"DocBridge® Mill Plus offers flexibility that was not possible with the previous server farm architecture. The ability to easily adjust capacities to prevent processing speed from being affected even when volumes increase or fluctuate is a significant advantage of the new system."
Turbo Booster for Document Production
High Performance Document Conversion and Processing
The new Central Rendition Service (zRS) at Volkswagen Financial Services is a turbo booster for document production, based on the master node architecture of the DocBridge® Mill Plus software. It has significantly improved document processing speed and volume, enabling the zRS to now process documents four times faster and twice as many as before.
Annual document volume: 14 Mio.
Output formats: AFP, PDF/A,
Two separate master node modules
Special format PDF/A 2b Rendering of digital signed documents
When a company experiences a surge in document volume but lacks the computing power needed to process them efficiently, what's the solution? Volkswagen Financial Services AG (VWFS) recently faced this challenge. For years, they relied on a central Rendition Service (zRS) consisting of an SAP front-end and server farm (worker) to convert documents. Specialist applications electronically send data to the zRS, which prepares finished documents as AFP, PDF/A, and TIFF files and sends them back to the specialist applications.
However, the zRS system is built on a 32-bit architecture, which quickly reaches its capacity limits, making it difficult to handle increasing document volumes without expanding the server farm. Scaling up the hardware is a costly and time-consuming process, and maintaining this unique system is an arduous task.
Security is another crucial concern for VWFS. While the server farm can compensate for the failure of a worker and ensure uninterrupted processing, the SAP front end is a single point of failure. If it fails, the entire zRS comes to a halt, causing significant disruption to operations.
Production volume increased - performance decreased
Over the last four years, VWFS has seen a visible increase in the volume of documents to be processed, with 14 million conversions currently being performed and the trend continuing to rise. According to Gottfried Busch, who is responsible for IT and processes at Volkswagen Financial Services Digital Solutions GmbH, the zRS system in place at the time and its architecture were unable to keep up with this demand, resulting in decreased performance. This issue was further complicated by the introduction of new document-generating systems, which led to a growing variety of formats, and the increasing demands for quality and speed in customer communication. Initially, VWFS tried to address the problem by enlarging the server farm, but soon realized that this approach was not sustainable in the long run. To address this issue, the company decided to look for alternatives and move towards a flexible
Switch to master node architecture in central rendition
To address the performance and scalability issues of the previous system, VWFS decided to switch to the master node architecture of DocBridge Mill Plus. This is a flexible software that can analyze, split, modify, and convert documents of any type, size, and format. The new zRS is now composed of two independent and self-contained master node chains, each capable of handling the entire rendering workload at VWFS. The master modules now control the system instead of SAP, ensuring very high availability at all times (7x24 and 99.5%). If a master node fails, daily operations still continue, thanks to this redundancy. Moreover, the system can easily expand by adding further virtual nodes, providing arbitrary scalability for future growth. The new zRS can now process more than 14 million documents with just one master node server, making it well-equipped to handle the increasing volume of data in communications in the future.
Performance increased many times over
Mr. Busch, who is responsible for IT and processes at Volkswagen Financial Services Digital Solutions GmbH, stated that the new DocBridge® Mill Plus system offers flexibility that was not possible with the previous server farm architecture. The ability to easily adjust capacities to prevent processing speed from being affected even when volumes increase or fluctuate is a significant advantage of the new system. When comparing the current and previous systems, taking into account the increased volumes, it can be said that the performance has multiplied many times over. In the past, downstream applications were slowed down because the legacy system (32-bit) repeatedly reached its limits and throttled performance. However, the new system can render data up to a size of 20 MB in real-time and transfer it to downstream applications without any delays. Additionally, the system's 64-bit architecture provides a performance improvement of ten times within a two-minute time window, without affecting downstream systems. According to Busch, the specialist departments were fully supportive of the conversion project from the start because of the ability to process larger files much faster than before.
Costs reduced through lights-out processing
It's great to see how the new zRS with the master node architecture of DocBridge® Mill Plus has not only improved the data throughput and processing speed but also reduced the costs for dark processing. The fact that the new system enables high-performance dark processing has opened up new and more efficient possibilities in data processing processes for certain specialist applications. Moreover, the employees quickly realized the potential of the new system and worked with Compart to develop it with many technical refinements and put it into production within a very short time. Finally, it's worth mentioning that Compart also offers a cloud-enabled technological platform for rendering called DocBridge® Conversion Hub.
Central Rendition Service (zRS) at Volkswagen Financial Services
- Annual document volume: approx. 14 million, transferred purely electronically to the zRS system by connected specialist applications for rendering
- Communication channels: E-mail, mailing, website with upload and download function, dedicated lines to individual branches worldwide.
- Output formats: AFP, PDF/A, TIFF
- Output format target: each rendered document is automatically archived electronically (AFP, PDF/A, TIFF).
- Special feature: The PDF/A 2b format used also renders and archives electronically signed PDF documents.
- FIL (Finance Information Logistic System) forms the central communication matrix of VWFS, under which data input, data output and data archive are combined
- DocBridge® Mill Plus as central rendering instance with use of two independent, identical master node chains (use of two node servers per master)
- Use of an upstream load balancer for automatic distribution of the data and documents to be converted according to the current workload of the two DocBridge® Mill Plus systems
Benefits and advantages
- Higher stability and reliability
- Each master node chain can cover daily operations on its own.
- Simple expansion options if required
- High availability with the connected systems (7x24 and 99.5 percent availability)
Multiply performance while document volume increases
- New architecture with the master node model
- New concept through process and configuration options
- Parallel office rendering possible using end-to-end 64-bit system
- Use of virtual hardware, simplified sizing
- Easily add more virtual nodes per node server
- Automatic detection and control of virtual nodes by the master
Improved online monitoring and comprehensive support
- Master: Support website for monitoring transactions
- Master: Support website enables manual control of virtual nodes (activation/deactivation)
- Standard software: simplifies handling, support and troubleshooting
Optimized deployment capability
- Without failure in front of the customer, master node chains can be maintained and installed individually via active/passive mode and additionally completely via the upstream load balancer
- Support website (master): Activation or update of the channels used for rendering.
Higher security through HTTPS connections
- Communication protection through the use of certificates between the master and the upstream load balancer as well as to the connected specialist applications.
Cloud capability (Docker image)
- Goal: Deployment of future-oriented applications with the option of operating them in a "cloud".
- This is not being tested for zRS at the moment.
- Significant cost savings through optimally deployed hardware (reduction in the number of servers used and reduction in the maintenance, support and energy costs incurred for them)
Volkswagen Financial Services
Volkswagen Financial Services (VWFS) is a division of Volkswagen AG that provides dealer and customer financing, leasing, banking and insurance, fleet management, and mobility services. It includes Volkswagen Financial Services AG, Porsche Financial Services, Volkswagen Bank GmbH, and financial services companies in the USA and Canada that belong directly or indirectly to Volkswagen AG (excluding the Scania brand and Porsche Holding Salzburg). As of December 31, 2020, VWFS had total assets of around 225.6 billion euros, an operating profit of 2.8 billion euros, and a portfolio of around 21.9 million contracts. The company employs 16,558 people worldwide, with 7,472 of them in Germany.
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