Circle Insights

How tactical network automation can help banks respond to a changing financial sector

Sam Balaam

The financial services sector has undergone seismic change – even well-established institutions are feeling the pressure from leaner margins and agile new competitors. In response, they’re hungry for new ways to drive efficiency, create revenue streams, and offer enhanced value to customers.

That dual demand – to unlock innovation and agility while cutting process costs – lands squarely at the door of IT.

A smarter, leaner finance sector needs responsive, cost-effective IT

At CACI, our specialists are used to helping financial institutions to optimise their network infrastructure. And we see every day how smart, tactical use of network automation can play a role in meeting the challenge by reducing workloads, improving quality, and meeting regulatory standards.

Automated switch checks improve visibility and accelerate ACI migration

It’s perhaps easiest to see the impact of tactical network automation in an accelerating and de-risking a major project, like network migration.

Next-generation data centre infrastructure is a key foundation for modern, data-driven banking. But achieving that transformation can often encounter unexpected and time-consuming obstacles.

For example, switching from a legacy system Cisco Application Centric Infrastructure can mean executing thousands of commands across hundreds of devices to define the migration requirements of each VLAN.

Instead of doing this manually, we built a script in Python 3, combining community-built packages to connect to each switch, translate the device output, and arrange the data into an easily manageable database.

It quickly extracted the information needed for migration planning and execution – preventing significant project delays, while eliminating the risk of human error.

MAC address checks de-risk migration in advance

Likewise, with ACI each IP address can correspond to one MAC address only. Any switches in the legacy infrastructure that exceed this limit could have a catastrophic effect. Finding them in advance of a migration is crucial – but extremely time-consuming. And missing one is a significant risk.

So on-site professionals from CACI built a solution to attach to each switch and create a report detailing which boxes have two MAC addresses or more.

Again, the automation saves potentially hundreds of engineer hours, and gives confidence that the migration can proceed without the risk of human error.

Self-service port provisioning saves hours and improves service

BAU processes can also benefit from automation – and here, the impact builds cumulatively over time.

For example, server deployment teams rely on fast, accurate port provisioning. As well as the initial configuration, each request requires extensive testing, and when completed manually the work can total dozens of engineer hours per week.

So we developed a proof of concept for a self-service system, where requests are made through a front-end web portal, but the provision and testing are automated.

As well as releasing engineer time and reducing risk, the solution prevents internal clients waiting for their request, accelerating their own work in turn. It also eliminates variations in naming and other standards, and documents each process for compliance purposes.

Bulk element configuration proves compliance without headcount

That compliance element demonstrates why automation is such a good fit for a regulated industry like finance. Because it can do more than just save time and headcount; it can provide documentation.

Each script in an institution’s library serves to document network requirements to be followed by engineers in future, and prove compliance with the relevant network engineering, security, and data sovereignty standards. And because the program is created to fit the bank’s own policies, conformity is built in.

Meanwhile, by eliminating manual configuration errors that could bring down key production environments, automation helps to avoid serious service outages that could result in sanctions from the financial conduct authority.

Quick, tactical wins with a long-term business impact

In these and dozens of other ways, we’ve deployed network automation to solve tactical issues, save financial institutions time and money, and facilitate faster, smarter working.

But the long-term cumulative effect is even more significant. The client always owns the IP in each script we’ve written and the program performs its task repeatably. That means the automation will go on saving time in future – so every solution we create makes the organisation that much more efficient and effective – ready to compete in tomorrow’s financial market.

If you’d like to discuss how we can use network automation to ease your migration, streamline your processes, or make you more efficient, please contact our Network Services experts today.

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Sam Balaam