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Bankwest Modernizes Its Mainframe Integration Environment

Kevin Kilroy stands outside Bankwest’s head office in Perth, Australia. Photo by Ian & Erick Regnard


Customer: Bankwest
Headquarters: Perth, Australia
Business: Retail and business banking services
Challenge: Reducing complexity between front- and back-end banking platforms
Solution: Taking advantage of Java on the mainframe to reduce reliance on traditional middleware
Hardware: An IBM z Systems zEnterprise BC12
Software: IBM WebSphere Application Server Liberty, Open Services Gateway initiative (OSGi) applications, Apache Maven, Git Stash, TeamCity and Proteus

Companies know they don’t operate in a vacuum. This is perhaps most evident in the banking industry, as the Perth, Australia-based Bankwest is very aware. Competition in this space is fierce, and any missteps can result in a hit-the-bricks customer mentality.

That’s why Bankwest has put several modern customer-facing technologies in place, including mobile and online, to make it easier for its customers to do business. This directly aligns with Bankwest’s purpose: helping people achieve what matters today, and for generations to come.

Legacy back-end systems can be an impediment to efficiently extending these offerings, however, creating a level of complexity that may slow time to market and hinder the implementation of future technologies.

According to Kevin Kilroy, senior IT specialist, Bankwest, this was the case at his organization. As he puts it, “If we can’t adapt at speed, we can very easily be disrupted by more agile startups.”

Realizing its middleware-based approach to data transfers was holding it back, Bankwest tasked its core engineering team with simplifying the stack to find ways to allow front-end apps to integrate directly with the company’s core mainframe-based banking system. This resulted in what the company calls Prime 2, a simple, lightweight suite of mainframe-based RESTful APIs that are directly accessible by modern web apps and mobile clients.

“This enables us to focus on delivering superior customer and user experiences. We’ve reduced software layers and duplication, our infrastructural footprint and time to market for solutions to be developed, while also modernizing our technology by using Java* on the mainframe,” Kilroy says.

Back-End Complexity

A division of the multinational Commonwealth Bank of Australia (CBA), Bankwest has a presence throughout Australia. It specializes in both retail and business banking, including checking and savings accounts, credit cards and loans.

Although it does share some of its basic computing resources, such as payroll, with CBA, it’s largely autonomous when it comes to developing its own IT solutions, including mobile and online services and its core banking system, which currently runs on an IBM z Systems* zEnterprise* BC12 (zBC12).

Developed 20 years ago using PL/I, this system “was the first real-time banking system in the world to use a relational database,” Kilroy says

A number of upstream and downstream channel systems—online banking, contact center, mobile, risk management, lending processing, brokers and payments—had been developed throughout 20 years, using a range of integration technologies and middleware techniques, which led to duplication of effort and heavy resource consumption. And with customers increasingly choosing to bank online and on mobile devices, and the resulting proliferation of channels and front-end technologies, Bankwest could foresee issues regarding back-end complexity and delays in development time.

“If someone wanted to use the mobile banking application to have a look at their account, the mobile app would connect to a middleware application and then that middleware would interface with the mainframe. So while that gives you certain benefits in that these systems would be talking to the mainframe, it also introduces another layer of complexity,” Kilroy says. “For example, when developing solutions, you might need to make changes in the core banking system, but then you might also need to make changes in the middle-tier application that’s interfacing with the mainframe. This is expensive in terms of both time and money.”

Jim Utsler, IBM Systems Magazine senior writer, has been covering the technology field for more than a decade. Jim can be reached at



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