Bank of New Zealand moves staff-assisted apps to the cloud, to better serve customers

 |   Microsoft New Zealand News Centre

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Since 1861, Bank of New Zealand (BNZ) has been helping New Zealanders achieve their goals and turn dreams into reality. To provide innovative products and services to its customers, BNZ wanted to modernise its aging infrastructure. It chose Microsoft Azure as its cloud platform, migrating and modernising its business-critical .NET applications. Today BNZ can provide superior customer experiences and is benefiting from improved agility, scalability, risk management, and cost-efficiency. 

BNZ aims to empower New Zealanders to achieve big by doing great things with money. To help customers with the services they require and respond to them quickly, BNZ branch staff and back-office staff were using several staff-assisted applications. However, these applications were running on the aging platform. To modernise its technological capabilities, BNZ wanted to move these staff-assisted .NET applications running on end-of-life Windows 2008 software—from an on-premise platform to the Azure cloud. It was looking to take advantage of cloud architecture, respond to opportunities with speed at the same time improve its security, reliability, disaster recovery, and reduce infrastructure costs.   

BNZ challenged itself to go beyond lift and shift, and with Microsoft helping them along the way, the team decided the right approach – modernise. “We had a collaborative, hands-on 3-day workshop with Microsoft Engineers to understand the different approaches and techniques that we could use,” says BMK Lakshminarayan, Solutions Architect at BNZ. “Microsoft help in this journey is excellent as they helped us in setting up the Fast Track assistance – a dedicated Microsoft Azure engineer to speed up our adoption and guide us through the options and overcome challenges – which is a big help. Microsoft Fasttrack team help to us is like starting your 100 metre race from 75th metre. We would catch up with them every fortnight, and that helped us move forward in our cloud journey in a better way. We settled for a platform-as-a-service (PaaS) approach.”  

Modernising Internal Staff-Assisted Applications  

BNZ started its modernisation journey by moving two of its staff assisted applications—Cash Management Online and Loyalty Loader (Flybuys) to Azure. These applications are now leveraging Azure cloud-native services & features including – Application identity & access management with Azure Active Directory, AI-enabled analytics with applications insights and improved monitoring. BNZ Developers & Operations teams now have rich analytics and monitoring data to optimise the application for its performance and better customer experience. Above all, BNZ is experiencing a significant improvement in the Recovery Time Objective (RTO) and Recovery Point Objective (RPO) of the applications with a fully automated failover. 

Previously, when BNZ had these staff-assisted applications on its on-prem infrastructure primary and secondary data centers, and if there was an infrastructure-related outage, a manual intervention would be required to resolve these issues. The tasks include updating our DNS, switching to secondary application servers/database, this would take a minimum of 30 minutes. With Azure – “Now we have a fully automated failover process, and our applications are available for our staff members to help our customers without any interruption. So, from requiring at least 30 minutes for recovery, down to zero— it’s excellent,” remarks BMK. “We can serve our customers quickly without wasting their time.” 

BNZ also automated the deployment of continuous integration and continuous delivery (CI/CD) pipeline for the databases. “In the past, the manual deployment for database took up to two hours, and today by using Azure Pipelines under DevOps, we’re able to straight away cut it down to five minutes—a massive difference,” states BMK. “It’s not just that our CI/CD pipeline became faster, our security scanning and data classification also became faster. It means we’re also becoming more secure.” For any bank, security is of utmost importance. The in-built, intelligent security services of Azure are helping in early detection of threats, allowing BNZ to respond quickly.  

Saving time and effort: re-use, re-apply, re-engineer 

In order to document its applications, infrastructure, data and integration, BNZ has been using seven different platforms. These include SharePoint for technical documentation, Confluence for wiki documentation, Team Foundation Server for storing code, and yet another server & tools for housing database scripts. When it moved to Azure, it was able to consolidate these different tools and platforms under one roof. “We brought everything under Azure DevOps in the Git repository, which is very convenient and useful,” says BMK. He further explains how this has simplified the onboarding process of new developers. “New developers can easily see the source code, the data, the scripts, and any other support documentation, including those in the CI/CD pipeline. As we have opted for CI/CD pipeline as code, anyone can reuse and reapply the codes for different applications – this saves much time.” 

Nic Olivier, Head of Enterprise Cloud Service, states, “There are cloud security systems that we follow and the idea behind this is, once we put it in one place, then all applications can leverage the work that has been done previously, allowing for a better use or, rather, re-use of architectural and security cases. Now the development teams don’t have to re-engineer everything from scratch as the building blocks already exist. This is helping us to get much faster output in terms of delivering better customer experience.” Yogesh Shetty, who is the Azure Team Lead at BNZ seconds Olivier’s statement, “By leveraging existing work, we were able to set up the infrastructure for another project pretty seamlessly. Setting up infrastructure & configuring them would typically take us two to four weeks for a full Software Development Life Cycle.  

BNZ plans to leverage the learnings and skills built through the modernisation of its two applications to streamline upgrades of its remaining applications. The intent is to speed up modernisation to 2-3 applications per sprint. Moreover, BNZ now has the ability to dynamically scale resources as it continues to modernise its application portfolio.  

“In the past, the manual deployment for database took up to two hours, and today with Azure Pipelines under DevOps, we’re able to do it in five minutes—a massive difference.”  – BMK Lakshminarayan, Solutions Architect at BNZ