Keeping a far-flung ATM/debit network up and running calls for equal amounts of technology horsepower and savvy. Yet even for a large bank, Bank of America is unique.
For a bank the size of BofA, which processes about three billion transactions annually and 300 transactions per second at peak capacity, ordinary approaches just won't do.
For the longest time, the bank shunned outside network recovery solutions, preferring instead to draw on its own supply of IT resources.
"We had an internal software product we had written ourselves," said Michele Schwappach, vice president and senior systems manager for ATM/debit applications at Charlotte, N.C.-based Bank of America.
But in 2000, the bank changed course, licensing GoldenGate release 7.0 data synchronization software. The bank's primary goal in going with an outside system was "to be more efficient in recovering our system," Schwappach said, adding that average recovery time has fallen from 24 hours to four hours.
BofA was also seeking a software solution that would foster innovations in products and services. "We wanted the product to grow with Bank of America," she said.
Yet another goal was to relieve the IT staff of the hassles of maintaining internally-written software.
"We wanted to go to a vendor-supported product," Schwappach said. "It would be easier for us to focus on our strategic goals and allow the vendor to support the software."
The GoldenGate product has come into play during a period of downsizing at Bank of America. Within the past two years, BofA has reduced its number of data centers from eight to four. By eliminating the need to maintain internal software and by shortening network recovery time, the GoldenGate software has delivered a passel of productivity improvements.
The software is at work continuously for Bank of America.
"We use it on a regular, ongoing basis, 24/7, 365 days a year," Schwappach said. "It allows Bank of America to recover its ATM/debit card portfolio internally, virtually in real time."
The software's primary function is to keep network nodes in synch. If Mr. and Mrs. Jones go to separate ATMs simultaneously, the transaction made by Mrs. Jones a fraction of a second earlier will be reflected when Mr. Jones performs his financial transaction.
"We synchronize everything in that environment within a quarter of a second," according to Mike Seashols, CEO of Sausalito, Calif.-based GoldenGate.
GoldenGate has played a prominent role in several ATM upgrades undertaken by BofA.
Between 2001 and 2002, it saw action during an upgrade from the Compaq (now HP) NonStop K-series server to the S-series. It enabled BofA to make the transition without missing a beat. In 2002, it played a similar role during an upgrade to a new ACI BASE24 software.
BofA may do four to six upgrades each year, Schwappach said, including two major upgrades. "We normally kind of package change and then implement it as software releases." Minor changes are performed at regular intervals, usually once a month.
GoldenGate is assisting with a massive data replication effort involving Bank of America's four ATM processing sites. "We are in the process of taking all that data from the four primary sites and replicating it to an SQL database that can be used by our other business partners, both internal and external," Schwappach said.
At presstime, the data replication project was in the testing phase and was scheduled to be completed within the next 60 days.
Planning for upgrades "typically will start in the November/December time frame, with implementation in the May/June time frame," Schwappach noted.
The process involves several steps: defining the project, identifying the requirements, designing the conversion, testing, certification, and implementation.
Because it involves so much time-consuming detail work, defining the requirements is the toughest step, Schwappach said.
The GoldenGate software appears to be gaining traction in the banking industry. It's used by about 80 percent of the world's largest banks (as defined by total assets or transactions) and for more than 80 percent of ATM transactions, according to Seashols.
Among other benefits, he said, the software helps drive down costs. "The return on investment is typically a month or two. We have had customers who had savings in the millions of dollars, because of the consolidation of data centers. BofA has seen a significant savings because of their consolidation-it has helped them streamline huge data centers."