Personal banking sure isn’t what it used to be. Thankfully.

When is the last time you went to a bank? My trips are so infrequent that I actually enjoy the experience as a change of pace. That’s because normally, I get to transfer money or deposit a check not only online, but from my phone. And things in the banking sector aren’t slowing down, they’re speeding up, as new digital upstarts create competition and a pressure to innovate and make customers’ lives easier.

Still, not too long ago, the banking industry was still feeling the shockwaves of the financial crisis. Investments across the industry were tight, meaning more had to be done with less – a story many of us who have had roles in IT can relate to. So when Amy Hysell took on the role of CIO at the Arizona Federal Credit Union (AZFCU), she decided to take a fresh approach. To compete in this fast-moving industry, she stepped back and took a look at on how to enable speed and innovation, while keeping security as the top priority, and also without sacrificing cost efficiency.

Fast forward to today, and a peek at some of AZFCU’s services quickly demonstrates a forward-thinking customer-first credit union. Using their own apps on mobile and even wearable platforms, the credit union offers innovative services like CardPower to manage credit card security, Popmoney to easily send money via text, or Eyeprint ID for additional security.

Using VMware NSX and the Software-Defined Data Center (SDDC) model, AZFCU was able to modernize their data center and drastically reduce the time spent fighting fires and keeping the lights on, allowing them to shift to a renewed focus on their customers. Let’s look at what that really meant.

Application Continuity

Many IT organizations classify applications in tiers by how critical they are, giving critical applications better attention and higher availability. This is logical, but can also conflict with user expectations in a world where everything is expected to work all the time. Why should one have to choose which application will get high availability?

Using NSX, AZFCU was able to extend their networking and security services across multiple locations, resulting in a streamlined operation running over multiple active-active sites. When a set of resources fails, the application can be instantly recovered in an entirely different location, and with the same networking and security policies ready to go.

What did this mean for the business? Instead of only the privileged few applications being recovered during an outage, any application can be instantly recovered. Instead of a complete recovery taking hours, it takes minutes, or is actually instant. Leveraging resources across locations, new applications could be spun up in minutes or hours, not days or weeks.

“Security Comes First”

If a hacker considers a retail breach of credit card information a jackpot, then getting into a bank must be heaven. This means the increased number of breaches create immense pressure on banks, as their customers trust them to keep their money and data secure.

“It’s fine to be able to identify a data breach, but by then it’s too late,” says Hysell. “With VMware NSX, we can contain a breach and minimize the impact rather than letting it go and doing forensics later to determine what happened. And from a data governance perspective, we have much more visibility, so it’s much easier to conduct risk assessments.”

In addition to becoming more secure, Hysell found the teams able to move faster now that there was a common way to segment new applications appropriately based on some simple questions like whether user sensitive data is involved or not.

Agile Banking

With a new operational model of how applications are deployed, secured, and recovered, AZFCU’s business has seen a dramatically improved SLA for new services. They’ve moved from a reactive model, to a proactive model, allowing them to focus on differentiating innovation, like new ways to make mobile banking easier and more secure.

“With our new data center powered by VMware, we can say ‘yes’ a lot more often,” says Hysell. “Our internal customers are very happy.”

They also get top talent into the business.

“We’re able to attract and retain top IT talent because we’re giving them modern tools to do their jobs better,” says Hysell. “We can understand the health of our network from a single pane of glass. I get a report every day, so I worry a lot less.”

Learn More

Going to VMworld? Amy Hysell will join me in the breakout session Intro to NSX for Application Continuity (session ID NET1300BU). It will be held on Tuesday, August 29th at 4:00 PM. Come see us!

More resources on the topic of Application Continuity with NSX: