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Investec Bank cashes in on WAN acceleration

Investec Bank turns to WAN acceleration to cut down distributed database response times and ensure that more traders can go online and earn more money

In an industry where time is literally money, Investec Bank has enhanced its digital infrastructure to enable more and quicker trading between its headquarters in South Africa and the European markets it serves.

Investec Bank – which partners with Swiss Bank and uses its Swiss brokering licence – has clients across its Private Bank and its Wealth & Investment businesses, as well as across geographies. It offers specialist banking and wealth and investment services, with the Investec Wealth & Investment division requiring access to servers located in the UK so as to be able to provide clients with an offshore investment capability.

To comply with data protection legislation, in particular the GDPR, Investec has to ensure that critical system data is not older than a few hours to meet regulatory requirements. EU data sovereignty regulations mean the servers will need to be hosted in the EU. As such, the data cannot be older than a few hours to achieve compliance with the regulations.

However, the inherent geographic latency between South Africa and the UK had meant utilisation rates of WAN links for the replication of RRP data from SQL and Oracle enterprise databases at around only 15%. MPLS latency between the two countries was around 180ms. The time for these data sets to be moved across South Africa and the UK link is currently between 14-15 hours, which can cause challenges in keeping RRP databases in synchronicity.

And as Mark Backes, infrastructure architect and team lead at Investec Bank, told Computer Weekly the company could simply add faster connectivity at the problem. “No matter how much bandwidth we threw, we couldn’t resolve [the challenges] with more speed. TCP application packet acceleration was the limiting factor – there is only so much a day that you can push and we just had to find a way to reduce latency.”

Investec searched for a technology partner that could reduce data replication times and keep the databases in sync with the ability to fully utilise all available WAN bandwidth, so that the infrastructure investment was right-sized to the transfer task.

As well as having minimal impact and footprint to existing WAN/LAN infrastructure, it had to be available as a virtual machine and have the ability to reduce visible latency – i.e. deliver content to customers and collaborators faster.

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To do this, Investec turned to WAN Data Acceleration solutions from Bridgeworks. The kit comprised an MPLS WAN link, with a handover from one SP to another between continents with Microsoft Windows and Red Hat Operating systems on Dell commodity systems.

The results of introducing the new technology have been stark. Using the company’s measurement and utilisation tools, Investec found line speeds have increased by as much as 400% and WAN utilisation rates are nearing maximum potential.

The upshot is that application response times for users accessing applications hosted in different hemispheres have been vastly improved. A 220% increase in performance has been measured, and round trip application response times have fallen from over 800ms to 320-350ms.

“GDPR requirements have been met; the databases are now in sync,” he said. “We are using native tools in SQL and Oracle, and no third-party products, so costs have fallen. The other thing is that we are now able to have proper, decent performance for trading.”

Looking to see where possible future gains can be made, Backes said the company was looking at WAN server provider requirements, whereby the provider needs to be able to deliver global WAN server acceleration. The current WAN caching technology was not giving the performance that was needed, he said.

The bottom line of the WAN acceleration technology is that more people can go online and are able to trade – and that means money. The type of gains taken from the Bridgeworks technology will now be put into future RFPs. “We need a federation of acceleration,” said Backes.

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