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Agenor Technology deliver WebSphere Application Server (WAS) upgrade

 

 

Customer Context

Agenor Technology provided IT Consultancy Services to support a complex IT change programme for a Major UK Bank : a WebSphere Middleware Infrastructure Upgrade for 55 of the Bank’s key applications used for customer services and critical business process. WebSphere is an IBM middleware tool that allows applications to interface with the user through the internet. Many of the Bank’s key applications have their web components running under WebSphere Application Server (WAS). Extended support for aged versions of Websphere has now been withdrawn by IBM, creating a high risk of exposure to customer facing applications, such as security vulnerabilities which may cause significant Customer and Financial impact in the event of a cyber-attack. 176 Business applications were identified, across local and global platforms that were utilising old versions of the WebSphere Application Server.

 

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The Problem

The scope of the project was to migrate 55 out of support or extended support applications running on Websphere versions 4, 5.1 and 6.1 to the latest WebSphere versions v8.5.5 and WebSphere Liberty. The intended timescale for this work was a period of 37 months from Q2 2016 until the end of Q2 2019.

A summary of the key issues facing the business were as follows:

  • Significant operational risk as a result of running out-of-support WebSphere versions 4 and 5.1 and extended-support version 6.1.
  • Security vulnerabilities to live operational service running on the mainframe and distributed estate.
  • Financial impact as a result of potential for cyber-attack on customer facing applications.
  • Operational complexity due to the co-existence of multiple versions of old WebSphere platforms, resulting in a higher cost of Systems Administration.
  • Increasing Support Costs to the Business by delaying version migration. As WebSphere versions get older, complexity and cost of support increases. In the last 3 years the WAS migration costs have doubled. The risk of major unsupported incidents arising also increases year-on-year.
  • Threat to Brand/Reputation as a result of customer service impact causing loss of business and reputational damage.
  • Time constraints were imposed due to the impending withdrawal of support for Websphere v6.1 from September 2019.
  • Technical complexity was introduced as a result of the diverse legacy infrastructure for applications including: Commercial and Private Banking, Finance Technology, Payments Technology, Personal and Business Banking.

The Goal

Primary Outcomes defined at the start of the Programme were as follows:

  • Remediate significant operational risks: Exposure of running out-of-support Websphere server versions 4 and 5.1 and extended-support version 6.1.
  • Reduce Security vulnerabilities: Security vulnerabilities in WAS version 4, 5, 6.1 to be addressed, delivering improved resilience with decreased risk to live services on the mainframe and distributed estate.
  • Operational simplification: Websphere platform consolidation to deliver less complex Systems Administration.
  • Accelerated time to market: Increased automation and faster provisioning of services into WebSphere.
  • Remediating technology dependency: Applications on WAS 6.1 on zOS (Mainframe) were required to be migrated prior to the next zOS Levelset (z/OS is an operating system for mainframe) upgrade due to incompatibility.
  • Decommissioning: Enabling of the decommission of legacy P-Series servers running out of support WAS.

The Challenge

  • Risk of potential disruption to service: Risk of disruption to service while the migrations were in progress. This Risk was managed through the standard Change process.
  • No clear owner for some applications: Significant effort was consumed to identify business owners for applications where there was no clear business or technology strategy, risk sign-off and budget approval.
  • Critical Technology Inter-Dependency: Inter-dependency between WebSphere Migration programme and multiple other Infrastructure upgrade and security certification projects.
  • Key Resource Availability: Challenges around availability of Application Support Teams to engage fully due to other business priorities.
  • Adoption of new technology/process: WebSphere Project was used as a proving ground for new tooling and infrastructure such as UCD and RHEL/z and ECP, causing delays to the Programme where Standards and Production Processes were not already in place.
  • Maintaining live service: 24 applications needed to be maintained for live service by the WebSphere project during the migration project work as well as during go-live implementations.

The Result

The project was a significant success; all applications in scope were successfully migrated, all objectives were achieved to plan, and Business Sponsors signed off the project aligned to the stated success criteria.

  • Successful Implementation: of all in-scope 24 applications. Customer interaction with these services has now been safeguarded with current security standards being applied to transactional data.
  • Business Benefit: Client Leadership Team confidence is restored around security and reliability of the key services.
  • Major Risks Addressed: The Programme addressed CTO/CIO owned operational risk of running out-of-support WebSphere versions.
  • Ensuring Customer Service Security: Ensuring that the WebSphere Servers are updated with latest security patches is critical to provide the customers with secure web services.
  • Safeguarding Business Process and Operation: Critical business processes previously underpinned by aged WebSphere Middleware was migrated to a new, fully supported, efficient technology platform that reduced the risk of service impacting hardware failure for IT platforms.
  • Ensuring Vendor Support for the system: The project ensured the Websphere middleware was brought back into mainstream support with IBM. This reduced the risk of Bank customers being affected by disruption/unavailability of these applications.
  • Reducing Maintenance Cost and Decommissioning: Deployment of new infrastructure has removed substantial maintenance cost by decommissioning the legacy Infrastructure.
  • Zero Customer Impact due to high risk technology changes: The Programme safely implemented 310 Technology changes including 30 Category 1 High risk changes, 27 Category 2 Medium risk changes with zero direct impact on customers.

Conclusion

The Bank had major risks in legacy IT middleware infrastructure for critical customer and business applications. Agenor provided a zero-impact upgrade for a complex and critical technology project within a strict time and budget target with its experienced project and technical team. The success of this project has ensured that critical customer and business services have been safeguarded from cyber-attack, service loss, convoluted complex recovery and consequential reputation loss and achieved significant savings in maintenance costs. Therefore, the business leadership and technology leadership team could obtain confidence in the business continuity of key banking services.

Agenor successfully delivered this project in line with our proven track record of delivering numerous complex and large technology projects for major financial services organisations. The contributing factors to the successful delivery of this project was the strong and experienced Agenor Project Team with highly experienced project and program management resource, technical subject matter experts (SMEs), test resources and a bespoke client service delivery approach designed to fully meet the client requirements.

 

Key Metrics

Applications Successfully Implemented
Major Risks Identified by the Bank remediated
Customer Impacting Incidents
critical changes implemented without incident