Introducing National Payments Corporation of India
In 2008, a consortium of India’s largest banks created the National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI) to unlock the country’s massive economic growth potential. Its two primary objectives are to consolidate and integrate the multiple retail payment systems in India and to build new payment systems that all citizens can use, regardless of location or income level.
Since its inception, NPCI has launched myriad services and initiatives that have helped bridge the gap between India’s formal and informal economy. Some of its most popular services include RuPay and Unified Payments Interface (UPI). RuPay is a first-of-its-kind domestic Card payment network in India, with wide acceptance at ATMs, POS devices and e-commerce websites nationwide. This highly secure network protects against phishing and is NPCI’s answer to international payment networks. RuPay fulfills Reserve Bank of India’s vision of initiating a "less cash" economy by encouraging every Indian bank and financial institution to offer electronic payments.
UPI is a system that combines multiple bank accounts into a single mobile application, merging several banking features and providing seamless fund routing and merchant payments. The UPI-NPCI pilot launched with 21 member banks in April 2016. A few months later, banks started to upload their UPI-enabled applications to Google's Play store. UPI facilitates the growth of digital transactions throughout India on a massive scale, with 8 billion successful financial transactions in January 2023 alone.
NPCI programs have revolutionized financial transactions in India, empowering millions, regardless of citizenship, with access to formal banking services through an account in any Indian bank, thus driving the country's growth.
Today, NPCI has emerged as a key player in the global payments industry with international recognition. It provides a template for other countries looking to develop efficient and inclusive payment systems.
The National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI) has significantly improved retail payment systems in India. Its aim is to continually bring innovation to retail payment systems, resulting in greater operational efficiency and wider payment system reach. The organization relies on SUSE solutions for the high-availability operation of its new IT applications and the agile deployment of container-based services.
Advancing the global payment landscape with a new service
Thanks to its innovative payment solutions, NPCI has demonstrated India’s ability to develop world-class technology solutions that can compete with the best in the world. To maintain its position as an economic force now and in the future, the Platform Engineering Department of NPCI set out to modernize its practices and platform to keep pace with the demands of new-generation applications and increase operational efficiency. More specifically, it needed a modern infrastructure to support the creation and operation of a new product that promises to revolutionize the payments ecosystem not only in India but also at a global scale.
At the same time, the team faced another challenge. One of its most popular products, National Automated Clearing House (NACH), a web-based system for bulk push and pull transactions, ran on CentOS 7.x, Red Hat’s free open source Linux distribution. As of Dec. 31, 2021, CentOS was set to reach its end-of-life, so the team needed a new operating system to keep NACH afloat.
To tackle the challenges, the division didn’t hesitate to choose another open source solution. “We are an organization that prioritizes people. We believe in the concept of co-development and are committed to open source principles. Remaining vendor-agnostic is important to us, and we genuinely love open source at our core,” explains Shiva Kumar R V, deputy chief of technology-infrastructure at NPCI.
“We were thrilled to have the support included with Rancher Prime on our journey. The support team’s encouragement to pursue different ideas was a breath of fresh air and made us feel like we had found the perfect partner.”
Maximizing potential and minimizing risk with Rancher Prime
Aiming to transform while simplifying deployment and application management, the infrastructure team evaluated several container orchestration solutions on the lines of vendor agnostic, CNCF certified, 100% open source.
In addition to Rancher, the division considered Red Hat OpenShift and Charmed Kubernetes from Canonical. Charmed and Rancher were the closest in terms of performance, but since the team was already using Charmed OpenStack and to avoid concentration risk, they favored Rancher.
SUSE’s commitment to the team’s vision, however, played the deciding factor. Despite industry experts warning against ditching virtualization and going straight for a pure deployment of Kubernetes on bare metal, the SUSE team embraced the idea from the beginning.
Shiva RV states, “We were thrilled to have the support included with Rancher Prime on our journey. The support team’s encouragement to pursue different ideas was a breath of fresh air and made us feel like we had found the perfect partner. With Rancher Prime’s support by our side, we can confidently continue pushing the boundaries of what’s possible without fear of being held back. This collaborative spirit is precisely what we were searching for, and we couldn’t be more excited.”
With billions of transactions happening every month serving a massive population, the stakes at NPCI are incredibly high. With this in mind, the team decided to secure enterprise support as a safety net for its daily responsibilities.
"We were already taking on one risk by transforming our infrastructure; we didn’t want to pull all the levers at once. We wanted something to back us up, and what could be better than the open source software vendor offering support? That’s why we signed up,” Shiva RV explains. “Our unique approach has been met with great success, yielding fruitful results in just two and a half months. Throughout this journey, we have been grateful for SUSE’s unwavering support. Their helpfulness and satisfaction with our progress have solidified our love for this journey and our desire to continue working together.”
Protecting critical financial services with SUSE Liberty Linux
From car to real estate loans, India’s economy thrives on the steady flow of borrowing and lending as it continues to grow. At the heart of this system beats equal monthly instalments paid by borrowers, all processed through the NPCI’s NACH service. This system is used by banks across the country, making it one of the most crucial services for NPCI.
NACH also plays a critical role in the seamless flow of recurring payments and settlements between banks. It serves as a driving force behind the financial stability of the nation, guaranteeing fast and secure transaction processing. Leading up to Red Hat pulling the plug and discontinuing CentOS 7.x Linux at the end of 2021 in favor of CentOS Stream, the infrastructure team found themselves in a state of uncertainty.
NPCI was highly skeptical about CentOS Stream, considering its massive monthly award settlements, which totaled around a billion dollars. The team recognized that any malfunction in the system could result in a financial disaster for the entire country, leading to halted settlements and a ripple effect that impacted all banks. Given the critical role of NACH in ensuring the stability of the financial sector, the stakes were extremely high.
With those considerations, the team set out to find a solution in the market that would allow them to buy some time and migrate away from CentOS 8 to a different operating system. As open source enthusiasts, the team needed the new operating system to be free of costly licenses and closed-loop proprietary systems.
“When we were looking into the market, I saw a silver lining named SUSE Liberty Linux, which was ready to provide us with the exact security patches for CentOS 8,” says Shiva. “I did not think twice. I looked at its features, straight away they gave me a free demo for 30 days, and we saw that it was meeting the exact service-level agreement requirements in terms of compliance patches for the CentOS 8 systems. We went ahead and took it, and SUSE Liberty Linux has been supporting us in achieving compliance for the last one and a half years, and we are quite happy there.”
SUSE Liberty Linux is a technology that offers a unified support experience for managing heterogeneous IT environments. With the solution, customers get trusted support with optional proven management tools optimized for mixed Linux environments, including Red Hat Enterprise Linux, CentOS and SUSE Linux Enterprise Server.
Charting a course for a future of increased observability, stability and availability
Thanks to Rancher Prime, NPCI now sees unparalleled operational consistency and observability levels for all certified Kubernetes clusters without the lock-in associated with other platforms.
“The primary focus areas for platform engineering are availability, scalability and security, with observability playing a crucial role in all three. By leveraging observability, these objectives can be achieved. The current infrastructure stack, which includes Rancher Prime and RKE, is already giving us extensive metrics that enhance observability in terms of infrastructure,” says Shiva.
Seamless, centralized management of distributed clusters and deployments
With streamlined and automated deployment processes, NPCI is undergoing a transformative change in its application landscape. With Rancher Prime, IT teams can now embrace microservices architectures with ease, without adding to their management and administrative workloads.
Rancher Prime offers NPCI a crucial advantage by centralizing the management of dispersed clusters and deployments, enabling the infrastructure team to focus on value-add operations. “After we have deployed and it’s running, our attention toward that cluster is significantly less because it’s so seamless. Rancher Prime helps us get into bed peacefully at night because the product works; it’s seamless, steady, stable, and has given us no trouble. That’s one of the major things that we always look for: stability.”
Rancher Prime guarantees the security of nimble development procedures. It segregates different projects within the clusters and centralizes the management and record-keeping of developer permissions. NPCI’s continuous integration/ continuous deployment (CI/CD) pipeline regulates all access – it also safeguards the projects from potential data loss.
Documentation and SUSE Support
NPCI’s pleasant experience with Rancher Prime goes beyond its unique deployment use case. According to the team, the documentation and reports are truly remarkable in their self-sufficiency, and SUSE’s Support also deserves a highlight.
“We’ve only reached out to SUSE Support for a few niche issues; the product is so well designed that it runs smoothly. The documentation is fantastic. Whenever we encountered a roadblock, we reached out to SUSE Support and were amazed by the outstanding assistance provided. It was a delightful experience overall,” Shiva RV points out. “We have taken the go-live assistance from Rancher Prime; they’ve been kind enough to give us the checklists, and they’ve also gone through the cluster. It’s quite a collaborative journey that we are going through.”
What’s next for NPCI?
When transitioning to a containerized architecture, finding a solution that met NPCI’s strict compliance requirements was essential. The container landscape can be complex, and the responsibility and stakes are significant for the team. Simply plugging in any solution and moving forward was not an option for them. For that reason, they are in the process of integrating SUSE NeuVector – a Kubernetes-native security platform that delivers full lifecycle container security – into their technology stack.
“SUSE NeuVector emerged as the clear winner for us. Its seamless integration into our ecosystem, CNCF certification, 100% open source status and excellent engagement with the SUSE team made it the ideal choice. We’re eagerly anticipating the integration of SUSE NeuVector into our ecosystem and hope to see it soon,” says Shiva.