Scotiabank upgrades to help its branches

J.P. Savage, head of Scotia intek for Scotiabank, wants to make one point clear: there was nothing wrong with the Canadian bank’s previous network that prompted a switch to a multiprotocol label switching (MPLS) network.

“When we did the previous network (a business-grade DSL network), it was the right solution for us. For the last four or five years, we’ve been the only bank with that kind of speed into our branches,” Savage said. He did concede that one problem with its DSL network was that it only reached 80 per cent of its 1,050 branches across the country and did not have the ability to differentiate traffic such as voice and data.

“It also prevented us from getting to the last 20 per cent, which were in some fairly remote areas of Canada,” he said. Those branches were connected via Frame Relay or satellite.

It was the desire to reach all of Scotiabank’s branches and improve its quality of service and productivity that Savage made the move to an MPLS network. One of the solutions that Savage has deployed on the new network to help improve the quality of service and productivity is a Citrix-based Thin Client. He said this would allow for better management as all traditional office applications and e-mail would now reside at one of two data centres instead of 20,000 individual desktops strewn across the bank’s branches.

He said this would inject 30 minutes to an hour of productivity into the day of a sales representative. In the future, Savage said he hopes to add an “advisor online” where expertise for investment personnel will be brought to branches remotely. To assist in the implementation, the bank has teamed up with MTS Allstream Inc., which also provided the bank’s previous network.

“[Allstream] is migrating [Scotiabank’s] entire infrastructure to an IP solution-based network running across an MPLS backbone,” said Tal Bevan, executive vice-president of sales for Allstream, who added that this is one of the largest implementations in Canada. Savage added that Scotiabank is one of the first to migrate to such a solution.

The advantage of MPLS is that it allows for packet prioritization that differentiates multiple traffic and allows the most important data, such as voice, to be sent first.

Rollout to MPLS has already been completed at Scotiabank’s corporate offices in Toronto; about 150 branches also have it.

“Our first initiative is to get the 20 per cent of my branches that were the satellite branches and the traditional Frame Relay branches into this environment first, where at the same time we are deploying them the effectiveness of the Citrix desktop,” Savage said.

He expects this to be completed around April. The rest of the branches are expected to be connected to the new network by the end of this year.

Savage said that so far the rollout has been going well. “The biggest challenge we have is weather. That is a specific problem more with [the branches] in the remote parts of Canada.”

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