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Japanese Bank Dials Up Packet Solution

In a bid to better control the traffic over its telecommunications network, the Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi has redesigned its system, deploying bandwidth management technology from Packeteer, a Cupertino, Calif.-based technology company.

In a bid to better control the traffic over its telecommunications network, the Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi has redesigned its system, deploying bandwidth management technology from Packeteer, a Cupertino, Calif.-based technology company.

The bank, one of the largest in Japan, has installed 50 PacketShapers, a blend of hardware and software, to monitor and control network traffic between the data center and its more than 300 branch offices.

PacketShaper automatically classifies network traffic into categories based on application, protocol, subnet, URL, and other criteria, yielding thousands of potential categories. It goes beyond static port-matching and IP address schemes. Its Layer 7 classification pinpoints hundreds of applications, such as Oracle and SAP. PacketShaper's Xpress acceleration technology combines application-intelligent compression with active management techniques.

"PacketShaper provides bandwidth protection for important core network data, ensures efficient communication and serves as a vehicle for driving customer loyalty and trust," said Takashi Aida, system division assistant manager for Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi, in a statement.

The PacketShaper is a 17- by 15-inch box that's rack-mountable and weighs between 13 and 30 lbs. Its maximum bandwidth ranges between 2 and 200 megabytes per second.

PacketShaper gives financial institutions insight into what runs over their network, said Jeff Barker, director of marketing at Packeteer, plus allows them to assign bandwidth to the most important applications and services.

The PacketShaper is effectively an air traffic control system for mission-critical systems. In the Bank of Tokyo's case, PacketShaper linked its core network, such as the bank counter terminals and ATMs, with its information networks over a broadband Ethernet. The bank considered three options when redesigning its telecommunications network: an IP VPN, broadband Ethernet or a conventional private line. It chose Ethernet because it was more cost effective, scalable and flexible.

Broadband Ethernet supports multiple interfaces and doesn't require a lot of network configuration changes when changing over from conventional private lines. It's also a simpler network.

However, the bank notes in its technical documents, implementing it is not an easy task because if the core network crashes, customer service is jeopardized.

So it developed a dual network using broadband Ethernet services and access lines-multiplexed using virtual LAN technologies to reduce interference.

While broadband Ethernet has a low bit unit cost, Barker noted that "the pipe is only so big." IP traffic over broadband has a tendency to burst when used with groupware or e-mail, with the result that it robs bandwidth from other applications. PacketShaper controls the traffic to prevent that from happening.

When the bank used private lines, it managed bandwidth and controlled priority by queuing traffic through a router, which enabled traffic to be controlled at both ends.

PacketShaper came equipped with proprietary TCP latency control technology, which it calls TCP Rate Control. This feature smoothes data and protects the core network. It also optimizes two-way traffic without having to rely on queuing. Queuing can lead to dropped packets and the need to re-transmit information, which makes the network inefficient and unpredictable. PacketShaper also allows the bank to use VoIP and streaming in the future.

The PacketShaper allows financial institutions to classify traffic, analyze network and application behavior, control and manage network behavior and generate reports.

The bank began installing the devices last June and completed the task in March of this year.

Barker said PacketShaper easily connects to the WAN access routers, just before the traffic network leaves or enters the building.

Firms typically achieve payback within 12 to 18 months. Prices range from $2,250 for lower-end models to $50,000 for the largest units.

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