IT Management

SunTrust Banks, Inc., with nearly $200 billion total assets, is one of the nation’s largest and strongest financial holding companies. 

The company and its subsidiaries provide deposit, credit, trust, and investment services to diverse retail, business, and institutional clients as well as mortgage banking, asset management, brokerage, and capital market services. 

They operate more than 1,600 retail branches and more than 2,500 ATMs in 10 states and Washington, DC. In addition, SunTrust offers several technology-based banking channels, including Internet, PC, mobile, and automated telephone banking. 

From legacy “green screen” applications, SunTrust migrated to Graphical User Interface (GUI) applications using Internet technology. Additionally, they use frontend servers for an Internet banking offering, with main transaction processing running on CICS. IBM’s WebSphere MQ serves as a transport mechanism on both AIX and the mainframe; DB2 is the database of choice on the mainframe. 

Glenn Schneck,  assistant vice president, Mainframe Services, Online Systems Services, notes that, “In the banking industry, it’s critical to provide new products before the competition; the natural evolution was by Web services enabling our backbone systems.” He feels this allowed SunTrust to introduce new products much faster and cheaper than previously without Service-Oriented Architecture (SOA). 

In fact,  the most challenging application has been Internet banking, due to the complexity of supporting servers, connections, routers, etc. used before requests reach the mainframe. ATM, mortgage loans, commercial loans, and many other critical applications also execute primarily on the mainframe. 
SunTrust,  with a decades-long history of mainframe use, relies heavily on big iron as its IT environment backbone. Its Atlanta, GA, data center runs production processing, and a slightly smaller operation in Durham, NC, handles Disaster Recovery (DR). IBM’s Geographically Dispersed Parallel Sysplex (GDPS) connects these sites for real-time data recovery. 

IT’s mandate is to get more done with fewer resources; Schneck, with his 26 years of experience in systems support roles, interprets this as the need to “provide the bank with exceptional IT solutions while reducing costs.” The bank processes approximately 800 million transactions per month, completing 98 percent in less then 300ms. Peak load is 1,000 transactions per second. 

The primary data center has two IBM z9 systems, models 2094-714/S28. Each system provides 6,215 MIPS from general purpose processors, plus five Internal Coupling Facility (ICF) engines, two Integrated Facility for Linux (IFL) processors, two IBM System z9 Integrated Information Processors (zIIPs), and 208GB of memory. Primary software components are z/OS 1.8, CICS TS 3.1/3.2, WebSphere MQ V6, and DB2 V8 with New Function Mode. The data center, designed for high-availability and peak performance, is critical to client support and the bank’s vision of quality products and customer service. 

Most applications are server-based packages; integration of the mainframe is vital to SunTrust’s success, making CICS’ SOA critical, since front-end interfaces must mesh with core solutions. Integration software lets developers quickly respond to business requirements, bringing new products to market in a fraction of the time required before Web service implementation. In addition, recent projects created granular services that can be reused in innovative and unique ways. 

In 2006, SunTrust installed CICS Transaction Gateway for transactional access from a Java front-end and began a Proof-of- Concept (POC) project to create Web services for CICS applications. The strategic goal was to make current processes within CICS available to all applications, and an SOA approach was identified as the most efficient route for current and future projects. 

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