Back in January 2010, when Vasant Manwadkar took over as the head of IT at the Cosmos Cooperative Bank Ltd. (Cosmos Bank), the bank was right in the middle of evaluating a server infrastructure upgrade. With rising business demand, the existing set of IBM Power 5 servers were unable to cope with the steadily increasing application workload. “The original plan was to deploy IBM’s Power 6 servers. However around March 2010, IBM launched the Power 7 series, which seemed like a solution better suited to our requirements,” says Manwadkar.
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Manwadkar felt at the time that the Power 7 series would be best suited to the growing needs at Cosmos Bank, which had Infosys’ Finacle core banking solution in place. But considering the recency of the IBM Power 7 launch, the Cosmos Bank’s management was reluctant to take the plunge, and Infosys too expressed its apprehensions. Other vendors, possibly vying for the Cosmos order, fanned the embers of doubt by averring that the IBM offering was risky, being hitherto untested on the bank’s systems. But Manwadkar felt that all risks were worth taking, and persisted.
The Power 7 series was new to the market then, and Cosmos Bank was one of the first banks to adopt this configuration to deploy Finacle. “Infosys was resistant to this change, since the AIX 6 OS and hardware configuration was not tested by them. We pushed IBM to get the hardware certified by Infosys for the deployment, and went ahead with the rollout once the vendor gave its clearance,” says Manwadkar.
The solution in sight
Finally, IBM’s Power 7 was selected for deployment, and Manwadkar simultaneously chose to upgrade the OS to AIX 6, Finacle to version 7 and the database to Oracle 10g. The new Power 7 series servers running Finacle were installed at Cosmos Bank’s primary data center located at Pune.
Cosmos Bank’s data center connects to the bank’s 115 branches spread primarily across Maharashtra, as well as across other states such as Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka. Prior to the Power 7 upgrade, the company had deployed version 6 of Finacle, with Oracle 9i as the backend database on Power 5 servers running the AIX 5.3 operating system.
Specifically, the new deployment at Cosmos Bank consists of three IBM Power 7 750 servers—each with a 3.3 GHz, 12-core processor, and 128 GB of RAM. The servers run on IBM AIX 6, with Finacle version 7 and Oracle 10g. According to Manwadkar, the implementation phase, which commenced July 2010, went smoothly since the bank had tweaked Finacle for running on Power 7 at the planning and negotiation stage itself.
The Power 7 deployment which went live in December 2010 resulted in considerable performance gains, hardware consolidation, and consequent capital investment savings. Cosmos Bank consolidated applications and data running on 12 of its Power 5 servers to three Power 7 servers. The Finacle applications for production, test, development and management information system (MIS) are hosted on these servers. The availability of more than 24 cores per Power 7 server enabled the bank to fully exploit the LPAR virtualization features of IBM servers, and bring about the consolidation.
Space and energy savings were other happy fallouts of the new deployment. The two-and-a-half racks of space in the data center occupied earlier were reduced to just half a rack for the three Power 7 machines. Manwadkar states that the IBM Power 7 servers consume 60% less energy than competing offerings from other vendors, with the Power 7 consuming 1700 watts per server, in comparison to the 4000 watts of others. He estimates that these savings add up to around Rs 1 crore (Rs 10 million) per year.
Savings apart, Manwadkar is pleased that the Power 7 deployment’s most significant benefit has been performance gains, with a threefold-plus improvement in application response times over that of the previous infrastructure. The MIS backup procedure is down from the earlier 12 hours to just about 20 minutes. End-of-day processing now takes 20 minutes; it ground on for 3 hours earlier. The processing time for the end-of-quarter routines has been halved, and at the year-end, the processing procedures are wrapped up in 7 hours with the new deployment. Earlier the year end processes could take up to 20 hours for completion. Manwadkar’s faith in the Power 7 architecture seems to have been handsomely rewarded indeed.