Dutch-Bangla Bank Limited (DBBL), the first bank in Bangladesh to be fully automated, offers a wide range of financial products and services to businesses and consumers. It introduced “plastic money” and digital banking services to the Bangladeshi masses in 2003, and now operates the nation’s largest fleet of ATMs.
Challenges: DBBL has always been a trend setter in Bangladesh’s banking industry innovation, and notable among them include digitized banking services. Customers flocked to its growing network of point-of-sale (POS) systems and ATMs, the largest in the nation, as did smaller banks that wanted to take advantage of the expansive footprint of consumer touchpoints.
But rapid growth—in customers, partners, touchpoints, and services delivered—placed a significant strain on DBBL’s data center and, more specifically, the power grid supporting it. Service disruptions can be detrimental when supporting the banking needs of more than 20 million people. And they can be debilitating when they persist for six hours as an entire data center is rebooted. DBBL experienced multiple blackouts in a short span of two years. DBBL needed to find a way to maintain service availability despite its reliance on an aging power grid. The bank also wanted to improve traffic management, load balancing, security, and disaster recovery in the event of future outages. The timing could not have been more propitious, and DBBL turned to Cisco ACI to establish an active/active data center that can withstand both scheduled and unexpected downtime.
How Cisco ACI helped DBBS overcome the challenges?
DBBL elected to establish an active/active framework for its two data centers using Cisco ACI. With this industry-leading software-defined networking (SDN) solution, both data centers can be managed as a single infrastructure environment. Using Cisco ACI Multi-Site capability and a dense wavelength-division multiplexing (DWDM) optical link, the two data centers mirror each other and run the same applications. If one data center experiences an outage, the applications and extra load are shifted to the active data center.
F5 BIG-IP is used for traffic management and load balancing, automatically routing incoming traffic to the appropriate data center. This includes traffic from ATMs, POS systems, branch offices, and the bank’s mobile app. If a link goes down, F5 BIG-IP reroutes it without manual intervention. With F5 managing the traffic, Dutch-Bangla bank experienced less burden on their firewalls and better capacity.
Cisco ACI enables granular segmentation, fault isolation, and control, and DBBL’s two data centers are maintained as isolated availability zones, or fault domains. If one zone is compromised or goes down—because of a power outage, for example—it can’t affect the other. This has improved not only DBBL’s service availability, but also its security posture. The two availability zones are glued together into one logical data center, providing a singular view and centralized management of DBBL’s IT resources and applications. Device configuration, security policies, access control lists (ACLs), firewall rules, and traffic protocols can all be managed from a single site.
“Network operations have become much easier. We can see the entire network and the health of our links from the APIC [Application Policy Infrastructure Controller]. It gives us very good visibility, so there’s no need for third-party monitoring tools.”
Sk. Shakil Ahmed, Head of Security and Senior Assistant Vice President, DBBL
Business Outcomes: Cisco ACI made a significant impact to DBBL’s business needs, moving them from a reactive to active-active IT infrastructure. Foremost, ACI helped them improve service availability with superior infrastructure and application redundancy. ACI helped DBBS tide over network capacity issues by automating traffic management with full redundancy. Centralized management from ACI boosted their network operations efficiency. Last but not least, ACI bolstered DBBS security and disaster recovery with multiple fault zones. ACI enabled comprehensive visibility across physical and virtual infrastructures, which further helped avoid separate third-party management tools in the fault zones.
Road Ahead: With Cisco ACI and F5 BIG-IP as the foundation of an active/active infrastructure, DBBL intends to continue migrating its 40 to 50 applications to the new data center. Full application redundancy will further protect the bank—and its customers—from outages that are beyond its control. DBBL’s experience with ACI is one where migrating applications from one data center to the other is fast and painless. They just had to change the subnet address. Because Cisco ACI stretches across computing environments and availability zones, DBBL plans to extend its new SDN capabilities to its disaster recovery site in the near future.