Picture: 123RF/ROMAN BABAKIN
Picture: 123RF/ROMAN BABAKIN

Financial services firms are facing the challenges of rapid change as they transform into truly digital businesses.

Retail and investment banking, insurance companies and brokerages all serve customers who are demanding higher service levels through mobile and application interfaces. All face tough regulators who demand higher levels of data protection and availability.

There is also more competition from new entrants and challenger banks who are unburdened by legacy storage, processing and protection of vast pools of customer data that can make it difficult for those with a heritage of technology infrastructure to adapt and respond to. Add to this, business transformation challenges, as companies consolidate through M&A or undertake rapid geographic expansion and business growth.

What this means from a data and IT perspective is banks must cope with previously unseen scale and pace of data growth while consolidating and managing this data. They need to also offer improved performance (IOPS), low latency and greater availability in the new business services that are founded on data.

Speed of performance and speed of response to change are key and financial services players cannot drive in the slow lane when it comes to capturing, processing and storing the customer data that the business and its digital services depend upon. Moreover, this must be achieved while remaining focused on total cost of ownership — from capital invested to operational expenditure (opex) management.

All-flash financial services?

All-flash is the answer many IT chiefs in financial services are looking for. It offers stable, high-performance storage that can support rapid growth. It eradicates performance bottlenecks and/or hits peak performance throughput of hundreds of thousands of IOPS. It can deliver sub-millisecond latency while ensuring the availability of critical workloads — with minimal data loss. Further, flash can provide performance and reliability for fully redundant disaster recovery while also helping maintain acceptable service levels for your virtual desktop infrastructure.

Huawei has 17 years of research and leadership in all flash-arrays and is ranked number three in the global storage market, having increased revenue by 34.4% increase. That means Huawei can help CIOs roll out the kind of data infrastructure that lets their organisations adapt and thrive in a data-driven world.

Huawei’s OceanStor Dorado family of AI-powered all-flash arrays are particularly well designed for the financial sector, offering a set of technologies that are solid and deliver the highest IOPS speeds and lowest latency numbers on the market.

AFA trading platform

Huawei all-flash arrays have already been used to tackle the challenges in this sector. Chinese commodity and financial futures brokerage company, Nanhua Futures, experienced rapid growth in its institutional, corporate and personal customer base, but that came with a down side.

The company’s legacy storage infrastructure saw a tripling of transaction volumes in just three years while in the background, the IT department had to overcome performance bottlenecks, accelerate transaction times by a factor of three, and guarantee six nines (99.9999%) availability.

Nanhua deployed the OceanStor Dorado to eliminate the bottlenecks and increased processing from 60,000 to 150,000 transactions per second. Despite the surge in data volumes, the brokerage managed to lower its total cost of ownership (TCO) by more than half thanks to the OceanStor Dorado in-line deduplication and compression features, which guarantee at least a 5:1 data reduction ratio without affecting performance.

Banking expansion

After a period of rapid expansion through M&A, one of eastern Russia’s largest banks, Bank V, found its branch network had grown to more than 700 branches. Transaction volumes were expanding rapidly while the need to integrate different systems led to greater complexity, and affected performance.

Bank V merged with Uniastrum Bank in 2016, expanding the company’s user base. As a result, Bank V’s core banking system became sluggish and unable to cope with the increased demand. The bank overcame this by hosting its core system on four OceanStor Dorado arrays using an active-active configuration with a gateway-free design in two data centres that were 40km apart.

Huawei’s active-active data centre architecture achieved 400,000 IOPS at 1 millisecond of latency despite the data centres’ distance, and addressed Bank V’s concerns about performance and business continuity. The four-array gateway free deployment across two sites ensured that performance could be maintained by a single machine from either location as well as providing a five-year capacity road map.

Ultimately, Huawei’s OceanStor Dorado has helped Bank V achieve stable performance in key areas including the frequent creation of snapshots, switching services between active-active storage systems, reconstruction of data after disk failure, and during deduplication and compression.

Insurance for insurance

Backup and recovery are vital in the data-driven digital business. Swiss Insurance firm CSS Insurance, the second-biggest medical insurer in the country, was an early adopter of all-flash arrays while also being a forward thinker when it came to data consolidation. This consolidation of customer files, insurer data, premium payments and claims in the data centre at its headquarters improved Swiss’s operational efficiency, reduced risks of having data placed in lots of different sources, and increased its service levels.

All great, but the company ran into performance issues as those arrays hit their maximum performance of 150,000 IOPS. The firm had forecast that a minimum of 300,000 IOPS would be needed. It also saw that capacity constraints would cause serious customer experience issues. To tackle this, Swiss adopted the Huawei Dorado all-flash storage system, capable of 600,000 IOPS in performance and latency of a single millisecond. Dorado also achieved 40TB in capacity, ensuring Swiss years of headroom in terms of future growth.

Solid and integrated architecture

The reason organisations are embracing OceanStor Dorado is the multi-controller, fully interconnected and shared architecture design that runs from the front and back end.

The all-flash array family is divided into different product types according to the number of controllers, controller cache, number of front-end interfaces, and the maximum number of hot-swappable I/O modules. The arrays have five separate chips that drive performance and reliability, and that also include an AI processor for system intelligence and to help reduce manual management and planning. These chips are:

  • compute chip Kunpeng 920 processor that gives 2x higher performance;
  • AI chip that provides a 50% better read-hit ratio than standard;
  • network chip that provides 2x lower network latency;
  • SSD controller chip for 2x lower write latency; and
  • management chip that delivers a 30% higher fault location accuracy.

In September 2019 Huawei expanded the all-flash enterprise storage array family with the release of the next-generation OceanStor Dorado. This provides up to 20-million IOPS — twice as many as its nearest rival. It’s the first model to feature an AI processor in its chip set for performance tuning and system management.

The OceanStor Dorado also provides fault-tolerance features and a one-second switchover with uninterrupted links in the event of controller failure. To meet these requirements, the performance has been tuned to exceed the previous-generation product, reaching 20-million IOPS and 0.1 millisecond latency. This improved performance is attributable to the Kunpeng 920 chip’s multi-core processing capability — a leading CoreFarm intelligent scheduling algorithm — and the self-acceleration of the data storage that’s been driven by the Ascend A310 AI chip.

The OceanStor Dorado has also been designed to overcome one of the most frequently occurring errors in many storage systems — the failure in the storage controller. Many storage systems can manage two simultaneous failures in controllers, but that may not be adequate in a scenario where an entire controller enclosure experiences failure or shuts down suddenly, which often involves the simultaneous failure of multiple controllers.

When faults happen, it’s important that the customer’s core service system is not interrupted. FlashLink from Huawei, specifically designed for all-flash storage and with end-to-end NVMe technology, therefore offers a stable 0.1 milliseconds of latency and can scale up to 32 controllers in OceanStor Dorado.

Huawei’s storage systems also feature SmartMatrix architecture, designed for reliability and that can manage up to seven out of eight controller failures simultaneously, allowing service systems to operate uninterrupted and effectively eradicating the occurrence of full controller enclosure failures.

Flexible foundations

Data and storage are the foundations of the modern, digital bank. Getting those right in a world of increased expectations and constant change demands performance and reliability at a cost-effective price. With OceanStor Dorado, Huawei delivers the technology building blocks of a data foundation for the all-flash data centre that will adapt and grow as your organisation changes.

Don’t forget to register and attend the upcoming Ensure Your Service Continuity in Data Center with Huawei webinar on August 5 from 10am to 11am (UTC+2).

This article was paid for by Huawei Mobile Services.

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