Shawbrook Bank, a UK-based bank specializing in SMEs and personal banking, has experienced rapid growth since it was established in 2011. It was already outgrowing its legacy infrastructure before starting to work with F5 Networks in 2017. As the bank continued to scale, the pressure mounted to digitally transform its operations, enhance the availability and resilience of its services and applications, as well as mitigate against cyber threats – all without compromising its excellent customer service reputation.
As a challenger bank with a strong desire to move at pace, Shawbrook Bank required robust and flexible applications and systems to meet the needs of its expanding customer base, including increasingly personalized services and a more user-friendly digital interface.
By 2016, Shawbrook’s growth called for some important improvements. As a relatively young company, the bank had largely built its services around unautomated, manual processes. As a result, a plan was put in place to simplify operations, harness the benefits of cloud computing, enhance its security posture and take its customer service capabilities to the next level.
The transformation would entail 360-degree protection, encompassing email infrastructure, customer-facing applications and distributed denial-of-service attack (DDoS) mitigation. In addition, Shawbrook needed solutions that would enhance the performance of its applications as its business continued to expand, ensuring that customers’ services are always available and reliable.
Ultimately, Shawbrook was looking to optimize its digital transformation efforts, including modernizing the ways in which customers interacted with the bank. It also wanted to be able to integrate new services and applications with some of its existing security platforms, including Secureworks.
Shawbrook Bank started working with F5 in 2017. F5 partner DXC Technology took care of the physical implementation.
“The decision to work with F5 was clear cut,” explained Alan Harper, Head of Infrastructure, Shawbrook Bank. “They were the only solution provider with extensive application expertise, as well as the full range of security and cloud solutions that we needed to move the needle for our digital transformation and customer service requirements.”
F5, working closely with the systems architecture team at Shawbrook Bank, presented a comprehensive set of solutions to be deployed in three phases, starting in mid-2017.
Shawbrook Bank deployed multiple F5® BIG-IP® Application Delivery Controllers with Virtual Clustered Multiprocessing (VCMP) to provide a virtual separation of services while maintaining the ability to access hardware acceleration for high SSL throughput. Site availability and cloud migration were handled by the F5® BIG-IP® DNS solution (formerly BIG-IP® Global Traffic Manager™), which can distribute DNS and user application requests based on business policies, data center and cloud service conditions, user location, and application performance. Shawbrook’s is now able to ensure all customers are connected for specific tasks, all while staying safe from DNS attacks.
Importantly, Shawbrook opted for a hybrid deployment of F5’s Web Application Firewall (WAF) for on-premises and managed services. With a centralized deployment of WAF policies utilizing Silverline®, F5’s cloud-based, managed services platform, Shawbrook can reduce IT overhead, minimize configuration errors, and ensure the overall effectiveness of each policy to protect web applications – no matter where they reside in the network. In particular, the approach has enabled Shawbrook to reduce the cost of security compliance by maintaining consistent security policies across both their data center and public cloud environments. Silverline Web Application Firewall is built on BIG-IP ASM, which is recognized as the most scalable WAF on the market.
In line with regulatory recommendations, Shawbrook also incorporated Silverline DDoS Protection. The solution leverages F5’s Border Gateway Protocol (BGP) to route all traffic to a scrubbing and protection center that utilizes a GRE tunnel to send clean traffic back to the network. Routed mode configuration does not require any application specific configuration and provides an easy option to turn on or off the Silverline DDoS Protection. Another layer of security was provided by F5’s Web Fraud Protection solution, which was introduced to tackle malware, phishing, as well as a wide range of evolving threats to reduce loss and exposure.
In addition, F5’s Advanced Firewall (AFM) was chosen to provide security between subnets and VNETs within the Azure public cloud environment. This leverages F5s native integration with the Azure API to automate necessary changes to the routing table and support a highly available design.
“F5 allows us to migrate from on-prem to Azure much easier,” said Harper. “As the platform runs in both locations, we can simply report the target and start using cloud services. It means our policies can remain consistent and be agnostic to IaaS or PaaS. It also gives us the ability to be cloud agnostic and ensure we remain consistent with our security posture and policies by being able to run the same F5 technology.”
The F5 solutions implemented by Shawbrook to date have significantly enhanced security and resilience, while mitigating against key cybersecurity threats. Applications are always available to its customers on any device and with no compromise on security. Meanwhile, increased automation has helped Shawbrook improve backend operation efficiency. Notably, Shawbrook is also able to accelerate private clouds and secure critical data at scale while lowering TCO and futureproofing its application infrastructure.
“With the rapid growth we are experiencing, it was vital to work with a partner that had the precise tools we require and the ability to implement them without any disruptions to our ongoing operations. F5 achieved all of that and their solutions helped us to attain stellar growth in 2018,” said Harper.
“Thanks to F5, we have been able to digitally transform and offer our customers the type of flexible and secure applications that they expect. We can now continue to grow with confidence, knowing that we have a partner that can not only support us today but also well into the future.”