The Largest Russian Bank Undergoes Digital Transformation

Posted on 15/01/2019

PAO Sberbank is the largest multinational bank in Russia with many branch offices both in the Russian Federation and abroad. The bank has a strong reputation for reliability and high-tech advancement and is trusted by its customers. As part of a global technological transformation, in 2017, Sberbank initiated a large-scale migration of virtual machines to a new data center. With assistance from VMware, the project was completed three times faster than planned and caused zero business application downtime.

Sberbank’s customers are millions of individuals and legal entities from Russia and the CIS. Having accumulated about 45% of individual deposits, the bank operates as a main creditor of the Russian economy and its private customers. Striving to preserve its leading position in the banking industry, Sberbank regularly updates its IT systems in order to maintain a consistently high level of service. During the most recent upgrade, the bank commissioned a Tier-3 Gold innovative data center, “Skolkovo,” with 2,000 racks and capacity of 30 MW, the largest in Russia. By launching the project, Sberbank could accomplish several strategic tasks at once. They sought to increase the power and capacity of the data center, centralize locations, abandon rented data centers, update the IT fleet (before modernization, Sberbank operated on servers that could host about 5-6 virtual machines), get rid of irrelevant assets and correct configuration errors.

At the end of 2017, preparations began for the migration of banking data from four rented data centers with 740 racks to the new bank-owned data center. The most pressing challenges included simultaneous consolidation of disparate data storage systems from different facilities and ensuring business continuity.

PAO Sberbank has partnered with VMware for over five years, with four years’ active use of virtualization solutions. VMware has provided a hypervisor for mission-critical bank operations such as client’s services connected with online banking and mobile applications. Therefore, after a detailed study of the available technologies for replication and disaster recovery, the Sberbank IT department chose to keep the time-proven vSphere platform and upgrade it to the latest version.

The project implementation commenced in February 2018. In the span of a year, the bank was to transfer 5,000 virtual machines powered by VMware vSphere 5.5 and another 2,000 physical machines from two rented data centers.

The migration was carried out in two phases. During the first phase, Sberbank deployed new serviceable equipment and prepared the network infrastructure. During the second phase, they migrated from the legacy machines and disposed of them. Due to the increase in RAM and the number of CPU cores, new servers powered by VMware vSphere 6.5 can consolidate up to 25 machines each. As a result, the bank managed to transfer a greater number of virtual machines to a smaller fleet of equipment without loss of productivity or decrease in the number of tasks. The migration of the machines from several old servers to a single new one was fully offset by an equal decrease in energy costs and VMware licensing costs.

Business continuity is a high priority for the bank. System shutdowns or reduced redundancy are simply unacceptable. Customer transactions must be processed without interruptions, and the online bank must be accessible at all times. Implementing VMware virtual machines allowed them to reduce costs and preserve continuity of banking operations during the migration.

According to the customer, the key benefit was the speed of migration: all machines powered by vSphere were transferred to the Skolkovo data center much faster than planned — in one month instead of three.

Next year, PAO Sberbank is going to migrate another 5,000 virtual machines powered by vSphere from other sites. For this project, Sberbank IT department has set only a half-year deadline — with the pace of migration experienced last time, they can afford to be bold.

“We are continuously enhancing the IT component of our business. We are a client-centric company that enjoys the trust of millions of people, and this means there is no room for mistakes. Our key priority is ensuring that all client services function fault-free 24/7. Sberbank’s entire IT infrastructure is built with this in mind, and the capability to make rapid changes is a key objective of our technology strategy. VMware virtualization capabilities are important enablers of SberBank cloud architecture, helping ensure smooth functioning of banking operations and cut costs.” —David Rafalovsky, CTO Group Sberbank, Head of Operation & Technology.


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