Tuesday, 22 August 2017

The Cloud is ready for the Banks but are the Banks ready for the Cloud?


Of all industries banking has been amongst the slowest to migrate core processing to the cloud. There is no doubt that the few cloud providers that started their businesses purely designed for the cloud have sophisticated, complete and secure offerings so what are some of the reasons for banks to consider using public cloud services?
 

Reduce costs

Reducing is always given as the number one reason to switch to the cloud and there are plenty of business cases that prove that to be true. Not least of all the ability to close data centres and reduce the headcount that is required to support IT infrastructure. On top of that is reducing the capital tied up by IT and deploying it in a more effective way for the business.

Agility

The ability to flex and pay for only the resources that are consumed whether it is storage, memory or processor power is a significant benefit for banks as all On Premise banks have very large quantities of redundant capacity both for operational and disaster recovery purposes.

As a simple example, the ATM network needs to comfortably support peak volumes. In the UK this is typically around 1.10pm on Christmas Eve where there is a huge spike in the number of people withdrawing cash for the Christmas period. This capacity is not only required in the operational system but also in the disaster recovery system should failover be required. Customers will certainly remember banks that weren’t able to dispense cash on Christmas Eve. For the rest of the year much of that capacity will remain idle with maintenance bills and licences still being charged.

For Paypal there is nothing to fear from Black Friday or Amazon Prime Day, when enormous spikes are experienced. Paypal uses public cloud services and only pays for the volumes that are used and only for when they actually used it.

Resilience

Scale Public Cloud providers have the numbers of data centres and nodes that banks simply cannot afford. They have the networks and dark fibre because they need them to provide their service. Because providing a resilient service is critical to staying in business and because their businesses were created and designed from day one in the cloud they have the advantage over those who have started from an on-premise mindset and move to public cloud.

It is unheard of that Amazon, Google or Facebook are not available? Public cloud providers do not put out notices to say that there services will not be available for several weekends while updates are made.

Secure

Banks are under constant daily attack from hackers trying to break through their security and steal customer data or hold banks to ransom. As has been seen banks can and have been breached. However the providers of cloud services whose sole business is the provision of secure services to customers have much deeper pockets to hire the best and to invest in providing the most secure Identity & Access Management systems. Because their systems were designed for the cloud from day one and they employ the smartest technical people with the same mindsets as the hackers they have proved in many respects to far more secure than on-premise. If they weren’t why would they be used by the security services?

Availability

With increasing mobility of both customers and employees being able to access systems from anywhere in the world on any device at any time is increasingly being demanded. A public cloud solution makes this far easier than an on-premise solution.

Simplicity

By moving to a standard public cloud architecture, the overall IT architecture is simplified. Most banks have grown over time and so has their banking architecture which has led to a heterogeneous architecture made up of a mix of hardware and software of different ages that requires integration.

Regulator approved

A concern that has been often expressed is that the regulators would not approve banks using public cloud. However that is not correct – Monzo is an example of a challenger bank that is running entirely in the public cloud.

Even in more conservative countries such as the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia the central bank, SAMA (Saudi Arabian Monetary Agency) has approved the use of the public cloud by banks.

Not only that but Central banks and regulatory bodies such as FINRA are big users of public cloud as it gives them the ability to work on large datasets, structured and unstructured data, supercomputing and analytics tools to carry out tasks such as identifying fraud and suspicious trading in real-time and only paying for it when they need it.

Designed for Mode 2 Development

As increasingly banks look to innovate using Mode 2 Development methods then setting up and managing environments and tools to manage this is made much easier when using a public cloud provider. For those providers who have designed their businesses for the cloud from the start Mode 2 has always been the market they have served. All the exponential organisations started out being developed using Mode 2. It is far easier for a Mode 2 cloud infrastructure provider to move to Mode 1 (traditional development) than it is for a Mode 1 organisation to move to the provision of Mode 2 cloud services.

Access to innovation

The large scale public cloud providers have been where the innovation around new technologies has all been taking place whether it is AI (Google DeepMind), Voice (Amazon’s Alexa, Microsoft’s Cortana), Image Recognition (Amazon x-ray), Autonomous Vehicles (Google Waymo), Augmented Reality (Google Tango, Pokemon Go) or Gaming. These are the technologies that banks and other financial services providers need to embrace if they are to be relevant and able to compete.
Public cloud is ready to enable the future of banking. The challenge for banks is to embrace and exploit what public cloud offers.