Bank of America, one of the world’s foremost financial institutions, provides its services through 6,100 retail banking offices and nearly 18,500 ATMs. For its 300,000 employees, e-mail is a business-critical communication channel. Through 2009, Bank of America has successfully maintained 99.999 percent availability for its employees, but with growing demand on an aging infrastructure, it faced memory and performance issues that it needed to address before they started to affect operations. In August 2009, Bank of America joined the Microsoft® Rapid Deployment Program and deployed a pilot of Microsoft Exchange Server 2010 to evaluate how to improve its messaging environment. After deploying the pilot, Bank of America found that it would be able to perform administrative tasks more efficiently, increase service to its internal lines of business, and reduce costs.
Bank of America provides its services through 6,100 retail banking offices, nearly 18,500 ATMs, mobile banking services, and call centers. It focuses on providing a comprehensive, coast-to-coast banking environment for retail customers and on building up global capital markets for corporate clients.
In 2008, with the acquisition of Countrywide and Merrill Lynch, Bank of America grew to over 300,000 employees, all of whom depend on e-mail as a business-critical communication channel. “People in this company frequently communicate with customers through e-mail. In some cases, it’s the only way we communicate with customers. If we don’t have functioning e-mail, then people can’t respond to customers in a timely manner. The last thing we want is failed interaction,” says Allan Tagg, the SVP Global Messaging Executive at Bank of America.
||We see a lot of potential with RBAC. We plan to build out a new security model with group memberships based on roles, so the granularity is extremely important to us.
SVP Global Messaging Executive, Bank of America
The messaging infrastructure at Bank of America, based on Microsoft® Exchange Server 2003 e-mail messaging and collaboration software, supports approximately 300,000 employees and 320,000 mailboxes across five data centers in the United States. For site resilience, the bank runs 36 single copy clusters (SCC), with four active and two passive mailbox servers per cluster, with each cluster supporting about 14,000 mailboxes. Because Bank of America must comply with federal regulations, it archives about 100,000 mailboxes for legal retention. For storage, Bank of America uses a dedicated, high-performance fiber-channel storage area network (SAN). Instead of using replication for disaster recovery, it relies locally on disk-to-disk copies in the storage system. For remote disaster recovery, it relies on tape backups that it ships to the location in need, which becomes more of a challenge as the system grows.
With this configuration, Bank of America has been able to maintain 99.999 percent, or five nines, availability. But as the infrastructure ages and demand increases, it recognizes that issues with the system will become more difficult to avoid. “I am very proud of the five-nines availability because we have been able to design the system with dedicated storage and an adequate capacity of storage and servers. We’ve been able to manage the CPU, but memory is becoming a problem because we are running on 32-bit machines,” explains Tagg.
Employees mainly use the Microsoft Office Outlook® 2007 messaging and collaboration client, although some employees still use Office Outlook 2003. Bank of America has also deployed Microsoft Office Communications Server 2007 R2 to 150,000 employee computers for instant messaging and presence.
Market pressures and budgetary constraints kept Bank of America from fully deploying Exchange Server 2007, but the bank faces challenges with its current infrastructure that it must address. Bank of America would like to alleviate its server memory issues by moving to 64-bit servers, improve its high-availability and disaster-recovery solution, and make administration easier.
To address the challenges with its aging messaging infrastructure, Bank of America decided to deploy a pilot of Microsoft Exchange Server 2010. It will take advantage of the 64-bit architecture of Exchange Server 2010 to help alleviate memory issues and increase performance on its servers. With the combination of upgraded servers and Exchange Server 2010, Bank of America can maintain its high level of service to both internal and external customers, while also becoming more flexible in terms of configuration and administration.
High Availability, Site Resilience, and Disaster Recovery
Bank of America plans to implement Database Availability Groups, a feature that combines on-site and off-site data replication into a single solution and provides an easier way to replicate e-mail to a remote location in order to safeguard the Exchange Server environment against site-level disasters. The bank expects to maintain four copies of each database across multiple data centers to ensure that a copy is always available to come online. With those multiple database copies, the bank can reduce the frequency of tape backups.
Exchange Server 2010 delivers a 90-percent reduction in disk input/output (I/O) when compared to Exchange Server 2003, lowering the bar for required minimum disk performance. “Less I/O on the back end is a big deal with us. We are always challenged with scalability,” says Tagg. Bank of America is considering using slower, less expensive disks on its current SAN or even switching to direct-attached storage (DAS), which means it can increase mailboxes from 200 megabytes to 1 gigabyte (GB) or more for employees who require larger mailboxes.
||We plan to use Federation not only with business partners and customers but with our service providers and other groups that support our environment internally.
SVP Global Messaging Executive, Bank of America
Role-Based Access Control
Bank of America plans to use Role-Based Access Control (RBAC) to provide tiered levels of permissions to groups within its organization. Using RBAC, administrators can give teams, such as security or help desk, the rights to perform administrative tasks that align closely with their roles and areas of responsibility. “We see a lot of potential with RBAC,” says Tagg. “We plan to build out a new security model with group memberships based on roles, so the granularity is extremely important to us.”
Exchange Management Shell
Bank of America plans to use the enhanced scripting capabilities of Exchange Server 2010 to manage more feature sets through the command line. Exchange Management Shell, built on the Windows PowerShell™ 2.0 command-line interface, provides powerful remote access capabilities and restricted runspaces so that administrators can manage servers without installing Exchange Server management tools. “We’ll be able to get in there and use the Management Shell to write back-end scripting components that will require significantly less lines of code and will enable us to code faster than we could in Exchange Server 2003,” says Tagg.
Online Move Mailbox
Because Bank of America frequently needs to move mailboxes, it plans to take advantage of the Online Move Mailbox feature in Exchange Server 2010 that enables administrators to move mailboxes between databases without taking employees offline. “We’re always moving users around. We’ve been doing that with custom scripts in Exchange Server 2003, but we will definitely be using the Online Move Mailbox feature in 2010,” says Tagg. “Now we can move them without taking the mailbox offline.”
Bank of America can use the Federation feature to share Exchange Server 2010 services with partners and customers also running Exchange Server 2010. Workers can access each others’ corporate calendars, meeting resources, distribution lists, and presence information as though they belong to the same organization. “We plan to use Federation not only with business partners and customers but with our service providers and other groups that support our environment internally,” says Tagg. “We plan to use it for sharing calendar information, appointments—everything.” Bank of America also plans to use Federation within Office Communications Server 2007 R2 to share presence information.
Microsoft Outlook 2010
For employees, Bank of America would like to deploy Microsoft Outlook 2010 as soon as it is available. Several features are motivating this decision, including MailTips and Conversation View. With MailTips, workers can see—before they click the send button—whether a message recipient is out of the office or an attachment is too large to send. With Conversation View, employees accessing Outlook through the client on their computer, the Web, or from their Windows phones can view messages organized into conversations or threads to follow a topic more easily. Messages appear in the conversation even if they have been filed in different folders. Employees can delete or ignore entire conversations, meaning future messages for that conversation will no longer appear in the inbox.
Bank of America also believes that Outlook Web App combined with Outlook 2010 will be something employees will use widely. “Coming from Exchange 2003, I’m excited about Outlook Web App in Exchange Server 2010. One of the biggest features for us will be WebReady Document Viewing, because it renders everything on the back end and users don’t have to download any files,” explains Tagg.
Microsoft Exchange Online
Currently, Bank of America hopes to move all 300,000 employees onto Exchange Server 2010 by the end of June 2011. As it moves forward with its Exchange Server 2010 deployment, Bank of America looks forward to investigating the possibility of moving to Microsoft Exchange Online, a hosted enterprise messaging solution that provides improved security and anywhere access, along with a suite of hosted services to help protect systems from spam and malicious software; satisfy retention requirements for e-discovery and compliance; and encrypt data to preserve confidentiality. “We do see ourselves being in a hybrid mode at some point,” says Tagg, “maybe later in 2010, when we get the established connection and we have the ability to manage between platforms.”
With new features in the Exchange Server 2010 architecture, Bank of America can administer its messaging system more efficiently for different groups across the organization while also providing a more robust solution for high availability and disaster recovery. It will also realize a lower overall cost structure for its configuration.
||Exchange Server 2010 gives us some flexibility to create a more tiered model for service. We can provide a basic level of failover, but we can also offer a different quality of service per line of business.
SVP Global Messaging Executive, Bank of America
More Efficient Administration
Bank of America will use several features in Exchange Server 2010 to manage its messaging system more efficiently. Using Role-Based Access Control, Bank of America will be able to tier service across its support organization. Tagg explains, “For support, we can define support tiers—Tier 1, Tier 2, Tier 3—so that if we decide to outsource some of the Tier 1 support for our products, people in those roles can check certain aspects of accounts, but they can’t touch anything they might not have the experience or clearance to touch.”
With features like Exchange Management Shell and Online Move Mailbox, Bank of America employees can be more efficient in performing day-to-day tasks. Through scripts, administrators can automate tasks such as creating new e-mail accounts or configuring SMTP connectors. With the Online Move Mailbox feature, administrators can plan moves to happen during the workday so that promised service levels can be maintained across the organization.
The bank also expects that the fast failover capabilities of Database Availability Groups will improve its ability to perform maintenance. “Being able to fail over systems so that we can do maintenance on them will really help us,” explains Tagg. “Even if you have a maintenance window, by failing systems over we can do upgrades, patches, and so forth and still maintain service for our customers. Being a global company, we don’t really have an option to shut the servers off.”
Increased Service for Lines of Business
With Exchange Server 2010, Bank of America can further refine its service-level agreements (SLA) for different lines of business within the company, helping groups to get the service they need internally and helping them reduce their costs. For example, with high availability and disaster recovery, administrators can define levels of service for different groups in the organization based upon their communication or support needs. “Exchange Server 2010 gives us some flexibility to create a more tiered model for service,” says Tagg. “We can provide a basic level of failover, but we can also offer a different quality of service per line of business, as they request it.”
Another area where different groups may require different levels of service is in mailbox size and storage. “Maybe they need a 5-GB mailbox instead of 1-GB mailbox,” says Tagg. “I can actually do a better job of managing towards their business needs.”
By implementing Exchange Server 2010, Bank of America can reduce costs in a number of ways. Because it will implement Database Availability Groups, the bank will reduce the use of tape backups, enabling it to reduce backup costs by about 25 percent. There is also the potential to eliminate tape backups completely at some point in the future.
With the new Exchange Server architecture, the bank can also use less expensive disks in its SAN, a cost-reduction benefit that should increase over time and also allow it to scale its storage at a fraction of the cost. Finally, it expects to decrease help-desk costs because Tier 1 support staff should be able to solve more issues when given additional rights through Role-Based Access Control, and the larger mailbox quotas should reduce the large number of calls caused when employees hit their mailbox limits.
With its upgrade to Exchange Server 2010, Bank of America will consolidate its messaging infrastructure into a highly available environment that continues to support business-critical communication in the way that its employees have come to expect. The company’s investments in its messaging capabilities help position it for future growth and cost savings as it continues to refine its infrastructure.
Microsoft Exchange Server 2010
Exchange Server 2010 can help you achieve better business outcomes while controlling the costs of deployment, administration, and compliance. Exchange Server delivers the widest range of deployment options, integrated information leakage protection, and advanced compliance capabilities, which combine to form the best messaging and collaboration solution available.
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