The corporate and investment banking division of South African financial services firm Absa provides trading and risk management services to global customers. The company needed to find a more cost-effective infrastructure to support its primary
business application. The company migrated to a Microsoft SQL Server 2008 R2 environment, which has contributed to annual savings of US$1.1 million. The solution has also cut system indexing time by 92 percent and lowered application startup time from 90 minutes
to 30 minutes.
Absa Bank, a member of Barclays and one of South Africa’s largest financial services firms, is headquartered in Johannesburg. The corporate and investment banking division of Absa Bank, offers a comprehensive range of risk management, wealth and investment
management solutions and products.
Since 1998, the company’s business has relied heavily on SunGard’s Front Arena, a mission-critical, cross-asset trading and risk management application. “Front Arena is essential to what we do. All of our traders use Front Arena for positions and risk management,”
says Doron Klotz, Head of Trade Management IT, Corporate and Investment Banking, Absa. “If they can’t do that, we lose a lot of customers and a lot of money.”
In late 2011, Barclays decided that to reduce costs at the division it needed to migrate the Front Arena database from Sybase to Microsoft SQL Server 2008 R2 Enterprise software. “Moving Front Arena to SQL Server was an easy decision, because we already
had a data warehouse based on SQL Server 2008 R2, and we had deep SQL Server expertise in the company,” says Klotz. “We also wanted to take advantage of the close relationship between SunGard and Microsoft.”
Once the division decided to move Front Arena to SQL Server 2008 R2, the firm’s primary priority was performing the migration quickly. “We needed to migrate smoothly without threatening business continuity in our trading operations,” says Klotz. “That meant
doing the whole migration over the course of a weekend. We couldn’t risk having our traders not having access to Front Arena on Monday morning. That would open up the entire bank to potential financial loss.”
Another reason for the fast migration timeline was that the Sybase license was set to expire within 18 months. “Getting Front Arena moved to SQL Server 2008 R2 fast was critical to achieving the projected annual savings,” says Klotz. “We also wanted to see
a significant performance boost.”
||With SunGard’s Front Arena on SQL Server 2008 R2, we have a more efficient trading system infrastructure for our key position and risk management application. It will transform our business.
| Doron Klotz
Head of Trade Management IT
After settling on a holiday-extended weekend as the ideal time for the migration, Absa worked closely with SunGard and Microsoft to achieve the task of completing the migration in less than 72 hours. “By collaborating with SunGard, we had access to the right
people at Microsoft, because SunGard had worked with Microsoft for a long time,” says Klotz. “So we had the right people from both companies on the project, as well as our best developers.”
Two separate project initiatives were launched simultaneously. The first was the migration from Sybase to SQL Server 2008 R2 on HP ProLiant DL380 G7 servers, achieved by Absa with assistance from the SunGard Front Arena Client Services team and Microsoft
Services. Although SunGard had a published set of tools and process for the migration, the database size and cycle time for completing the migration necessitated customization of the migration process in collaboration with Absa. The second initiative was the
post-migration focus, which involved the tuning of SQL Server 2008 R2. This initiative was led by Microsoft, in collaboration with SunGard. Both parties had prepared extensively for the overall migration by performing joint laboratory tests prior to the project.
The entire migration project was completed in just 12 hours. By Monday morning, more than 400 traders, salespeople, and operations employees were ready to use the application.
With its new solution, Absa has saved $1.1 million annually. The company has also seen an increase in performance and a reduction in startup time from 90 minutes to 30 minutes.
Saves $1.1 Million Annually and Increases Business Efficiency
With Front Arena running on SQL Server 2008 R2 and new hardware, Absa is saving more than $1.1 million each year. “To be able to cut that much out of our annual IT budget is a huge win for us,” says Klotz. “Much of that savings come from the new licensing
agreements with Microsoft, which are far more agreeable than what we had previously.”
The solution also gives Absa a highly efficient environment for its mission-critical Front Arena application. Klotz says, “With SunGard’s Front Arena on SQL Server 2008 R2, we have a more efficient trading system infrastructure for our key position and risk
management application. It will transform our business.”
Boosts Performance by Reducing Indexing Timefrom 25 to 2 Hours
Absa gained more from the migration project than just cost savings. For example, the company has seen a sizable increase in the production performance of Front Arena, which has contributed to a reduction in system indexing from 25 hours to 2 hours. “This
is a big benefit for our IT people,” says Klotz. “It used to take them an entire day to do the indexing. Now, instead of losing a whole day to maintenance, they have more time to do business-related maintenance and data archiving instead.”
Reduces Scheduled Task Failures, Cuts Startup Timefrom90
The handling of database locks has also improved on SQL Server 2008 R2, resulting in more efficient scheduled task processing overnight. “The amount of attention the system needed overnight has dramatically dropped, so the Front Arena application management
team can focus on making sure that things are running properly rather than responding to job failures and alerts.”
Additionally, the application startup time was cut from 90 minutes to 30 minutes. “Reducing the startup time to just 30 minutes is big for the business,” Klotz says. “If we have a disaster recovery situation and need to start the application from scratch,
90 minutes is too long and can mean lost business for Absa. But taking the startup time down to just 30 minutes really improves the worst-case scenario we need to plan for in such a situation.”
Looking ahead, the corporate and investment banking division of Absa has more insight into how its environment can be further tuned to improve performance. Klotz says, “This solution really sets us up well for the future, and we are very confident in our
partnership with SunGard and Microsoft.”
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