Zilker helps an American financial services company embrace modernization with IBM Cloud Paks

By | 3 minute read | July 21, 2020

Sometimes, success comes from the most unexpected places. What started off as an integration project for global consulting firm, Zilker Technology, turned into a product and service offering that won Zilker the IBM Beacon Award for Outstanding Hybrid Cloud Solution.

Zilker Technology’s solution aimed to solve a modern banking problem. Like other industries that are facing disruption by rapid changes in technology, the financial sector is no exception. In particular, a divide has formed between traditional banks and new, often cloud-based financial technology (fintech) companies that are looking to modernize the industry. Each group faces its own challenges. Banks can’t move as quickly as the technology that is driving industry changes, while fintech companies lack a strong financial regulatory position or brand trust that banks offer. Ultimately, these two groups have more to gain by cooperating, rather than competing, with each other.

Riding a wave of disruption

Zilker’s client, a US-based financial services company, understood the value of joining forces. It wanted to work with fintech startups, opening up its systems to selected partners for mutual gain. With over a century of experience, they knew their traditional customers, but it needed help meeting these fintech startups where they live—in the cloud. In 2018, they turned to Zilker for help.

“Our client wanted to publish public APIs that fintech companies could then consume to offer services that they had well-established businesses around, like high-yield saving,” explains Matt Fox, vice president of business development at Zilker. “Many of those things sat on the mainframe and would consume a lot of mainframe power.”

Another problem was the rate of change in the industry. Fintech companies move at a lightning pace that mainframe development cycles were never designed to match.

Zilker was developing cloud-based APIs to help clients make their services consumable in a cloud environment. It saw an opportunity for a broader platform that would make that work repeatable and consistent. It could help not only financial services companies, but also those in other sectors, to expose their existing services in a cloud environment.

The birth of Zilker4Cloud

Zilker developed Zilker4Cloud, a software and services package based on IBM Cloud Pak technology that helps companies move their solutions to a cloud architecture. It encapsulates services in fast, portable Docker containers. Zilker4Cloud manages these with Kubernetes, a container orchestration system that enables administrators to control large numbers of containers in a cloud environment.

This all sits within Red Hat’s OpenShift Container Platform to quickly expand critical services to run on a wide selection of cloud environments or on servers on a customer’s premises. It is supplemented by IBM Cloud Paks, which bring specialized software to support different needs—integration, automation, security and data—on a consistent multicloud platform.

“IBM has been the most critical partner for Zilker since our founding,” explains Fox, adding that the Red Hat acquisition sharpened its focus on cloud solutions. “Zilker4Cloud combines our capabilities in IBM software with the new capabilities that Red Hat brings to solve the specific needs that we’re hearing from our customers.”

In 2019, Zilker’s customer went live with its solution running on a private cloud on the bank’s own systems. Banking is a traditionally risk-averse sector and many organizations are nervous about moving sensitive data into a public cloud environment, Fox explains.”This allows them to build things in an architecture that can be easily moved to the public cloud when they’re ready,” he says. “They have started doing that in small baby steps with applications that didn’t have public or confidential information.”Banks that are ready to move to the public cloud can deploy on the IBM cloud platform, thanks to OpenShift’s container-based interoperability.

As fintech partners recognized its value, Zilker’s client increased its API-driven revenue fourfold, in 12 months.Now, Zilker is working closely with its client to help them embrace the cloud, beginning with moving the API Connect solution to the IBM Cloud at the end of 2019. That helped them scale the service to meet increasing demand while keeping costs low, saving nearly USD 1 million per quarter.

They are now working on a pilot that will move from API Connect to IBM Cloud Paks for Integration containerized service, which helps modernize existing services for a cloud environment. This will run in a private cloud together with some applications and data that currently reside on the mainframe, which can help lower the bank’s API service costs even further.

With this game-changing success, Fox is looking forward to more wins now that OpenShift is part of the IBM family. “It has really given our customers a foundation that allows them to be cloud-native and modern in their approach,” he says.

Learn more about how other Beacon Award winners are changing the world through their solutions.