) service to Banca Popolare di Sondrio. Site Reliability Engineering (SRE) is a discipline that incorporates aspects of software engineering and applies them to infrastructure and operations problems. The main goals are to create scalable and highly reliable software systems and Agile Lab brings to the table its considerable experience in managed data services in Big Data services and mission critical environments, with a unique “not only Ops” approach. 

The successful implementation and management of these new architectures ca no longer rely on specific roles with specific scopes. It need a multidisciplinary, “holistic” approach. The people in charge must be able to “dive deep” at all levels of the architecture, from infrastructure to Apps. This is because the architecture’s level of complexity, as well as the efficiency and efficacy required, demand the ability to understand each and every layer and guide how they interact with each other, in order to optimise performance, data security, reliability and availability. 

 

Achieved results and benefits

The Operations team managing the bank’s IT is now as scalable as the HW/SW architecture upon which it provides its services. This is not only a technology-focused  matter. The SRE approach must include a skillset that allows it to respond to transversal (multi-layer) issues. One of the most notable is that of the integration of the new architecture with the existing IT structure, for instance in the matter of a bank’s authentication and authorisation systems and protocols.  

The new architecture has thus truly become resilient, able to evolve over time to fulfil ever-changing needs and to adapt to technological changes like major software releases of the underlying infrastructure.