ING and Dutch Tax: Lessons learned with IBM PureApplication System at IBM Impact

As a technical pre-sales consultant in BeNeLux (Belgium, Netherlands, Luxembourg), I’m fairly frequently consulted about existing, preferably local, IBM PureApplication System customers. At Impact 2014, it was great to see two of our BeNeLux customers share their experiences with the Impact 2014 attendees: ING and Dutch Tax and Customs Administration. Actually, both IBM customers have quite a few things in common:

  • They are both state-owned, or at least partially state-owned, corporations
  • They both deal with Dutch money

Next to these similarities, there are a few striking differences, too. Let me try to illustrate those.

At Impact, Mark Willemse, ING IT teamleader OPS customer intelligence, with some local assistance from Joe Wigglesworth, IBM STSM, PureApplication System Development, shared the introduction of an IBM PureApplication System within the ING organization. Unfortunately, Mark could not make it physically, so he virtually took us through his materials. He covered topics like the business need and the momentum, the decisions behind deploying IBM PureApplication System, the various workshops and deliverables that came out of these activities, lessons learned from the real journey, and finally the installation and implementation of an IBM PureApplication System in the ING data center.

One of these deliverables describes the layout of the system:

ING

I wouldn’t quite have done it this way myself. I would have made sure the different compute nodes in the various cloudgroups are actually also spread left to right over the available compute nodes, and not as illustrated in the picture, all on the left or righthand side.

Speaking over the phone for at least an hour, Mark also covered the Cognos and DevOps workloads as they have been implemented as patterns and used as such by ING. On top of the already known advantages, the Cognos pattern added:

  • One way of working
  • Less training (because of a)
  • Easier maitenance for the IT staff (again, because of a)

For DevOps, the main advantage is all around the pattern, allowing cover for the entire application lifecycle:

  • Planning
  • Code writing
  • Building
  • Testing
  • Release management
  • Deploying and using it for operational purposes

Both patterns have turned ING into a leaner and more agile organization with simplified and improved responsiveness.

Dutch Tax and Customs Administration

In the “Bringing workloads into production on PureApplication System,”  a late afternoon tea Impact session by Dutch Tax and Customs Administration, Hendrik van Run, IBM Consulting IT Specialist for ISSW, and Robin Strijk, IT architect with DTCA, gave an overview from the first interaction with the PureSystems solution towards the end of 2012, up to now. From the initial PureSystems experience, an on-site try-and-buy program where more than 100 proof points  had to be assessed, to the move into production, including some custom workload.

In a few slides they described:

  • Context into which the IBM PureApplication System was introduced
  • Timing of setup
  • System and hardware setup
  • Carving out of the system in cloud groups, environment profiles and the network layout
  • Monitoring configuration put into place

robin1

Workload

Having set the scene, Robin provided some inside information on the different workloads they are running on these 4 medium size W1500 machines.

Appeon, a solution to replace numerous fat clients with a light-weight Internet Explorer based solution offering, benefits in the workstation maintenance zone as this would allow DTCA no longer to need to deploy fat clients to (older and) various OS versions on the DTCA workstations. Converting its applications to Appeon reduces the time to market from 9 months to 6 months, with a high level of reusability, including the first self-service test environment creation capabilities ever within DTCA. Truly a gamechanger for a government agency.

However, there’s a small downside to this too–the business discovered the ease and speed of this migration and guess what, they wanted more. Another hickup in the roadmap for this application was the lack of specific integrated monitoring for the Appeon layer. Now, knowing this customer well enough, I can assure you, they are very pragmatic for a large government agency. And in this project, being pragmatic and solving issues, or taking the hurdles one at a time, has proven to be the best approach.

The second type of workload introduced to IBM PureApplication System was Master Information Hub. This product allows DTCA to form a single view of the customer, the tax-abiding citizen, as a web service to the various departments within the government agencies. This project had to be realized in six months, or less. Again, the IT staff at DTCA outran the expectations–they established a development and test environment in just 2 months, moved into production five months later and went into production ten months after the start date of the project. Along the way, some other lessons were learned. Some of the IBM parts in the patterns (such as the OS, for instance) proved to be a security rule violation, revealed an issue with the storage and yet again, the specific monitoring was missing.

A third important pattern deployed was Business Process Management, BPM. Doing it the “IPAS-way” would have normally taken them twelve months, at least, Instead, they did it in two months. Needless to say, this third pattern raised, yet again, high business expectations on the speed of delivery. Once more, they discovered a lack of monitoring and (manual) backup options.

Do you need pattern customization?

Easy question, yes. Robin and Hendrik fairly thoroughly explained what kind of scripts they created to be able to integrate the various IBM PureApplication System workloads into the existing environment. A short side note: all of the workloads have been created as virtual system patterns, allowing them more flexibility. Let’s name of few scripts packages:

  • A logon disclaimer banner – a legal requirement
  • Setting the timezone
  • Firewall changes when needed – the iptables does not include all of the required ports; so to increase OS security, additional changes to the iptables configuration were required.
  • Adding more disk space
  • Adding a backup network interface – to separate the data traffic from the (often quite large) backup data as not to impact the workload when doing a backup.
  • NFS storage integration
  • ActiveDirectory coupling for both the IBM PureApplication and the VM’s running within the various cloud groups.

robin2

And there is more to come as some of the latest features such as IBM Endpoint Manager or the RedHat Update Service have not been introduced yet. The future is bright for IBM PureApplication System at DTCA.

Wrapping it up

Going for a yet an even stronger finish, DTCA shared some findings, lessons learned and its best practices discovered over the last couple of years. It included some sound advice on how to deal with patterns, versions and perform updates or upgrades. Believe me, these guys have truly found a pragmatic approach to working with IBM PureApplication System. And it is paying off! Want to know more? Have a look at the The European PureSystems User Group.

Now, I also promised to highlight differences between both customers.  I can ensure you: in the end, the more pragmatic approach quite often proves to be an easier key to success than the more traditional IT-project approach with workshops and formal deliverables. Of course, I understand some of those differences are due to the corporate culture, the type of activities each customer is involved in, or even legislation. True teaming with IBM has also been an important component in the IBM PureApplication System introduction roadmap for both customers.

I feel very proud still knowing Dutch Tax and Customs Administration is the single customer with the biggest implementation of W1500 IBM PureApplication Systems in one country.

If you have further questions, comments or would like me to elaborate more on this in another blog, feel free to reach out to me. And don’t forget to check out our latest IBM Impact blogs below:


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Tom Bal

About Tom Bal

Tom Bal is a Senior Certified IT Specialist in the Software Group. Tom joined IBM Belgium through the Lotus acquisition in early 2000. For several years, he was part of the services team, assisting clients and Business Partners with different Lotus products, including IBM Lotus Notes and Lotus Workplace. He then became the technical presales representative for IBM WebSphere portal. In 2012, after two years as a client IT architect for the telecommunications industry, Tom rejoined Software Group to cover PureApplication System for the region of Europe known as Benelux, which includes Belgium, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg. Tom holds a Master of Arts degree in Translation.
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