UTI Bank Journey's Towards Open Source & Beyond

by Hinesh Jethwani    Apr 15, 2004

UTI Bank has come a long way since its first tryst with Open Source, and now portrays a ready to experiment mindset, according to president-IT, V.K. Ramani. The bank has exciting projects lined up in its itinerary, and plans to redesign its network, add more ATM’s, and go live with its mobile banking solution this year.

Speaking to CXOtoday, V.K. Ramani, president-IT, UTI Bank Ltd., said, “The traditional OS computing mindset was attracting a lot of attention, with enterprises embarking on cost reduction exercises. The platforms on which application softwares could be deployed, were largely dictated by vendors. We use Finacle as our core banking solution, which is Unix based. Today there are a variety of Unix flavors available, and migrating Finacle to a different flavor is easy. However, migrating from Unix to Linux is a completely different ballgame.”

Unlike Unix - where knowledge comes from a standard source -Linux support does not come easy. The administration procedures, backup routines, standards development, etc, make it complex to adopt for large enterprises, especially banks. Put simply, Ramani said, “I am a technology user and not a developer.

The risks involved with migration to Open Source are tremendous. Ramani explained, “Documentation of file structures must be done meticulously by internal system administrators, and if not properly tackled, the entire project can be a disaster. Fortunately for us, these risks are largely containable as we have fall back systems on Unix.”

UTI Bank - a mega IT user that spends an average of Rs 30 crore on technology annually - has already developed its Tele-banking system, Intranet, and MIS on Red Hat Linux. Admitting that Open Source at the bank remains a part of carefully planned experiments, Ramani said, “We are currently evaluating the possibility of migrating only non-critical applications to Linux.”

“We tried to break away from the ’Microsoft Syndrome’ by experimenting with Lotus SmartSuite. However, user familiarity with MS Office proved to be a major dampener to the project, and people who have been accustomed to Microsoft for years found it extremely difficult to change to the IBM suite,” lamented Ramani.

So is UTI Bank satisfied with Microsoft’s ever changing licensing structures? Ramani remarked, “We follow the policy of negotiating ’hard’ with Microsoft, and are content with its MOLP scheme.”

UTI’s mobile banking solution is an SMS based messaging system, which has already been tested internally among the banks own employees. Security in such a system is a major concern, due to the absence of password encryption at the user level. Although encryption can be added to securely capture passwords from mobile users, the process adds unnecessary overheads to the system. UTI’s middleware for the solution is already in place, which provides connection to various mobile operators.

The bank has a massive network of 1294 ATM’s, which will be further augmented with 300 more this year, according to Ramani. The bank uses a whopping 300 leased lines, 1100 VSAT’s, and 100 ISDN’s, all of which together provide a network uptime of 99%. Also on its way is an inbound call center project, for which the bank has appointed IBM as consultants for CRM, software, and hardware requirements.

“We are also planning to redesign our nationwide network by adding 4 more hubs, increasing our total from 7 to 11 this year. Delivery channel expansion, an increase in computing infrastructure and expanding the power of our network is also slated for this year, ” said Ramani.

“We are looking at the biggies - core software developers and hardware giants like IBM and Sun, etc. - to actively promote Open Source standards, which will give us greater confidence and a comfort level in moving ahead with more migration projects,” concluded Ramani.

Tags: UTI