“ CGI is a good fit for the Interac Association as a business partner because of their knowledge of the financial services sector as well as their experience with the Interac Association’s Inter Member Network operations.”

Judith Wolfson, President and CEO, Interac Association

The Interac Association, founded in 1984, is a Canadian organization linking companies with proprietary networks to communicate with each other to exchange electronic financial transactions. More than 53% of the Canadian population uses the Interac Association’s cash dispensing or direct payment services. CGI is the technology partner in the delivery of a new mission critical network to support the Association’s entire Inter Member Network across Canada, routing over three billion automated banking machine and direct-payment transactions annually through over 500,000 devices operated by Interac Association Members. The performance of this network and its management and support by CGI can directly impact the commerce of Canada.

The Challenge
 Interac Association required the existing networks that supported the Association’s direct payment and cash dispensing services to be consolidated and re-implemented into a single, highly flexible and fully redundant network based on TCP/IP technology and standard products.

The stakes were high for the project to succeed. As Canadian consumers identify electronic transactions with the name Interac, the integrity, security and high expectation of availability are vital to the continued demand for these services and the image of the Interac Association in Canada.

The project was very complex and required the consensus of Association Members, particularly the 16 Members whose proprietary networks were being consolidated. Because of the complexity and size of the proprietary networks of some of these institutions, the task of integrating and consolidating them under a common network infrastructure was as challenging as docking several large ships in a small port.

The Strategy
Leveraging considerable networking expertise, CGI played the lead role in recommending and developing the new network architecture. CGI partnered with Bell to design, build, integrate, convert and manage the Inter Member Network (IMN) and required services. Bell designed a fully redundant, proactively managed and secure network using their core business facilities, CISCO routers and state of the art management systems. CGI’s role has been to design, build and implement a new network control centre and provide the underlying TCP/IP network facilities, as well as manage the transition of Association Members from the existing network to the new network. Upon completion of this transition project, CGI is providing management and operation services for the network and network control centre.

To ensure the high availability and integrity required by the Members and end users, the network has been engineered with supporting disaster backup of the Members’ systems and the IMN Control Centre itself. An Inter Member Network Control Centre (IMNCC) was established at CGI in Mississauga, complemented with a disaster recovery backup at CGI in Regina. An automated problem-management and change-management system lends reliability and flexibility to the system.

Cisco IOS routers incorporating security safeguards are used within the network. Both CGI and Bell have been successfully serving the Association and its Members since the Association’s inception, so they were able to leverage their existing relationships and insight with the various Members to help facilitate a smooth transition. Instead of each Association Member having a dedicated point-to-point network, each Member has a pair of dual redundant links into the frame relay cloud, so it is easy to reconfigure the network and add new Members or take others off the network. CGI designed a file transfer service that fit the Interac Association’s requirements like a glove to collect information from all Members regularly through an automated facility.

The Technology

  • Network: a f ully redundant frame relay network TCP/IP system replaced the X.25 network.
  • Control Centre: NT-based servers monitor and control the Inter Member Network; a data warehouse accumulates statistical/marketing data for all Members.
  • Software and tools: Oracle-based reporting system uses Cognos tools within the data warehouse. The problem and change management systems are based on Remedy Action Request.

The Results
Since being formed in 1984 by five financial institutions, Interac Association has grown and evolved into an organization of more than 90 members. Originally built by the founding members to link their Automated Banking Machine networks to give customers broader access to their cash, Association members now span a wide variety of businesses and services. Yet they all connect to the Interac Inter-Member Network to provide common shared services. Members work hand-in-hand and cooperate with one another to provide Canadians with the high level of service they have come to expect from the Interac shared services.

While the RFP was originally for five years, the final contract between CGI and the Interac Association in January 2001 was a ten-year term, reflecting the Association’s satisfaction and confidence in CGI. The new network and infrastructure was scheduled to be implemented and fully operational by November 2001.

“CGI is a good fit for the Interac Association as a business partner because of their knowledge of the financial services sector as well as their experience with the Interac Association’s Inter Member Network operations,” said Judith Wolfson, President and CEO, Interac Association.

More specifically, the improvements made to network and supporting services have delivered an environment that will provide: high tolerance of failures, improved availability through proactive monitoring, reduced change complexity, more accessible management information, faster and more reliable data transport, Member use of alternate site transparent to rest of network, and a base for future enhancements such as fraud detection – without requiring changes to Members’ applications systems.

“By having a central network management facility, we will enhance our service to our Members, decrease the complexities related to multiple networks and collectively become more cost-efficient,” concludes Wolfson.

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