Growing is easier with hyper-convergence: Ifis Bank

Thanks to Nutanix and Infonet, Ifis Bank promptly responded to the COVID emergency.

Founded in 1983 and listed on the stock exchange since 2003, Banca Ifis is an active player in specialty finance. The Bank has grown in recent years both internally and through acquisitions: in 2016 it acquired the GE Capital Group (formerly Interbanca), in 2017 it took over the majority of Credifarma, in 2019 the FBS company and in 2020 70.77% of Farbanca. Today the Group has over 1,700 employees their IT architecture has grown to support new needs for performance, scalability, and flexibility.

“Nutanix’s hyper-converged architecture is truly plug-and-play: in an emergency situation we turned the key and left, without any difficulty; but the choice of technological acceleration took place well before the pandemic, to respond to the needs related to the scalability and elasticity allowed by the software”

Alessandro Guerra, CTO of Banca Ifis

The Challenge

The Bank has 26 commercial offices but the business model, especially that linked to Corporate & Commercial Banking, provides for high mobility of people who work on the network and who physically go to customers-companies. Therefore, the institute’s employees have always moved with dynamism and security, connected to central IT resources. In recent years, however, the strong growth of the organization has led management to rethink the infrastructure, to make performance more flexible and faster.

Our goal was to lighten the hardware equipment of employees“, says Alessandro Guerra, CTO of Banca Ifis, “keeping data centralized to avoid risks or security problems. Together with Infonet Solutions, we have therefore embarked on a process of adopting a scalable and robust infrastructure that offers high reliability but is also open to future developments“.

The pandemic arrives and the reaction is immediate.

When Italy went into lockdown in March 2020, Banca Ifis was already prepared for remote operations: then, about 150 users already work remotely, and a part of the nodes huddled by the Nutanix software (in use since 2016) could already be converted to support Virtual Desktop Infrastructure workloads. “In a few days, the need emerged, for safety and health reasons, to quickly increase the number of users enabled for smart working“, says Guerra, “so together with our partners, Infonet Solutions and Nutanix, we accelerated the journey already started a few years earlier“.

The Solution

Banca Ifis calls together the team, formed by the Infonet Solutions and Nutanix specialists, and in a few days, as many as 95% of employees become operational remotely; 50% thanks to the VPN and the rest through new VDIs. We are talking about 200 pre-pandemic remote users who have become 800 in just a few days. All operating remotely in a secured VDI environment based on the hyper-converged architecture and the Citrix software stack.

“Thanks to the flexibility and scalability of Nutanix technology, we were able to complete the release  of virtual machines directly from home going to the headquarters only for the assembly of the hardware equipment. We really appreciated  how Nutanix can make it easy to manage a complex technology”

Alessandro Wolf, ICT Infrastructure Manager of Banca Ifis

After the first emergency, the route continues.

The immediate response to the pandemic allowed Banca Ifis to continue operating remotely, accelerating a path already underway. “After reaching the goal of 800 remote workstations with VDI, says Guerra, “we aim to exceed  1,000 by the end of 2021.  Thanks to the two activated data centres, both with hyper-converged architectures, we were able to build a disaster recovery solution and distribute the workload intelligently and flexibly between the nodes”.

The result

Despite the diverse configurations offered to users, from desktops within the company to the often “light clients” provided for smart working, none of the hundreds of remote users has ever reported problems, managing to operate with a higher level of performance and with the intrinsic safety provided by the VDI technology.

“We decided to take advantage of Nutanix’s AHV hypervisor because it’s cheaper and easier to manage: it requires less maintenance than other systems and is more effective in balancing nodes. Speaking of the latter, I really appreciated the openness of Nutanix technology that allowed us to freely choose the machines to be used to build the infrastructure; in our case of Dell Technologies nodes.”

Alessandro Guerra, CTO of Banca Ifis

System Integrator

Called by Banca Ifis to collaborate in the management and improvement of IT performance related to dimensional growth, Infonet Solutions has been crucial in the phase of requirements analysis, architecture implementation, and workload balancing. “The experience and professionalism of Infonet  Solutions”, says Guerra, “have contributed to building an ideal path that has allowed us to support the increase in business volumes and face the emergency of the last year”.