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HongkongBank continues ambitious global network expansion.

Former Citicorp Chairman Walter Wriston's prediction that banking would become as concerned with information about money as it is with money itself is evidenced by the rising demand among banks for globalized data communications.

The worldwide data communications network built by the Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corp., known popularly as the HongkongBank, is an interesting example of how one farsighted international bank has acted upon Wriston's comments.

Today, with more than 250 branches in Hong Kong alone, the HongkongBank represents a major portion of all the banking done in Hong Kong while also conducting business in over 50 foreign countries.

First Hong Kong...

Prior to the installation of its existing network, the HongkongBank had a standard multidrop bisynchronous network for its Hong Kong teleterminals and ATMs. "Telephone lines effectively ran directly into our mainframe computer center," says Time Cureton, manager of group telecommunications at the Bank's Group Head Office. The multidrop configuration resulted in a single point of failure.

The bank also had the costs of maintaining numerous front-end processors handling hundreds of leased lines.

By 1983, the Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corp. was ready for a network that would reduce its circuit costs, provide for contingency rerouting, and allow for expansion at less cost. The bank contracted BT North America Inc. (then Tymnet) of San Jose, Calif., an international value-added network (IVAN) supplier to provide technology for a private network.

The HongkongBank installed a cluster of Tymnet Engines (packet switches) in various areas of Hong Kong, dividing the city into five geographic regions.

Traffic from brach terminals and ATMs in each region, at some 60 to 80 transactions per second, was routed to the appropriate node cluster and the data was then transmitted via high-speed X.25 links from the cluster to the bank's computer center and back-up center.

This new configuration eliminated the single point of failure. Secondy, the clustered switches were backed up by an automatic port switching system built into each Tymnet Engine. If an engine should fail, all terminal and host systems connected to the failing engine would automatically be switched over to another engine, thus eliminating down time.

Third, use of high-speed X.25 links reduced the hundreds of lines running into multiple front-end processors down to 14 lines running into a single 3705 FEP.

Finally, the network also gave the bank the protocol capabilities it needed. The bank utilizes three basic transmission methods for its systems: asynchronous, bit-synchronous (SDLC or X.25), and IBM byte-synchronous (BSC).

"One of the reasons we purchased a network from BT North America was due to its extensive protocol support and intercommunication between dissimilar devices," says Cureton.

Today, the network provides support for transactions on 11 million domestic accounts and access in Hong Kong for some 8000 concurrent sessions from 250 branches and 600 ATMS.

...then the world!

Up until 1980, the bank's only international communications infrastructure consisted of a low-speed, private telegraph message switching network operating at 10 characters per second. This system offered little opportunity to support the sophisticated financial products which the bank planned to introduce.

Faced with increasing competition, the Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corp. realized it needed a faster, more flexible network to support its international operations.

Installation of Hongkong Bank's Global Data Network project began in 1985. The first international expansion of the network linked locations in 15 countries.

Phase II was completed in 1987, adding an additional 10 countries including nodes in New Zealand and Oman. The Hongkong Bank also created national extensions, or regional subnetworks, in Malaysia and Saudi Arabia in order to provide extensive coverage.

By 1989, Phase III was compledted with the addition of 83 machines in Canada.

HongkongBank today

The bank is now well positioned to compete globally due to its private packet switching network that links all computer systems from major offices and subsidiaries together and to its group headquarters in Hong Kong.

"We have perhaps been rather modest about our achievements," notes Cureton. "We have created a group communications facility equal in scope to some of the world's largest VANs."

To date, the HongkongBank Global Data Network has grown to interconnect 35 countries and 98 locations across North and Central America, Europe, Asia, and the Middle East. Overall, the bank's private network now transports 11 billion characters per month over 711,000 sessions.
COPYRIGHT 1991 Nelson Publishing
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Copyright 1991 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corp.
Publication:Communications News
Date:Aug 1, 1991
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