Founded in 1978, under the name of Alexandria Kuwait International Bank, one of the first private banks in Egypt, which was later rebranded to Egyptian Commercial Bank. The bank was acquired by Piraeus Bank Group in 2005 and renamed to Piraeus Bank Egypt. Piraeus Bank Egypt has a workforce of 1,000 and offers a diversified portfolio of commercial and investment products.
The bank's IT division needed to deliver always-on services to its growing number of branch offices as well as workers who needed to access an ever-increasing number of applications. This required an on-demand infrastructure to serve its branch network and other communications links. It also required uninterrupted IT service when servers were taken offline for periodic maintenance, updates, upgrades and changes. Any system changes had to be managed seamlessly, and all these requirements needed to be implemented without increasing operational costs.
To meet its challenges, Piraeus Bank Egypt implemented Citrix XenServer to build a private cloud using its existing datacenter equipment. With the virtualization of its server, the bank replaced 10 racks of physical servers, with only three blade centers for the production datacenter and two for the disaster recovery datacenter. All of these servers are running XenServer, supporting the network file system and lightweight directory access protocol services and providing backup services.
To ensure IT services are delivered seamlessly, even when servers need to be taken offline, the bank implemented Citrix NetScaler App Delivery Controller that optimizes the security, availability, scalability and performance of web-based applications. High-performance, hardware-based NetScaler MPX appliances provide industry-leading web application delivery and load balancing.
The bank also used Citrix XenApp, the leading application virtualization solution, to centralize data for easier management, improve regulatory compliance and accelerate application delivery to branches over limited bandwidth. In the past few years, it has upgraded its XenApp environment to add capabilities such as application performance monitoring. Piraeus Bank Egypt also implemented application streaming for delivery of applications to desktops. Today, it uses XenApp to deliver about 80 financial and office productivity applications from its retail platform, consumer and commercial loan platform, and Microsoft infrastructure.
Recently, Piraeus Bank Egypt expanded its Citrix implementation for virtualization through Citrix XenDesktop, improving the user experience while reducing desk-side support requirements and costs.
"With any new implementation, we always want to achieve high availability, fast response times, integrity and reliability," says Hisham Sherif, Head of the bank's IT Division. "Our Citrix infrastructure lets us reach this target."
After implementing XenServer, the bank's datacenter has nearly 300 percent more processing capacity with just three blade server enclosures. At the same time, it consumes less electricity—50 percent fewer watts—achieving a dramatic improvement in processing power per watt. In total, the datacenter's reduction in operating costs (e.g., hardware maintenance, power, cooling, servers' administration) produced a 327 percent ROI with six months' payback for the total investment.
With the high speed and intelligent load balancing of NetScaler, the bank can provide more services and servers and increase the number of users across its branches. If a server is brought down for any reason, NetScaler can quickly and simply distribute the load to another server and worker productivity is never interrupted.
Without a centralized IT environment, the bank would need more bandwidth and servers at each branch, on-site data management, and additional PC administration. In short, it would have to triple its IT staff. With Citrix solutions, Piraeus Bank Egypt is able to improve the user experience, enhance IT services, support business continuity and, most importantly, deliver exceptional customer service.
In the months and years ahead, Piraeus Bank Egypt is planning to spend much less time on day-to-day administrative tasks and more time on long-term strategies that can take advantage of its new, flexible infrastructure. "When we upgraded our Citrix infrastructure, we largely re-deployed existing PCs to access the virtual applications and desktop," says Ahmed Youssef, Head of IT Infrastructure and Operations Center at the bank. "Now we are planning to replace those with thin-client devices. Thin-client hardware pays for itself in two years on power savings alone."
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