Bank Muscat, the largest bank in the Sultanate of Oman, manages 149 branches across the nation. Oman’s population of 3,4 million is concentrated in two main areas—the capital Muscat in the north and the city of Salalah in the south—a hot and sandy, 10-hour drive apart.
The distance and the remoteness of many branches made it hard for the bank to maintain the traditional, PC-based apps it used for treasury, risk-analysis, international payments, signature recognition and other banking functions.
“We needed a reliable structure because if something goes wrong, the support team must travel to the branch,” explains Vinod Vasudevan, the bank’s head of virtualisation.
Centralising IT simplifies management and ensures reliable performance, even on slow connections
Bank Muscat now uses Citrix XenApp to deliver banking applications to the Windows PCs used in bank branches.
“Initially, we chose Citrix to help us manage bandwidth-hungry applications over slow connections,” explains Vinod. However, as bandwidth has improved across Oman, the team has been able to virtualise all the applications used by bank branch staff. Today, the IT team publish 85 different applications to 2 500 users in the bank’s 149 branches. These range from business apps like PDF creation to critical financial apps such as Moody’s and Corona that are essential to managing transactions between international banks. If disruptions occur the IT team quickly resolve most issues from the data centre to keep branches up and running.
Three hundred employees at Bank Muscat’s international branches in Singapore, Dubai, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia also use the virtualised apps.
Bank Muscat also relies on Citrix NetScaler to provide secure access to the apps, plus XenMobile to provide access for mobile employees.
Meeting the industry’s toughest security requirements
Unsurprisingly, security is top of mind for Bank Muscat’s IT Team, but as Vinod explains, “Citrix enables us to securely publish applications to users and to keep control over the application and its delivery. There are no problems with users running outdated versions, and because the code doesn’t sit on users’ desktops, applications are free from manipulation.”
Financial software applications, such as the treasury application Murex or the financial messaging platform SWIFT, often have very specific installation requirements to protect their security. However, with Citrix features like Application Isolation, AppDNA and Load Evaluator, the IT Team could meet the most stringent requirements and deliver the applications that Bank Muscat’s staff required. “Citrix offers features that are not available in other solutions,” Vinod explains.
As security measures across the banking sector become even more advanced, Citrix continues to meet the bank’s needs. Currently Bank Muscat is piloting a biometric security device that combines a card reader with a digital thumbprint reader. XenApp supports the software and securely transmits transaction authorisation data to Bank Muscat’s headquarters and to the Royal Oman Police (as required by local banking regulations).
Supporting employee connection and engagement
The bank also uses Citrix technology to support, engage, and develop its widely dispersed staff.
“When we have an important event, like our chairman addressing the bank staff, we render the video through Citrix,” Vinod says. “This helps to reduce bandwidth usage so that the video stream doesn't choke and people can watch it remotely, even on slower connections.”
They also deliver their e-learning system through XenApp. The solution includes audio and video materials and is available to all staff so that even those in remote locations can keep their skills up to date without needing to travel across the country.
As Vinod summarises, “With Citrix, we can secure app delivery and dramatically reduce the chance of any compromise. The Citrix solution is more user-friendly than others. It gives us features that are not available elsewhere.”