Equens SpA, the leading company in Italy in Automated Teller Machine/Point of Sale (ATM/POS) authorization and back-end payment process management, has spent the past few years consolidating its business and IT operations while orchestrating its strategic card processing transactions around zEnterprise technology. Reliable transaction processing and quality services backed with a comprehensive plan for Disaster Recovery (DR) and failover are critical to the company’s growth and market share.

“Business continuity is the most important benefit we can provide our customers,” says Guido Gatti, Equens SpA’s general manager of operations. “Accordingly, our efforts in IT have been to provide DR and failover capabilities so comprehensive that any disruption we would ever face wouldn’t be due to the fault of a machine.”

Economy of Scale

Originally established in 2008 as a joint venture by the Italian ICBPI and Equens SE, Equens Italia SpA on Jan. 1, 2011, became a wholly owned subsidiary of Equens SE and was renamed Equens SpA. The full integration of Equens SpA into Equens SE is an important step in the continued growth and continuity of Equens as a pan-European card and payments processor.

With Equens SpA becoming part of Equens SE, both parties could cut their costs for the benefit of their clients while expanding their payment processing footprint in Europe. They already process 9.7 billion payments and switch 3.9 billion POS and ATM transactions annually, which makes them the largest pan-European card processor—with a market share of 12.5 percent and a medium-term target of a 17 percent share.

A Firm Foundation

Besides focusing on system uptime and business continuity, Equens decided to consolidate the different platforms in its European data centers. This resulted in a centralized mainframe IT staff in Italy, where Equens SpA’s primary and secondary data centers are 10 kilometers apart and IT Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) can easily service the IBM zEnterprise systems and IBM System z10 mainframes in both data centers. With strategic applications running in parallel at both data centers, Equens can avoid an uptime impact to users. If a production problem occurs in one data center, the alternate center offers immediate failover.

“Our goal was to eliminate a DR scenario altogether by running all applications in parallel between two zEnterprise machines at two separate sites,” says Gatti. “If we had a problem at our first data center, we would also have the application running at the second data center.”

Equens IT approached the parallel processing project carefully, moving each application between data centers a piece at a time. It engaged 10 IT staff members in the effort, although not all were committed to the project full-time.

“Our project plan was to … test and migrate payment system, ATM management, and Linux for zEnterprise client interface applications from one data center to the other in a serial manner, ensuring that each application we migrated was able to run successfully parallel in both data centers,” Gatti says. “Once we had thoroughly tested a single application and had placed it in production, we moved to the next application and repeated the process.”

The company took a similar project approach on the distributed side of its data center operations, which involves e-commerce applications and Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (SWIFT) daily transaction reconciliation files.

Storage and Data Communications

Computing resources weren’t the only items on Equens’ parallel processing project checklist. Even if all applications were successively tested and certified for failover, a DR and failover situation with zero percent impact on users would be elusive without a robust communications strategy between the two data centers and storage capabilities that could handle parallel-processed data and failover.

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