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MDM drives Scotiabank mainframe modernization effort

Mainframe-centric data models have given way to a master data management repository to support better compliance reporting at Scotiabank in Canada.

Few industries have relied on mainframe technology more than banking. But new approaches to data governance and data architecture are disrupting mainframe-centric data approaches.

While still counting on mainframes in important ways, banks such as Scotiabank of Canada have found themselves involved with multiyear application modernization projects that greatly affect the approach they take to data management. At Scotiabank, which has more than 19 million customers worldwide and $668 billion (Canadian) in assets, compliancy issues have steered IT leaders toward one master data management (MDM) repository.

Mainframe modernization is 'like changing the transmission of a car while you are still driving it.'

Dave Woolley,
director of application integration services, Scotiabank

This MDM system can be easily polled for reporting purposes, as opposed to the former mainframe-centric approach, in which data tended to reside with each individual application. The MDM system gives the appearance of being centralized, but in fact, it draws data representations from distributed banking systems.

''Banking was very mainframe-based. The model was that the data existed on the mainframe, and that is how it was integrated,'' said Dave Woolley, director of application integration services at Scotiabank. Mainframe developers have become application integrators at the same time that ''the data is being dispersed,'' he said. ''We are no longer builders of systems, we are integrators.''

Scotiabank used Information Builders Inc.'s iWay Service Manager enterprise service bus to create new interfaces to core banking systems, Woolley said. The iWay Service Manager orchestrates information from IMS, Oracle, and IBM Virtual Storage Access Management and DB2 databases, and places it all in a common relational format in DB2. The integration team also used the iWay DataMigrator for bulk automated extraction, transform and loading, or ETL, among various information systems and banking channels.

Complying with audit requirements

Bank administrators need data for planning and operations, but just as importantly, bank officials must be ready to comply with governments' various auditing requirements. These two drives have led Scotiabank and others to work hard to streamline data reporting tasks.

At Scotiabank, service-oriented architecture (SOA) and related MDM methods have combined to meet these needs. The effort centers on customer account information, according to Jim Young, a senior solution architect at Scotiabank.

''We moved [the data] from little, dispersed applications into one MDM that provides feeds for compliancy,'' Young said. ''Instead of having each system create the files for 'this compliancy' or 'another,' we go to one MDM, and iWay software allows us to reformat the data and refashion as needed.''

Simple reporting is the goal of most banking regulations, but different laws and rules require use of different data output formats. Having the data in one repository means that different applications don't have to support output in the different required formats, Young said.

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''We have lots and lots of applications creating a lot of data. SOA lets us leave the data in place, and make it look like we have a centralized data repository, even though the data is distributed in different systems,'' Woolley said. Among the unique challenges of application modernization projects is the need to keep systems running at the same time they are being changed. SOA systems integration happens while ''objects are in motion,'' he said.

Woolley has a colorful metaphor for describing the process. It is, he said, ''like changing a transmission of a car while you are still driving it.'' ''That is kind of how some of these system changes are,'' he explained. ''We are constantly renovating, constantly in a state of removing things, but you can't turn the lights off.''

As Scotiabank has become more active worldwide, it has pursued a series of mergers. This has required the bank to develop effective mechanisms to integrate systems rapidly, according to Martine Lamoureux, the bank's vice president for retail banking technology. But requirements for compliance have been a big driver too.

"Data governance has become something that had to come to the forefront of our capabilities,'' Lamoureux said.

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