As financial organisations continue their digital transformation, using a cloud-based infrastructure is no longer a choice: it has become a must-have. The debate lies in choosing the right type of cloud environment and the associated tools and processes.
There are multiple aspects to bear in mind, and this article does not cover every single one of those (a whole book could be written on the topic). However, to aid with the decision-making process, here are some questions and considerations.
A good starting point is defining the aim of digital transformation. Often there are multiple interconnected reasons. Taking a hypothetical mid-sized bank with 200 banking centres across a European country and with a full suite of financial products, here
are a few examples:
- To use the wealth of customer data held across the organisation to gain more insight and improve the customer experience (CX).
- To help branch-based staff and further improve the CX by providing a 360 view of the customer at the counter, such as all the products and services that the customer has set up with the bank.
- To speed up time mortgage loan processing, by simplifying the underwriting process, which currently involves sending and receiving data in multiple formats from a variety of different sources.
- To improve security and visibility of data by centralising management of security and monitoring of its numerous systems, plus centralise retrieval of log files generated by those systems.
- To reduce the overall cost of operating and maintaining the IT infrastructure, and to reduce vendor-lock in.
Different flavours of cloud
Once the end goals are clear, the next step is to look at what type of cloud environment to use, together with other supporting technologies. There are various types of cloud, mainly multi-cloud, hybrid, hybrid-multi cloud and distributed cloud.
Multi-cloud means using multiple public cloud providers, and the benefits include vendor independence and improving disaster recovery by replicating workloads across different cloud providers. Hybrid cloud refers to a combination of both public and private
clouds (and they could all be from the same provider). For financial service providers, the appeal is they can choose to have certain data reside within their own data centres.
In a distributed cloud environment, a public cloud can be run in multiple locations: on the cloud provider’s infrastructure, on-premise, even in other cloud providers’ data centres, but all managed from a single point of control. =Eventually, it will also
supports edge computing as it evolves, whereby servers and applications are brought closer to where consumers are located.
Another consideration is which container orchestration to use. There is no doubt that containers have revolutionised how software is developed, deployed and managed, speeding up time-to-market and reliability. They have become fundamental to flexible, cloud-based
Various orchestration technologies each have their pros and cons, but often they can co-exist and run side-by-side so banks can pick-and-mix. Another question is whether to use an orchestration tool from a cloud vendor, or install your own choice?
Factors in containerisation orchestration technology choice include the number of clusters that need management and how to address that. Typically banks and other financial institutions find they are managing multiple clusters, perhaps even hundreds, especially
when IoT and edge devices — such as mobile payment terminals, cheque scanners, and ATMs — are involved. The greater the complexity, the higher the level of risk, which in turn can jeopardise security.
Therefore, the selected containerisation orchestration tool needs to reduce, not contribute, to complexity. The simplicity of implementation, management and trouble-shooting is a vital requirement. Associated with that is how well can security be implemented
across clusters. For many organisations, straightforward scalability is going to be necessary too.
Since maintaining regulatory compliance is a big consideration for financial services firms, the overall cloud environment must continue to comply with GDPR, Sarbanes-Oxley and other local regulations. How is authentication between different components of
the environment handled?
As is usually the case with technology, when it comes to choosing the right cloud environment, there is no one-size-fits-all solution. What matters is selecting the cloud infrastructure and supporting tools that best fit the financial organisation today
and for years to come. Digital transformation is not a one-time event but rather a continuing evolving process, which is why embarking on modernising IT infrastructure sooner rather than later is so essential.