vBranch - Application Virtualization for a Systemic Bank

A phased, large-scale project that showcased how a great digital transformation project had a positive impact in the working environment of the headquarters and over 600 branch offices of the banking institution.  



Τhe Customer

The Systemic Bank is one of the leading Groups of the financial sector in Greece with more than 300 branch offices and subsidiaries in 4 countries offering a wide range of high-quality financial products and services in both the domestic and international market; it has one of the highest capital adequacy ratios in Europe.

  • Branch offices were equipped with outdated branch servers and desktops, having limited hardware resources to support new OS and new/updated applications. 
  • Deployment of new OS and new/updated applications would impose the massive, high-cost replacement of desktops and branch servers’ hardware.
  • Desktops OS was Windows XP announced by Microsoft to have an end of life support in 2014.
  • OpEx cost was high for the administration and technical support of the branch office systems and applications, involving in many cases on site visit of a system engineer. 

vBranch was a phased, large-scale project that introduced and established Citrix Application Virtualization technologies in about 650 branch offices of the Bank all over Greece: 

  • With about 6.500 desktops/users in total,
  • Running two main core banking applications and other 80 applications: client-server, web-based and of-the-shelf. 

Additionally, vBranch project implemented centralization and virtualization of application servers/databases located in branch offices.

The implemented solution is as follows:

  • By default all the branches users use a pre-populated image of Windows  Thin PC edition, with all the minimum requirements needed for operating correctly in the branch environment.
  • The branch peripherals remain as is (scanners, printers, card readers).
  • The branch servers are relocated to a centralized server farm.
  • Users access a Hosted Shared Desktop through a XenApp (Worker), running with other Citrix components on a Citrix farm. 
  • Users save/access their files on a centralized file server.
  • The virtualization layer is provided by VMWare vSphere.
Project Details

vBranch project followed the following phased approach:

  • VBRANCH 2012 (Initial Phases) - Assessment of Client/Server Applications & Web Applications, running in Branch Offices of the Bank, identification and resolution of issues prohibiting their execution in a Citrix Application Virtualization environment, initial setup of Citrix Application Virtualization architecture and system procedures (configuration, deployment). Citrix Consulting methodology applied for the implementation of the project.
  • ESPRESSO-2 – The Systemic Bank acquired another Systemic Bank, so in the initial stage of the merger both Banks’ Applications Delivery was implemented via Citrix Technologies on both Bank’s branches using the available desktops and peripherals in branches (2012).
  • VBRANCH 2015 (Final Phases) - Continuation of VBRANCH 2012 project in the merged Systemic Bank. Improvements and Migration of Client/Server Applications & Web Applications, running in Branch Offices and Central Divisions, in a Citrix Published Shared Desktop environment. Final architecture and full scale implementation of central Citrix farm servicing 6.500 users, with automated XenApp image deployment procedures. Pilot operation of selected branches with the new architecture. Full rollout to all branches and Central Divisions (2014 – 2015).

Cost reduction as a result of:

  • Replacement of 650 branch servers with VMs
  • Extend life of existing branch desktops
  • Lock-down desktop OS (no upgrades)
  • Enable future use of thin PCs for lower cost

Side-benefits of new paradigm:

  • Efficient operation & admin.
  • Security, BCP.
  • Branch apps no longer restricted to desktop hardware and OS.