The Buzz: Install of the Month:
Banco Azteca, Mexico City
Mar 1, 2006 12:00 PM, By Trevor Boyer
Banco Azteca, Latin America's largest specialty retailer and financial services company, has grown fast. Based in Mexico City, it is the first Mexican-owned consumer credit institution that targets working-class Mexicans.
Before it built a consolidated operations center in 2002, the bank relied on discrete operations by which to monitor its communications, IT equipment, and processes from its 800 branches in Mexico, Panama, Guatemala, Peru, Honduras, and El Salvador.
The company needed a unified system that would allow it to provide realtime access to changing branch information to 800 separate branch offices — with 24/7 operation, and without compromising security.
“From the beginning, Banco Azteca has been an early investor in state-of-the-art technology and innovative processes to support its financial operations,” says Rogelio Garcia Cabrera, information security director, Banco Azteca. “It has been building a technological platform of communications and systems that would be able to support its diverse and rapidly growing operations.”
Comunicaciones e Informática, S.A. de C.V. (CISA), one of Latin America's oldest systems integrators, came up with a solution for the operations center. CISA designed a control room with a single display wall that presents all relevant information sources to 54 display cubes in realtime. It's all managed from a single controller, a Jupiter Systems Fusion 980 display wall processor.
Up to this point, operations had been located in different buildings where individuals were responsible for monitoring a specific set of services or functions. Some of these operating units were located in very small workspaces with limited equipment, such as two Panasonic front projectors and a handful of PCs.
Banco Azteca wanted to consolidate these operations in order to be able to understand what was happening at each branch office, while being able to monitor and control all activities from a single centralized operations center.
The bank also wanted to track the flow of commercial and banking transactions at each branch, and identify branch problems and respond very quickly when they occurred. In addition, the bank wanted to maximize its computer resources in order to see the whole operating picture at one time and in one place. With the new system and equipment, Banco Azteca would be able to take some servers off production and do some preventive maintenance. The bank would be able to check how much bandwidth was being consumed by certain applications and prioritize according to that.
Before Banco Azteca could implement a new consolidated operations center, the bank had to address several concerns. The first was budget; the new center was estimated to cost $3 million. The second was the ability to adapt a new operations center to the space available: a floorplan of 99'×33', with an approximate height of 10ft. This height was a significant limitation.
Then next step was identifying a systems integration company with sufficient technical support to help an organization as large and complex as Banco Azteca with the planning, implementation, and ongoing execution of the center. On top of that, Banco Azteca wanted the center built and running within four months. With its vast experience, CISA fulfilled all the bank's criteria.
Banco Azteca always knew it had to choose 50in. display cubes because space was so limited. The control room is located on the sixth floor of a building, so all equipment had to fit in a predefined room. Because of the limited space, there was not enough room for a back projection room. So they decided to buy cubes that could be serviced from the front.
Controlling the display cubes, Jupiter Fusion 980 is coupled with Intel Xeon processors and ATI's Radeon graphics chip and interconnected with Switched Fabric technology that affords great bandwidth for graphics. (Overall aggregate data bandwidth can reach a blistering 64Gbps.) The Fusion 980 can manage inputs to as many as 80 cubes at 1600×1200 resolution and display up to 192 video sources, 48 RGB computer sources, and nearly unlimited network and local applications.
The Fusion 980 allows Banco Azteca to pull in all of the visual data sources found in a bank trading floor — from local or remote networks, applications, and legacy systems to news feeds — and display the information in movable, scalable windows on the display wall in realtime. The Fusion 980's flexible configuration allowed CISA to select the configuration best suited to the bank. On the advice of CISA, Banco Azteca settled upon a 27×2 matrix divided into three sections of 9×2 wall.
Wall layouts can be called up via Crestron ST-1700C and TPS-4500 touchpanels. Control over lighting and ambient audio settings is also centralized. Lighting and audio for the room is automated using Crestron equipment (two CLI-120N-4A dimmers), and a Nexia PM multi-room digital sound processor switches audio. For its audio, the control center in Mexico City uses three Shure wireless microphones, three SCM410 automatic mixers from Shure, and three Denon DRA-395P amplifiers.
The display wall was designed to display 54 RGB inputs simultaneously. Located in a room behind the cubes and connected by nearly a mile of Altinex cables, the processor breaks up the video wall into different sections for network processes, applications, TV news broadcasts, and inputs from each branch office.
“In addition to choosing a display wall processor that was well adapted to our demands, operations, and space,” says Garcia, “we wanted a manufacturer that would commit to directly support us. It was also very important that the manufacturer and integrator had a depth of experience in Mexico and Latin America in the construction and implementation of similarly large, complex projects. In all these regards Jupiter Systems has served us well.”
The abbreviated time window for the operations center's construction meant that the installation and configuration of the cubes and processor had to be accomplished in less than two weeks. Banco Azteca required minimal downtime, and this pushed CISA's staff to have everything ready in nine days. Another significant challenge was coordinating with Banco Azteca's IT staff to design the layout that would distribute each window with the source and application so that all 58 operators could have the required information by just pressing a hotkey on a touchpanel.
Because of the high priority the bank places on continuous operation, the center can never be closed, and the bank cannot afford a minute of downtime. So CISA's team worked while operations were in process to complete the installation as quickly as possible. The project was successfully finished in nine days.
Now completed, Banco Azteca has been very pleased with the installation of their new system, says Garcia. “We have managed to operate in May, one of our busiest months, with very few problems.
“We have improved our response time from hours to minutes,” Garcia continues. “We are prepared to prevent inconveniences/problems and act before bank offices are affected. We have actually obtained better business agreements from it.”
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