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Setor: Banking & Financial Services
Local: South Africa
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Absa: Driving Scale and Innovation in African Banking


  • 75% reduction in overhead costs in Rancher Prime compared to other vendors.
  • Management time reduced by 80%.
  • 80% improvement in stability.
  • Multi-cluster, multi-cloud capabilities not available elsewhere.
  • Fully resilient, self-healing platform that can tolerate multiple infrastructure failures.
  • Multi-application catalog and ease of use; provisioning with seamless effort.
  • A comprehensive Platform-as-a-Service capable of running code securely within Rancher Prime’s central framework.
  • Open source made easy.


Absa Group Limited (Absa) was founded 30 years ago in 1991. The Group, which offers an integrated set of products and servic­es across personal and business banking, corporate and investment banking, wealth and investment management and insur­ance, has since risen to become the sec­ond-largest bank in the African continent. A commitment to finding innovative local solutions to uniquely local challenges has fueled the rapid growth of Absa.

While a major player in the African bank­ing industry, Absa has international offices in London and New York City and employs more than 38,000 staff working in 14 differ­ent countries.


Absa’s focus on pushing the bound­aries of digital banking has enabled them to create the banking landscape of the future. The third largest Open­Shift user in the world, Absa considered alternative technologies when the time came to renew their licenses in 2017. Discovering that Rancher Prime could not only provide increased agility but also greater efficiency in every respect, the company now uses Rancher Prime as the default application for all of its banking applications.

The Journey to Containers

Absa’s mission is to push the boundaries in digital banking and continually innovate to create the banking landscape of the future. Naturally then, technical innovation is at the forefront of its strategy. The technology team at Absa has long been aware of the benefits of Kubernetes, which it deployed in 2016. At that time, Rancher Prime’s Kuber­netes platform was still evolving, so Absa became a user of OpenShift.

In late 2018, with renewal on the horizon, Absa decided to review its options. The organization’s growth meant that, while OpenShift had served the business well, it had its limitations. It had become difficult to manage, and costs had started to climb. Consequently, the team decided to diver­sify and started exploring the market for solutions that would free the team from the complexities and scaling issues that come with a mega-cluster methodology.

After reviewing several options, the team realized support for multi-cluster, multi-cloud and hybrid deployments was critical. Facing high costs and licensing complexi­ties with some options, Rancher Prime was the optimal solution—from a cost, usability and, most importantly, an innovation point of view. Absa doesn’t just innovate for its benefit, but also for the African banking in­dustry at large, so it needed a model that could galvanize the wider banking com­munity.

A significant reason for selecting Rancher Prime, therefore, was its open source na­ture, which has allowed teams to work to­gether at the engineering level to gear so­lutions specifically for finance. Absa wanted to shape the technology that could ben­efit the entire region—partnering with Rancher Prime enables that.

After a two-month proof of concept (PoC) in 2019 and a weeklong architectural work­shop and training completed in the same quarter, Absa signed a contract with Rancher Labs (now Rancher by SUSE) in September. Within three months, Absa had its first application run­ning in production on Rancher Prime.

“Working in collaboration with Rancher Prime, we had our first application in production within two months of signing the contract. We have now migrated all our applications to the platform.”

What Were the Challenges Absa Wanted to Solve?

Driving scale: the move to multi-cluster computing

As a business committed to customer in­novation, Absa knew it must become more agile and that its technology infrastructure must scale to hasten development velocity. If the company were to get new services to market quickly, the technology team knew scaling its legacy, monocluster architecture would be a struggle, and would get more expensive as projects proliferated.

The team needed an efficient way to achieve real scale without accruing serious costs. The best way to get there would be to create a multi-cluster, microservices-based environment running in Rancher Prime. Here, applications could be separated and man­aged in isolation but still side-by-side within a central management platform.

The beauty of this approach is twofold. Firstly, Absa’s Kubernetes team can have as many clusters as they need and scale them rapidly without amassing additional costs. Rancher Prime’s per-node licensing model means that scale doesn’t have to be a financial consideration. This has freed the Absa Cloud team and legion of developers to innovate and experiment.

Secondly, new applications can be de­veloped as standalone cloud-native mi­croservices that can run in their own clus­ters, in a choice of environments and in any cloud. This means applications are now completely portable and can scale in an instant. They can also be managed and updated away from the infrastructure core, improving stability.

Absa Vehicle Asset Financing (AVAF), which thousands of African car buyers use every year, was the first application to migrate to Rancher Prime. Absa has now migrated the entire application estate, and Rancher Prime is now an important deployment platform for all Absa’s banking applications.

Achieving efficiencies and reducing costs

The team realized it needed a platform that would automate several basic pro­cesses so that developers would spend less time on administration and more time on application innovation. By remov­ing this administrative layer, Rancher Prime brings developers closer to the architec­ture itself and deeper into the cluster’s performance. Access control is auto­mated, and rules-based security policies mean less time configuring and more time developing.

The mission to reduce overhead was also high on the priority list and was achieved with Rancher Prime. Some licensing models are overly complex; some insist on licens­ing per core, which results in significant costs at scale. Rancher Prime’s one-node licensing structure decouples cost consid­erations from architectural discussions and reduces cost concerns. Users are licensed per node on-prem or in the cloud—no mat­ter what how complex the infrastructure, it’s a simple one-node license.

Rancher Prime has not only proved more cost effective than alternatives, but it is also reducing day-to-day management over­head. Its open source nature also allows ongoing flexibility and provides a platform for long-term growth. Anderson estimates overall management costs have been re­duced by 75% in Rancher Prime.

Boosting security and resilience

Resiliency in Africa is a complex issue and one that Absa has been working closely on to solve; bringing maximum uptime and mak­ing sure all applications are fully resilient. The biggest problem stems from the lack of interconnection between regions and, more importantly, a lack of consistent compliance standards across the wider industry. Work­ing with Rancher Prime to enhance security and take away the complexity of multi-clus­ter management has been critical.

What’s Next for Absa?

The team has already migrated its appli­cation estate to Rancher Prime. Absa’s on-premises footprint will also be extended into the cloud, using the same best practice and multi-cluster management techniques. This will not only bring seamless patching and upgrades but, importantly, application portability.

Absa’s fully resilient, self-healing plat­form, built in-house and supported by Rancher Labs (now Rancher by SUSE), has been the catalyst for the bank’s rapidly increasing infrastructure transformation. Rancher Prime’s licensing simplicity means the company no longer needs to worry about “on-premises ver­sus cloud,” and has allowed it to continue to scale without incurring any additional costs.

The company has always wanted to reduce its maintenance costs and is now looking at how they manage systems on-premis­es and in the public cloud, with the ability to port workloads between the data cen­ter, the cloud and the edge. Using K3s — a lightweight Kubernetes distribution for the edge — Absa is now exploring how it can re­place costly and outdated systems across its network of branches with local process­ing capabilities.