CASE STUDY

With Kubernetes, China Minsheng Bank Transformed Its Legacy Applications—and Moved into AI, Blockchain, and Big Data

Challenge

China Minsheng Bank’s main applications were written in C and Java, using traditional architecture. “Our biggest challenge is how to make our traditional legacy applications adaptable to the cloud native environment,” says Zhang Li, who is leader of technology for CMBC’s container cloud. “We want to do distributed applications because in the past we used VMs, and that was quite expensive.”

Solution

CMBC brought in Alibaba Cloud to help with its cloud native transformation. The company is now in the process of breaking down and migrating its legacy applications to a Kubernetes platform, as well as developing new microservices on it.

Impact

With the Kubernetes platform, delivery efficiency has increased 3-4x, and resource utilization has doubled. “We are now developing AI-based applications, a blockchain application, and some big data analysis applications on the cloud native platform,” says Zhang.

INDUSTRY

Financial Services

LOCATION

China

CLOUD TYPE

Hybrid

CHALLENGES

Availability, Efficiency, Velocity

PRODUCT TYPE

Hosted

CNCF Projects Used

Kubernetes

RESOURCE UTILIZATION
More than doubled

DEVELOPMENT, OPERATION, AND MAINTENANCE EFFICIENCY
Increased 3x

DEPLOYMENT TIME
Reduced from hours to minutes

Established in 1996, China Minsheng Bank was the country’s first national commercial bank owned primarily by non-government enterprises.

Zhang Li says it’s part of CMBC’s culture to be pioneers. “My bank is always leading in technology in the financial area,” says Zhang, who is  leader of technology for CMBC’s container cloud. Two years ago, that meant “we must also be a leading group in cloud native.”

But all of CMBC’s legacy applications—for example, the core banking system, payment systems, and channel systems—were written in C and Java, using traditional architecture. “We wanted to do distributed applications because in the past we used VMs in our own data center, and that was quite expensive and with low resource utilization rate,” says Zhang. “Our biggest challenge is how to make our traditional legacy applications adaptable to the cloud native environment.”

Zhang believed that Kubernetes was the key to building a cloud native environment, and he worked with Alibaba Cloud. “Alibaba Cloud is a major contributor to Kubernetes and other CNCF projects in China, so we have our trust in that,” says Zhang. Since the beginning of 2019, “they’ve helped us to start our transformation, and we also give them feedback so we can help them improve their products and services provided to other industries.”

So far, around 20 applications are running in production on the Kubernetes platform, and 30 new applications are in active development to adopt the Kubernetes platform. “Alibaba Cloud Container Service helps Minsheng Bank embrace the rapid growth of innovative business,” says Eric Li, Senior Architect of Alibaba Cloud Container Service for Kubernetes. Today, applications involving AI, blockchain, and big data analysis are all being built on the platform. 

As a result, development, operation, and maintenance efficiency has increased by 3x, and resource utilization of CPU and memory has more than doubled. Deployment time has been reduced from hours to minutes.

“It took two years of a lot of practice and learning from failure and success to become cloud native. You need to open your mind, open your eyes, and look at what’s happening in the world. You need to chase the train of technology, and then get the other teams to trust you.”

— Zhang Li, Leader of Technology for Container Cloud at China Minsheng Bank

Plus, downtime of applications has been reduced by 50%. “One of our payment applications has almost 30 modules,” says Zhang. “In the past, when you needed to make a little change on one module, you had to upload the whole application. Now that we have split those modules into 30 microservices running in Kubernetes, you can just update any individual modules you want.”

One of the big challenges Zhang’s team faced was turning a legacy C language based application into a cloud native application. It was “a really legacy application, built in C and using the interprocess communication architecture,” he says. “It was very difficult for this application to be transformed to a microservice. We had to change the whole architecture, and change the IPC to remote procedure call.”

“For all of our technical departments and the business departments, we think this transformation to a cloud native environment is very critical.”

— Zhang Li, Leader of Technology for Container Cloud at China Minsheng Bank

By showing these real use cases and these real results, Zhang’s 8-person platform team has started winning over the 100 engineers at the bank. “You can choose a real, typical case and have them develop or transform it into a cloud native application,” he says. “The developers in my organization are very interested in transforming their applications to cloud native. The challenge is that we don’t have enough people to work on this, and everybody has a lot of work to do to maintain legacy applications. So they make it their part time job to do this transformation.”

Despite that constraint, Zhang says, “for all of our technical departments and the business departments, we think this transformation to a cloud native environment is very critical.”

And the transformation is by no means done. They’ve started using Envoy and are looking at Istio for service mesh. They plan to add federation, and more clouds. “It took two years of a lot of practice and learning from failure and success to become cloud native,” says Zhang. “You need to open your mind, open your eyes, and look at what’s happening in the world. You need to chase the train of technology, and then get the other teams to trust you.”